We are moving into a time of year when there can be a lot of stress.
Often times, that stress is caused by good things — good intentions, expectations, even time with loved ones.
But while families are brought together by biology, sometimes they have little else in common.
Talking about current events often leads to politics. But political conversation can take a gathering off track and make everyone uncomfortable.
There is a tension that comes when Aunt Nancy the Never-Trumper and Cousin Matthew MAGA watch football together or when Pro-Life Polly and Abortion Advocate Arthur sit across from each other.
I worry that the reason we can’t have civil conversations is that we are so drastically out of practice. We are so afraid of being labeled a racist or a snowflake, a Nazi or a Socialist, or are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, that we simply stop sharing ideas. And when we abandon the conversation, we leave it to those who like to shout and quickly apply labels we want to avoid.
To be fair, we come by that honestly.
Our lives are so busy, there are so many distractions, we don’t have time to be employees, spouses, parents and informed political participants. We identify with a party that generally, kind of captures some of our thoughts better than the other party. And then we rely on that party to tell us what to do. We have developed a brand loyalty, like we would with shoes or electronics, when it comes to politics. With that in mind, the parties and many media outlets have begun treating people as consumers to win not constituents to serve.
But I truly believe the answer is not to avoid talking about politics, but rather to embrace the conversation. There is a caveat. When we talk about politics, we need to remember that we are people and so are the ones we are talking to. Politics do not define me. Nor do they define you or the people you are talking to.
Additionally, it is important to have the right expectations.
In their book, “I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations,” authors Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth A. Silvers say that “In political conversations, we have to meet people where they are and assume they’ll stay there.”
But we can use these conversations as a chance to get curious. When the conversation heats up, it is important to zoom out. Let’s ask questions that make space for us to learn something new about the people we are talking with, about ourselves and the world we live in.
The beauty of a family conversation is that we don’t need to appoint judges, pass legislation or create a budget. We can simply talk and share ideas without pressure and without malice.
Let’s not agree to disagree. Let’s agree to talk and share ideas freely with those we love and allow them to safely do the same. Let’s agree that we can allow the love we share to be stronger than the opinions we don’t.
-Mac Cordell is a reporter for the Journal-Tribune.
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