By Reid Offers
Since moving here yonder from Texas, it has taken me a solid 6 months to get a feel for the political landscape both locally and federally. As many differences as there are between the United States and here, one thing that is becoming common with our neighbour south of us in the era of Trump is the way that people have began to treat each other when in discussion about politics.
With the United States midterm elections rolling around the world, media has long been in the process of disturbing the peace here in the Great White North, and with that disturbance comes ripples in society’s social fabric. People have simply lost insight on how to treat one another with civility and respect when talking about anything that pertains to the topic remotely. The dinner table, religious settings, and even academia–places of communal gathering–are becoming toxic over petty disagreements about a simple tax hike and alike. Notwithstanding the fact that people are and will always act in such ways, this type of behavior is unseen in contemporary culture.It does not have to remain that way though, and there is light at the end of the tunnel for us.
I am a stern believer in treating others the way you want to be treated. Also known as “the golden rule,” this simple principle has become lost with how politicians treat each other. Since they enjoy the privilege of being able to control who they interact with, it paints the picture to the normal citizen that, if those elected say and treat one another in such ways, it must be fine for everyone else to do so as well. One of the big differences between politicians and normal citizens is that we interact more with one another than they do, and being neighbours doesn’t mean attacking another’s character over simple disagreements in opinion. Since the politicians get enough attention, let’s explore some ways on how to be civil again when talking politics.
- Don’t act like you know more than anyone
Everybody has equal opinions and should treat them as such. Yes, there are things that require expert views in public policy, but those facts can’t be mistaken for opinions. Often times people opinions are hard to change and mostly won’t, but what can happen is open discussion and the exchanging of ideas. If you’re going to speak to someone about a certain topic, do not assume that you just know more than your counterpart. Even if it is the case that you actually have more education on, say, the impact of a tax raise over the economy, that other person’s opinion could be valuable to the discussion because it could impact them financially.
- Don’t be judgemental
I agree that it is within human nature to judge another person based on looks, personality, etc.; however, it is about what we chose to do with this judgement in our head and how that affects how we think of people. If you are talking to someone open-endedly about politics, never assume their stances on things based on how they look or talk. When things like “Gays For Trump” make trending lines on social media, people lose their hats to see someone’s opinion going against something they think they should support. Surely there is a 6’4 lumberjack biker in America who supports guns and advocates for universal healthcare, so anything can happen.
- Be Respectful
Respect given is often earned, and if you simply treat others as such, it will likely be reciprocated. This idea consists of little things, such as not interrupting, not talking over someone, and allowing them to finish their thought or idea before replying with one of your own. Individuals often think they are making the best decision possible when deciding whom to vote for, and any disrespect towards that decision can be perceived as an attack on them. You wouldn’t want your views to be discredited by someone, so don’t do it someone else.
- Listen, Find Common Ground, and Work it Out
Political conversations can be some of the most in-depth and touch on some of the most sensitive issues. Sometimes people can shy away from a topic because they fear they will get attacked for their view or that their opinion may offend someone else, and the discussion will go nowhere because of this. It is important to establish common ground. When discussing healthcare in the United States, for example, the majority view is that people deserve equal and affordable access to healthcare. If a person is of conservative ideology, they may think insurance companies should make healthcare cheaper, and if a person is of liberal ideology, they may adversely think that the government should work to make it cheaper. Now that common ground has been identified, the two can begin to bounce ideas and perspectives around as to how a solution could be worked out to address this issue. Even if no solution is found, someone may have discovered something they did not previously know.
The last (yet arguably most useful) tool everyone has at their disposal is the ability to just walk away when things begin to get ugly. Name-calling and mocking are behaviors that are okay to walk away from if you see them taking place within a conversation.
Some things covered in politics will always be sensitive, but now you have some tools at your disposal to avoid conflict and approach it open mindedly. The current atmosphere is beginning to change with the US Congressional midterms rolling around, but that does not mean the White House will change its ways–meaning we might have to wait another 2 or possibly 6 years for that ship to sail.