I Didn’t Talk About Politics Last Night, Even Though I Could Have

We were out the other night with old friends and new acquaintances to celebrate a birthday milestone. That’s the normal part. I found myself avoiding politics in conversation. On purpose. That’s the odd part.

There are plenty of times when I avoid talking about politics, maybe bumping up against some current political news without really grabbing hold and digging in, but mostly avoiding the topic. When meeting a new client. With my doctor. At the grocery check-out.

But this was different. It was a social occasion, a birthday gathering of middle aged adults, the kind with food, and laughter, and side conversations, and alcohol. Good old alcohol. Even in lower limits (or maybe healthy moderation), if there is one catalyst to political conversations, alcohol is probably it. And yet, I resisted engaging in the dialogue. Which is not at all like me.

OK, we were a small group. And yes, I already knew the leanings of the dialogue participants. One was fairly right, supportive, or at least tolerant of, the new administration. The other more centrist, fiscally conservative and socially tolerant with a dislike for the current administration. Were I to join in, as a progressive leftist we’d have had a trifecta…or maybe a more robust discussion.

And yet I did not join in.

Even as I caught stitches from the threads of their discussion, and internalized how I would respond, I never felt the need to chime in. Instead, I began to catalog the things I was hearing, and they were offering validity to what I’d been reading with regards to the intransigence of the right to consider the realities that would arise from the actions taking place in the new administration. I was surprised at the opinion that we need to all give Team Trump the chance, they were too new, and the things they were doing- budget, health care, immigrant bans and more- were actually what we need to be doing, albeit maybe a bit smarter. And my centrist friend, while not rolling over to or agreeing with the argument from the right, contributed ideas and points of view one would expect from that particular political ideology, namely some agreement that changes are needed, but not much agreement with the ones being proposed, and also wanting to avoid an overreach by the left as they protest what is taking place. As they were already friends, the conversation was never heated, but perhaps a bit lively from time to time. But the positions were text book. This is what we’ve been hearing about who we are, about us.

I realized that we’re playing into this narrative to a tee. Which, as I think about it now, may also be why I sat that one out. I realized that I’d been playing my part too. And for that moment I didn’t want to play anymore. I didn’t want to have to play anymore.

There’s more to it than that. After all, this was supposed to be a celebration, not a debate. I wanted to let go of my politics and advocacy and fierce opinions for a night, for a few hours. No matter how engaged we may be, no matter the level of online activity or volunteered time, I was trying to remember that it’s OK to let go once in a while. To revel in happiness. To banish the darkness with a toast. And so I just listened without being part of the discussion.

Dialogue is important if we are to ever begin to address our shared problems and find common solutions that advance our humanity to a better plane.By playing our parts, we have the potential to advance the dialogue, to expose the nuance, or lack of it, in reaching for a consensus that enshrines equality, dignity, reason, and peace as the way to realize prosperity for all our world.

One problem with our dialogue today stems from the lack of a shared narrative or mutually agreed upon set of facts. There are truths and there are lies and there are purposeful untruths designed to confuse and deceive and control. Sitting in our own vacuums of agreeable information we can forget that others have their own bubbles too. Perhaps it’s too late to turn back, perhaps now we can only solidify our camps and hope that our side prevails, so that what we see as reason, compassion, and enlightenment will win out.

I know that a few hours of distraction is not just fine, it’s important. And I know that I’ll keep speaking out whenever and wherever it makes sense as I advocate for the progressive stances I believe in.

And perhaps it’s not too late. So we keep talking to each other, one at a time, at gatherings and celebrations, in the corners, sneaking away in pairs to chew the political fat. Seeking to convert an ally, hoping to retain a friend. And sometimes we’re just listening too.

#life #politics #redbluepurpleus #dialogue

 

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