Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Not in polite society

There's a saying that you should never talk about politics or religion in polite society. And I've definitely known my fair share of people who should really take that into consideration.

A good example is the young man recently who was riding in my car with me to a ward activity in the next town. It's a two hour drive, and before we'd even left town (which granted takes about 45 minutes because of traffic and construction), he'd already started three arguments with me on a political issue which I have a certain level of expertize as well as strong opinions on. That was one of the longest two hour drives of my life.

And it's for situations like that that it is suggested to avoid talking politics. But it doesn't have to be that way.

HP has some strong political ideas in a certain direction. But he has those opinions because he's researched the ideas and really thought about the options and not just because some talking head on TV or the radio said it was a good idea. One of our good friends has some strong political ideas in the other direction, and for the same reasons, she just came to a different conclusion.

Watching the two of them talk politics is interesting. But for me, it's more fun to watch everyone else watch them. Everyone seems to just expect the two of them to get into an ugly uncivil name calling argument. But it doesn't reach that point. Both of them respect the opinion of the other because they know how they came to have that opinion. It is possible to have a civil conversation about politics, and those two are great examples of it.

Knowing what I know about HP's political ideas, I can guess how he votes in elections, but I don't know for sure. I don't ask him and I don't expect him to tell me. Our ideas line up pretty well on most issues, and he can probably guess how I vote, but I'm not going to tell him unless he asks. I think that's part of being polite about politics, it's respecting the thought process of the other. Matching political opinions isn't necessary in a relationship, but respect of those opinions is.

We were actually at dinner once last year when he realized he didn't know all of my opinions on political issues. I'm not associated with any political party. So while we ate he started listing off as many issues as he could think of and I told him in a sentence or two how I felt about each. He didn't judge my opinions. It was purely curiosity.

So maybe it isn't that in polite society one shouldn't talk about politics. Because polite, respectful, and civil people can calmly talk about politics. It's only in impolite, disrespectful, and uncivil society that people probably shouldn't talk about politics. There's just too many impolite, disrespectful, and uncivil people talking about it for my liking.

Happy election day!