Don’t Talk Politics? Don’t Insult Me

Of course our political discourse is terrible. We never practice.

trump rally yelling
If I went to the golf course for the first time in years without practicing, it’d be a disaster. Balls would be lost. People would be hit. I would be angry. It wouldn’t be good.

It should be no surprise that exactly at the precise moment our political climate necessitates serious political discussion, we can do no more than yell and insult each other. It’s a direct result of the “no politics” borders that we’ve put up in our daily lives.

For hundreds of years, America was defined by political debate. We don’t exist as a nation without it. It has been the running theme through every significant moment in our history, from the Revolutionary through Cold Wars. We had to discuss our political views with those who had differing opinions and work toward a compromise or solution.

Political discourse has devolved so dramatically that it’s hard to recognize today’s climate with even my college experience, at the turn of the 21st Century. It’s not just me seeing this, as 68 percent of Americans say political debate is getting worse with only a mere 7 percent saying it’s getting better.

political civility poll
I was one of the few young Republicans in my political science classes at George Washington University. Even though I had many, many disagreements with professors and fellow classmates, I don’t remember a single incident where the debate devolved into name-calling or insult-hurling. Oh sure, I thought horrible things. But I would never dare say them out loud. Political debate meant staying above board.

After college, my passion for political debate did not cease, though I found less takers. A  good friend of mine – herself a Democrat – would debate me frequently at happy hours in Hartford after a few suds. In the post-9/11, ongoing Iraq War climate, they mostly revolved around foreign policy and what America should do. I doubt the substance rivaled Lincoln/Douglas but the discussion always stayed (relatively) polite. Yes, we disagreed, and that was the point!

I don’t think I changed her mind or she changed mine in those moments. Regardless, the discussions helped illuminate our positions. I would discover holes in my arguments that I hadn’t thought of before. I would discover her reasons for believing something was coming from a different place than I assumed. It helped to shape and change my opinions, to bring in a different viewpoint to my worldview.

Increasingly, that type of political discussion is frowned upon, replaced by a steady diet of “don’t talk politics.” For me, it reached a tipping point when I saw people on Facebook begging people to stop talking about politics shortly after Election Day. It struck me as such a personal insult.

How dare you tell the world what they can or cannot talk about.

While that annoyed me, it is the implication that is far more worrisome. Our political climate is being shaped by a generation of people who have tuned out politics.

This crushing realization hit me the day after the election and so many Trump voters seemed aghast that people would consider them racists for voting for a racist. They didn’t get it because they hadn’t really thought about it. Simply, it wasn’t something they discussed on a daily basis.

I’ve written previously about how the “divisiveness” in the 2016 election caused people not to vote or not to care, but it started well before 2016. Beginning with the tail end of W’s second term and leading into Obama’s first, our Congress completely melted down into the partisan gridlock we are all to familiar with today. Social media and a 24-hour news cycle have contributed to the mess, but it was building for years before Twitter exacerbated the problem.

We simply do not talk politics enough. We don’t share our opposing views enough. We don’t confront people. For too long, we kept our mouths closed, our ideas to ourselves and pretended everything was okay.

political yelling
That last part is the biggest problem facing our country today, because so many of us want to upset the status quo in our daily lives. I keep thinking back to the day after the Election and how so many people were telling me to support Trump, just because he was President. They were so desperate for a continuation of the normal routine that it didn’t matter who Trump was, or who he stood for, or for the policies he was going to push through. He was the President and, well, status quo means you support the President.

I’m not sure what history books those people read in school, but disrupting the status quo is as American as apple pie. Our heroes are men and women that went against the grain and caused problems.

I’m writing with one piece of advice – talk about politics. If you feel strongly about an issue, do not hold back. We’ve held back on our views and our country feels like it’s teetering on the edge of collapse.

I don’t care if you don’t agree with me, you need to listen me – and I need to listen to you. Don’t talk politics? Please, don’t insult me.

The future of our country is much more important than your Facebook feed being clear of political discourse. 

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