There Really is No Way to “Win” Some of Those Dinnertime Political Debates, and That’s OK
Anyone else ever been sitting at the table with the family, tapping your foot and biting your lip as they finally make that comment they know will get under your skin, and touch on the so often dreaded topic of politics? The vast majority of us I’m sure have at least one or two relatives on what we feel is the fundamentally wrong and harmful side of some issues, and engaging them in discussions on these topics is something I know I have to mentally prepare myself for.
Based on personal experience, it’s absolutely brutal.
Putting my head down and ignoring the conversation goes against literally every fiber of my being, especially when it comes to politics. My Dad and I have gotten in to political arguments so intense that we went at least a week without speaking to each other at all, on multiple occasions. While I’ve gotten in to these political arguments with my Grandma too, it’s never been even close to the same level as it’s been with my Dad. Probably because my Grandma has never said anything malicious and provocative to my face like my Dad has. I’ve found that my Dad will say things he knows will get a rise out of me so he can tell me I’m intolerant of other views, and I just like to shout him down. The most frustrating part about that is he knows it’s not the case. In all honesty during those moments, all I want is to just be left in peace and not have the same fight we’ve had countless times before.
There is nothing satisfying about them and nothing to gain from these conversations sometimes. No matter how many times you express your views, back them up with what you feel is sound logic, and it just goes in one ear and out the other. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if my conservative relatives felt the exact same way about me. But because I am genuinely proud of the learning and unlearning that I’ve done and the lengths I’ve gone to grow and shape my political beliefs, I feel obligated to defend them.. I understand my position of privilege as a white woman and my responsibility to use it, but if I’m being honest sometimes I’m just tired. Sometimes I really just don’t feel like repeating my point over and over and over again to someone who has no desire to listen to it.
I’m sure there are many people out there who would find fault with that, and rightly so. But there are times when I genuinely don’t know what to say anymore. There are groups of disadvantaged people in this country that are in need of space to have dialogue, engage with each other, organize, and heal. I know that in my position of privilege I am here to simply help others in privileged positions understand the need for that space, and help protect it. That being said, I think there comes a point where we need to acknowledge that sometimes those conversations with others in privileged positions will go nowhere. That absolutely does not mean we should fall silent and be complicit. It just means we need to step back, regroup, and do better the next time around.
We need to remember that not every discussion about politics will go our way, and we’re not always going to get through to people. They will be frustrating, exhausting, and demoralizing conversations at times. It is okay to acknowledge and validate those feelings, without feeling like you failed. There are minds that absolutely refuse to be changed. As long as you presented your case in the best way you possibly can, you’ve done your job in that moment. Over time, I’ve found that I present my case best through writing. I do not do well when talking in person, but that does not make my points any less valid. It just means that I need to use the outlet where I am able to organize and articulate them in the best way possible.
The political climate today is only growing more toxic. In a perfect, rational world we would all be able to have intelligent, fair and honest debates about the issues facing our country and our planet. Many of these issues — especially today — are no longer just political, but deeply moral. Our emotions are going to get the better of us, and we will inevitably find ourselves having discussions that leave us feeling very bitter and angry. We are humans, and we’re going to find it hard to remain civil sometimes. In this day in age knowing what’s at stake for so many people, calling on everyone to remain kind and calm all the time is really not something I can do. But the more we engage, learn from and inspire each other, the better we will be at fighting for our causes and making our points.