I have a friend I have never met. He is a distant relative I met on Facebook, and we post on each others pages often. No need for names here, but he posted this question this morning, and I thought it wrapped up a life-long frustration pretty neatly:
You know that moment when you're arguing with someone from diametrically opposed positions on a subject, when you realize that no matter what you say, what fact or figure or life experience you present as evidence of your view on a subject, that you'd be better spending your time trimming your toenails with a weed eater than wasting one more minute on them?I thought that said it pretty well, even though I suspect my friend had me in mind when he wrote it. My friend and I rarely agree on anything, especially when it is about politics.
So I thought I'd pen a word or two on this ever-present phenomenon.
We all know that moment.
It starts when one is a teenager and is talking with mom, who until that moment always was the Goddess Of Perfect Information. And it goes on as we get more involved with people, with life and especially, with politics.
I once read an exhaustive and long-term study that hypothesized political positions were set genetically. In other words, some people are born to be progressives, others born to be conservatives. The report talked about certain natural differences in outlooks on the world seen in early childhood between kids raised in the same environment who would lean one way or the other as adults.
Other studies have pointed out that the number of conservative, middle of the roaders and progressive thinkers in any society tends to remain at a predictable percentage within a narrow range, regardless of the political system in vogue, the historical period being studied or the culture or the parentage of those studied.
Many people argue all sides of this issue, but it seems there are some good ideas for why folks whom I love that are of otherwise good sense seem so blind to my point of view.
I have friends I have known and loved for over forty years that have always had diametrically opposing views of society and the political scene from me. These are the very few I can count on the fingers of my two hands. The few to whom I lend money or borrow from without worrying about whether I need pay it back or will ever see it again or whether it will affect the friendship. People I flew with in good times and bad, travelled with, faced bad guys with, fixed cars with, ate, drank and played with.
The only fun we can have when discussing these subjects — which after all, like women and religion, must be discussed — is a sense of humor about it. I'm not very good at humor, or at least as good as I'd like to be, though I do laugh one hell of a lot. But I try to inject that when I can, just to loosen up the tension and to maintain the friendship.
The good thing is that there is real good in folks who disagree mightily about politics, religion and even women. That is worth hanging onto.
The United States Of America is based on the idea that these opposing views CAN coexist, that the argument goes on for a good and healthy reason, that the friction is necessary for a complete and vital nation to survive.
It was this belief that impelled Abraham Lincoln to bring some of his most potent and virulent enemies into his cabinet; for Barrack Obama to select the same Secretary of Defense that George W Bush had selected, even though their views on war were diametrically opposed.
And even in the most ancient writings that exist this divide between people existed and was noted and discussed. It is neither new nor is it a phenomenon we caused.
It is much easier to sit back with those who agree, and sometimes more pleasant. Being part of a tribe of the like-minded is seductive.
But it is never as much fun.