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Have an upcoming occasion where surviving political conversations seems impossible? Like, say, a lazy Fourth of July party, or, I don’t know, a fancy dinner. If so, this is the guide for you. I grew up in a purple state, and after I got bored of moving around that one I moved to another purple state. It was nice, pretending like my vote mattered. But now I live in a solid red state in a city that sometimes votes blue, and I have to tell you, sometimes I’d rather jab a fork in my eye than talk to anyone about my political leanings. I’m an American, but I have a feeling some of our European friends might feel the same way right about now.
I’m not a political blogger, so I’m not about to force my political views on you. But I am less than a week from giving birth (hopefully) and I will be on a hosting hiatus for a little while, so I thought I’d share how I manage to leave gatherings without any fork marks on my face. I consider myself independent and my husband is a registered libertarian (they exist!) so we often leave dinners and parties rolling our eyes, but I’ve never actually been offended by anyone. Well, except that one girl who thought we should bring back slavery and spend more time executing the gays than ax murderers. That’s got to be an extreme though, right?
Surviving Political Conversations 101
Perfect Your Table Dive
This one is very important and not at all facetious. Every other Thursday or so, I have to go eat with a large group of people who have at least twenty years on me. Okay, I don’t have to. They’re my husband’s coworkers and we choose to. Most of them are lovely, normal people, or we wouldn’t go. But, a couple of them are very staunch Republicans who like to make their opinions known about everything. Let me point out that them being Republican is not the issue – if I was in California instead of Tennessee it might be the staunch Democrats who bother me – but surviving political conversations is a lot harder when every single comment is political. So, enter the table dive.
That’s right. Just drop off your chair and roll under the table. Wait it out, at least until there’s food or you can get a server to bring you booze. Now, you can try and do this in secret, but chances are your companions are going to notice when you suddenly throw yourself at the ground. They may even acknowledge it by asking if you’re okay. Ignore them until the topic has changed. If it appears it’s not going to change, others at the table may soon join you. Hopefully one of you thought ahead and brought something fun to do like, playing the board game Taboo until they get the hint or tying people’s shoelaces to their chairs so they realize what they’ve done.
Avoid the Bozo
This one’s slightly more serious. Any Saturday Night Live watchers? If so, you probably know who I’m talking about. We’re looking at Drunk Uncle or Girl You Wish You Wouldn’t Have Started a Conversation With at Party. These people know nothing. They’re probably drunk. The combination of the two things might make your head explode if you attempt to engage them. Don’t go thinking you’re going to get an easy win for your political team either. The bozo is not going to believe you won any debate, even if all they did was ramble, “MAGA!” over and over.
You should also be aware if you have somehow become the bozo yourself. Did you have too much to drink? Are you suddenly quoting Donald Trump tweets to anyone passing by? Please, do the rest of the party a favor and hide out somewhere until logic returns, or at least until you have a stronger urge to dance than to speak.
Know Your Stuff
You know what’s worse than an alternate fact? Nothing. So, if you’re going somewhere that surviving political conversations seems necessary, and you’re sick and tired of all those terrible lies you hear, do your research. Favorite some of the news items you read in your phone and be prepared to whip them out. I’m not kidding. But please, for the love of all that is holy, do not use media sources like Huffington Post or The Blaze to prove any point. If you’re looking for facts, find actual facts. Take a look at this news breakdown. It shows the slant of major news sources. Try to use sources in the middle, or even better, academic ones.
This is honestly super important. We’re all getting less and less willing to compromise because we search out news that backs up whatever we believe, and the internet makes it possible to find a source for that, no matter what it is. Here’s a site about Walmart being a site for FEMA prison camps, for example. You still think the earth is flat? Yep, there’s a site for that too. So, when you’re arguing whatever point it is that gets you all riled up, use non-biased sources if you want anyone to listen to you. If it’s a topic you know nothing about, it’s probably one you don’t care about all that much, so just don’t get into it.
Don’t use the Words Racist or Snowflake
Okay, I admit snowflake might be a personal pet peeve of mine. It’s just stupid. Does anyone actually get insulted when you call them a snowflake? What’s the issue with individuality? And finally, why are the ones who use this word so often the ones who are always crying about people not agreeing with them? I digress. The point is, these are words that show you haven’t put any thought into what you’re saying. You’re spouting out talking points from the TV or Facebook, and that only makes surviving political conversations even harder.
A little note about the word racist – I am well aware racism exists. I live in the south. But I’m also well aware that it shuts down a conversation faster than anything else so you will have to think of another way to get your point across. If you’re at a party where everyone suddenly puts on white hoods, you can go ahead and assume they are racist, but I would wait until you get home to talk about it – and I’d get home immediately.
Remember, You Aren’t Going to Change Their Minds
Sigh. I wish this wasn’t the case. It would be great if somehow we could get through to each other and have meaningful conversations that end with both parties feeling like they’ve learned something. There’s actually a pretty great book (Tribe by Sebastian Junger if you’re interested) that talks about how people are better off when everyone wants to work but also wants to provide for those that can’t. Sounds like if Democrats and Republicans formed one mutant human, right? One day, maybe, we’ll all get along. But until then the most basic rule of surviving political conversations is accepting that you’re going home feeling disappointed, no matter which side you’re on.