POLITICS and OUR RELATIONSHIPS
POLITICS and OUR RELATIONSHIPS
Let me ask one question: Have you ever met someone – at work, at a party, or by some other connection and found you were really enjoying this new person? Maybe they had a sense of humor that you appreciated. Maybe they were well-versed on a subject that interested you. Possibly you had common interests such as sports, cars, music, movies, hobbies, etc. Or you may have just seen them doing something kind for someone else and it touched your heart. So it looks like you have a new, friendly relationship and then WHAM! Politics! Did they just say they liked Obama, Clinton, Sanders…or Trump, Rubio, Cruz…? It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. Suddenly, you see them in a different light… not your kind of person at all! Hmmm, what a shame. I wonder how it is that all those positives things you saw a few minutes earlier no long have any value.
Sadly, this is how things seem to go these days. Politics has always been a tricky subject, often avoided in order to keep the peace. But this year in particular, it’s not only influencing first opinions, and snap judgements about others in general, but it’s breaking up long-standing friendships and even families in some cases.
I’m not going to discuss the parties, or the issues, or any particular politician. Instead, I think we need to take a look at what our values are, and why we let our political leanings influence the rest of our lives, especially our relationships.
First, let’s look at the basic definitions for the following categories we like to use to label ourselves.
Believing that government should be active in supporting social or political change; not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted. Also: broad-minded, not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberal Sometimes referred to as Progressive.
Tending or disposed to maintain existing views; marked by moderation or caution; tending to favor established ideas, conditions or institutions. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conservative Sometimes referred to as Traditionalist.
I have to include Centrist, as you will see, because Centrists overlap Liberals and Conservatives. Remember, we’re going to discuss categories, not parties.
A person whose political views are not extreme; a person whose beliefs fall between those of liberals and conservatives. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/centrist Sometimes referred to as Moderate.
There are a number of other categories, such as Libertarian, Green, Constitutional, and Independent, as well as combinations of all of these, and several other limited groups often linked with religious organizations. For the sake of this conversation, I’ll stick to the three I’ve defined, as they represent the majority of citizens in the United States. (However, the number of Independents are increasing, politically, and may soon join the parties eligible for debates and primaries.)
It seems in today’s world we are defining our relationships by how they vote, who they support, and what causes they defend. Although this might be a good thing to consider as we look at the overall picture presented by a person, does a certain political view really reflect the substance of anyone? In fact, might we be missing an opportunity to expand our own thoughts and views – or is that what we’re afraid of?
Psychologists tell us that it’s normal to develop opinions, and once formed, it’s common to avoid discussions or information that might rebut what we’ve come to believe. This is not to say we should do this, but only that it’s common. On the contrary, it’s much healthier to consider other opinions on a regular basis. For one thing, situations change. Something that was true at one time might not be true at a later date. Example: For decades it was common knowledge that cars should have oil changes around every 3000 miles. In the last few years however, due to new technology, the current recommendation is somewhere between 5000 and 10,000 miles.
Also, over time, something understood as fact can be invalidated. The best example I can think of to illustrate that point is, for centuries the world was considered to be flat. People assumed that if one sailed to the edge, they would fall off. Magellan set off one day to try to find a route to the East Indies. Although he died in the Philippines, his expedition continued, and the circumnavigation was completed by Juan Sebastian Elcono and 17 other original crew members. We now know the world is round. We also now know that Magellan did not truly discover that the world was round, but his crewman, Elcono, did. And this is another example of how “truth” changes – misinformation. (I was taught in school that Magellan was the first person to sail around the world.)
In the world of politics, many issues change by degrees:
- Common-law marriages are recognized in some states, but not in others. Of those that do, the requirements vary from 3 to 10 years of cohabitation.
- The Federal government still has marijuana on its list of illegal drugs, yet several states now allow medicinal use of marijuana, and some, such as Alaska and Colorado, allow for recreational use as well.
- Twenty-eight states have tried, or use, a 3-strikes program for repeat criminals, beginning in 1952 (Texas). In the 1990s, other states joined in, as well as the Federal government. https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1032-sentencing-enhancement-three-strikes-law
The third strike mandates a much longer sentence, up to and including life. Many of these laws have since been modified to allow courts some latitude for circumstances, and do not include traffic tickets or other misdemeanors, while juveniles are generally exempt. Most states now use the law mainly for violent criminals. Some people find this cruel and unusual punishment, but others think habitual criminals need to be permanently locked up. By varying degrees, the statistics show some programs are more successful than others, with the most current findings showing that these programs work best when combined with education and counseling.
These are just a very few examples of political issues that have degrees of use, and supply plenty of fodder for debate.
This chart shows the overlap seen in a wide variety of topics that often arise in political discussions. There is a trend to be found, based on polling questions derived from a variety of news articles and exit polls from before the November 8th election until the inauguration on January 20, 2017.
Blue = Liberal Purple = Centrist Red = Conservative
You can see where the issues overlap to some degree. In other words, there are some conservatives who believe in reasonable gun control, with some liberals embracing the pro-life position, etc.
Centrists do not necessarily agree on all these topics, but generally there is a generous amount of carry-over from both sides with centrists/moderates. Remember, we aren’t talking about politicians, just about us; the general population.
The point here is to look at how things often overlap and flow into groups considered “the other side.” There is a blending, if you will, of thoughts, ideas and feelings towards these and many other issues. This is how democracy is intended to work. The majority is supposed to rule, and this is what we vote for when we elect our representatives. Tempers flare, (and rightfully so) when we see that our representation is lacking. As new information comes to light, representatives need to take stock of what their constituents really want.
We can help by writing, emailing, or calling the offices of our Senators and House Representatives. We can even contact our state legislature to enlist their help. We can be clear and concise, stating what we oppose and what we support. It’s recommended to leave a name and zip code. What we need to avoid is yelling, name calling and general rudeness. In a town hall setting, chanting may show enthusiasm, but will rarely have the effect you want. If you must do a chant, keep it clean and short. (“Do your job” was rather inspiring last week.)
So back to friends, family…and also consider the people online that we interact with, too. Maybe on Face Book, or maybe in a comments section after an article, whatever the occasion, make your point, but remember that ALL CAPS is considered yelling. Name-calling is juvenile, and insulting someone will never, ever be helpful. When referring to “Obumer” or “Drumf” (Trump’s actual ancestral name, but used as a slur) it comes across as childish, and is completely inappropriate. Remember too, rarely is one side ever 100% correct. It’s never a bad idea to verify information, whether you’re receiving it or passing it on. With your family or friends, refrain from derogatory remarks such as, “Man, how can you be so stupid?” or “I thought you were smarter than that.” And keep to the subject… never let a political discussion deteriorate into an all out rant about each other’s flaws.
Think about it this way; if you are arguing with your spouse or your friend, or your co-worker and they call you a name, are you likely to consider what they’re saying? I know I’m not. A friend of mine once mentioned that he’d had a spat with his wife. I asked what happened and he said, “I don’t even remember what the argument was about. I just remember that she called me a bastard and it really stung.”
Don’t let anger and frustration control an exchange of ideas. Try remembering things you really do like about this person, and change the subject if there is no true exchange of information or thoughtful opinion, or if negative speech creeps in. The best discussion you can have is between two or more people with differing ideas who are all willing to consider the other points of view. Most of all remember, our thoughts or beliefs may not overlap in all areas, but if given a chance, they will almost always overlap in some area, and to some degree!
Other information regarding the 3-strikes laws was found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-strikes_law