Talk about Politics

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There is the adage that one should never talk about religion or politics while in polite company. The idea is that such personal and hot-button topics could inflame the passions of all those involved. Something not always wanted. In our current political climate -fraught as it has been in decades- it is a fairly good rule of thumb to never talk about things like politics when meeting strangers. After all, you don’t know their beliefs, and you would not want to immediately place them on the defensive. I’m not here to make that point.

I’m here to make the case that we should be more open and talk about politics.

Politics are everywhere you look. You cannot avoid it today. Even football, long only subtly political, has become a political and cultural war zone. Donald Trump has inflamed our rhetoric in ways other presidents never could. Trump has quickened the process of politicizing every facet of media. Nothing is safe or sacred anymore. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Politics, and by extension the laws and policies shaped by those politics, impact every single one of us every single day. They shape our lives. Everyone should be more informed and involved with these things. You should know who your representative and what they stand for. The best way to stay engaged and informed, and the simplest, is by talking about things.

Politics is emotional and tribal. It is why people get so worked up when they talk about it. Especially when people disagree. Politics and laws impact people on an individual basis. Healthcare policies can literally mean the difference between life and death. Civil rights are the struggle to make all Americans equal in the eyes of the law. Writing this is even a form of political speech. Of course, people get heated, you would have to be crazy to not get invested in issues like these.  This is why talking is still the best way to get your ideas across, to have real conversations with people. You cannot convince anyone of your ideas if you are constantly screaming at them. There is not a single person alive on the planet Earth that has been swayed by a political meme on Facebook. Putting a face to the politics, moving beyond scripted talking points, being real with each other. These are how you convince people. This is how both parties can lower their defenses.

The world has changed. Today's man needs to be able to talk about politics without resorting to shouts or taunts. I’m not making any points towards the right or the left on this issue. Both sides, all sides, could stand to have open and engaged conversations with one another. We need to be able to be honest with our friends and families, especially if we disagree with them. I am advocating that we speak more. More importantly, I am advocating that we listen more. Men have a notoriously hard time listening. Really listening. Not thinking about what they are going to say next or some witty rebuttal. True listening means not dismissing an idea out of hand because your gut reaction disagrees with it. You don’t have to agree with anything someone is telling you. You can calmly listen, absorb what they are saying, and decide they are wrong! Maybe they might make a point you yourself would have never thought of. Maybe what they say might make sense because they have a different set of lived experiences. Any or none of these things could be true, but you’ll have to listen to find out.

Finally talking about politics, and listening to others, allows you to sharpen your own ideas. Knowledge is a whetstone to hone your argument. If you care about the issues that affect you then you should be able to defend yourself. If your ideas crumble the moment you try to articulate them, maybe you should rethink your position.

A call to civility is overwrought. It is the type of platitude that well-meaning but ineffectual pundits call for. Things have gotten so heated across this country that these well-paid pundits can only throw up their hands and shake their heads. These people do not offer solutions for what ails us. This is my call for civility. We will always disagree. There will always be people that you are ideologically opposed to. There will be people who refuse to listen and to consider other views. Do not be those people. Never stop listening and learning. Disagree and disagree loudly and passionately. Stand up for your beliefs and ideas. Just make sure you are listening to.