Why I'm Talking Politics With Friends Who Oppose My Views

by Christine Burke
talking about politics
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I have never been one to back down from a challenging conversation. I love a good debate, and perhaps to a fault, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I hear people talking about an issue that makes me feel passionate. Some call me outspoken or opinionated, but I characterize myself as someone who is always willing to engage in a stimulating, intelligent conversation.

And that means I won’t back down from a political discussion, and as such, I’m not afraid to discuss the issues that affect our country with my friends. While I recognize that this election is polarizing and has caused many to part ways with friends and family members because of differing beliefs, I believe it’s more important than ever to hear each other out.

I value my friends and their opinions, and in this hot political climate, I am grateful for those who will allow me to voice my opinions and help me process my feelings on the issues. In short, personal communication is all we have in a media-saturated 24/7 social media cycle, and I’m clinging to my face-to-face conversations in these turbulent times.

Now this is not to say that I want to get into a heated argument filled with hate-laced rhetoric. I’m more than willing to hear a well-thought-out, rational argument about a political issue, but spouting racist untruths is a surefire way to piss me off. When I see online discussions degrade to name calling and racial slurs, I wonder how our country has gotten so off course. At what point did we all agree that being mean and spiteful is an acceptable means of communicating our political thoughts?

While I can say with authority that I’ll never support Trump and his tactics, I refuse to stoop to hurtful words and anger to get my political views across. I am capable of having an intelligent, cool-headed discussion, and if you can too, then have a seat and we’ll chat. There’s no need for spite and hate. Can’t we all just talk like civilized adults?

Recently, I attended a small gathering for wine and conversation. As per the usual, the conversation quickly turned to politics. It became quite apparent that I was the political minority of the group, and I chose to quietly listen to what the other guests had to say about their candidate. As I silently took in their ideas and thoughts, a guest “outed” me as a Democrat. Before I could even open my mouth, another guest openly attacked not only my character but also my intelligence.

I was vilified for supporting my candidate and my political beliefs. The man was aggressive, belligerent, and downright rude. Though there was plenty I could have said, arguments I could have made to the contrary, and while I could have tossed my wine in his face, I realized that a churlish bully is incapable of having a mature conversation about our political climate. While I typically don’t back down, I finished my wine and said a gracious thank-you to the hosts before I left. I knew that choosing the high road is sometimes necessary.

We all need to step back and take a look at the roads we are traveling during this political process. Are you constantly silent at parties, always on the high road, afraid to come down and join the fray? Or are you the one angering those around you and refusing to even consider the high road? Whatever the case may be, there’s room for both sides as long as we all remember to argue from a place of fact and not go for the personal jugular. Going for the jugular at cocktail parties makes you look like a blowhard douche. Just saying.

On the eve of my wedding, my mother-in-law wrote me a beautiful note filled with advice. In her letter, she said words that I’ve always kept to heart, not just in my marriage. She told me that fighting is always inevitable because no human is perfect. If and when the time came for my husband and I to argue, she advised me to fight not to win but to understand the other side of the argument. It was sound advice and trust me, when you approach an argument with the intent to understand, everyone wins.

At the end of the day, I realize that sometimes I will just have to agree to disagree with my friends in opposing parties, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop voicing my opinions with conviction. And on election day, whatever the outcome, I’ll be grateful for those friends who stood by me even if they didn’t like what I had to say.