Talking About Politics: Creating a Mutual Understanding or Hatred?

Grace Ebach I’ve always loved following politics. As someone who is interested in public service as a possible career choice, I take the election of anyone, be it a judge, alderman, governor, or even the President seriously. I also love sharing my beliefs and learning about those of others— it’s great to be able to share opinions in order to create mutual understanding. However, in my experience, these peacefully and rationally-motivated conversations most often never take place in informal settings. Instead, there’s arguing and criticizing, and every single time I’ve been involved or witnessed casual political discussions, someone ends up feeling hurt, disrespected, or ganged up on. Although I’ve seen these conversations take place at Latin, they’re usually sparse, and students in this very intellectual environment usually know what they’re talking about and don’t just spew out the opinions of their parents or other political gatekeepers. That being said, I think that the way we approach talking about politics needs to change, or else we should just stop talking about politics informally altogether. I realize that there was a Presidential election recently, which was an election very important to the future of American policies as parties keep getting more and more extreme, so I understand all the political talk in the library and the halls. However, I came across five different straight-up fights regarding the election results in the last couple of weeks. I couldn’t help but stay and eavesdrop as the students said awful things about the candidates in defense of the one they supported, uttering phrases that I can’t even repeat here, they’re so insulting. Exchanges like these worry me about whether we should talk about politics—period— because even though I love being able to express my opinions, it’s not worth alienating someone and making others feel uncomfortable expressing themselves in fear of judgment or ostracism. Yet, although that’s the easy way out, I don’t think that dismissing all political debate is going to fix the problem. What we need to do is examine it, and find out why it is we go for the cheap shots. Why do we feel the need to attack a candidate’s race/gender/appearance/family and whatnot? Instead of going for the personal jabs, we need to debate policies and stances on certain topics, investigate past decisions and plans for the future, and infer ourselves who we think is the better candidate. Only then are we ready to discuss our thought processes with others and talk about politics intelligently and rationally, avoiding confrontation and hostility fueled by ignorance and bigotry. Therefore, in hopes of creating a more comfortable environment for everyone at Latin, we as the student body should continue to educate ourselves about the issues, and engage with other in hopes of creating a deeper understanding of each other’s lives. Even though we may not come to an agreement on certain issues, at least respective parties got to say their peace and do so comfortably, without fear of being attacked or made fun of for it. My distaste for one candidate is not worth a conversation gone awry with my one of my friends. Is it for you? Consider it the next time politics becomes a hot topic in our halls.]]>