Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

August 6, 2011

Political discussions are not worth the fight

Heather Richmond Guest columnist
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — I have a new personal policy: I will not discuss political ideology with my extended family, my friends, my colleagues or anyone else with whom I care to remain in good standing.

Many people have implemented this rule for themselves because they become too upset when discussing their political point of view. They realize they become defensive during these situations, leading to arguments that may cause anything from mild tension to total relationship meltdown.

It seems as though we, as a nation, have lost the ability to have a calm, civil discussion relating to politics. (Perhaps, we never had it?)

However, getting too worked up is not my reason for abstaining from these debates. My “problem” is that my view on politics is not quite biased enough, I will not become enraged at another person’s point of view simply because I disagree and I refuse to spit venomous rhetoric in order to prove that my belief is “correct”.

As unusual as it may sound, I instead find myself in the center on many hot-button issues. My political belief system does not fit neatly into the category of either Democrat or Republican (and, just to cover my bases, neither, Libertarian, Green Party, Tea Party, etc.). Also, I am able to sit quietly and listen without interrupting the other speaker, trying my best to examine their belief even when I do not agree with it. Sometimes, I even commit the nearly- unpardonable sin of being neutral on a given issue.

This course of action usually leads to a frustrating discussion for the other person. They don’t feel the need to become defensive, so they aren’t able to have a spirited (read: loud) debate; they expect some sort of fight and are let down when I don’t give them one.

These days, we are accustomed to watching the talking heads duke it out on Fox News, CNN and the other 24 hour news networks or listening to them yell at us through the radio or post salacious, half- truth filled blogs online. This is what we have come to accept as normal, healthy debate in our country. We see professional men and women engage in a dialogue in which they are pitted against one another in a contest to see who can register the highest decibel levels and grab the audience’s attention with an outrageous statement or two. The point is no longer, it seems, to have these discussions in order to generate solutions. It is to generate ratings (read: consumers, profits, money).

This style of political debate has become the standard as John Q. Public, who may normally be a nice fellow, morphs into a raging, Rush Limbaugh imitator upon being asked his opinion on the recent debt crisis.

I simply don’t have the interest or energy to work myself up to these extremes while engaging in a discussion of this nature. There are too many other things in life that require this type of attention- some of which I actually have the power to change, unlike many of the happenings in Washington, D.C.

As November 2012 draws near, expect the 24- hour news commentators, the radio pundits and the web bloggers to intensify their battles, growing louder and louder in attempts to be heard over the roar of the crowd. It’s up to you to decide if you will follow suit or, perhaps, take it easy and let them fight it out on their own.     

Heather Richmond is a Jacksonville resident.