I had seen my grandfather do it years ago. My father did the same even more recently. I didn’t think I would ever engage in what always seemed to me a hands-off subject, but there I was, in a vehement argument about politics. It started as an uneventful high school day in first period chemistry. The class was split into groups of four to work on a lab activity. Somehow, between calculating moles and percent error, a member of my group thought it would be interesting to talk about different controversial topics in politics. Soon, passion, outrage and disgust replaced any chemistry-related thoughts. We fervidly debated the death penalty, reproductive rights, gun laws — all the classic issues yielding opinions from the extremes of the political spectrum. When class ended, I felt unsatisfied, enraged and, worst of all, attacked.
Everyone knows not to discuss politics with friends, unless one is willing to face the consequences. A seemingly friendly debate can turn deadly when political views are brought up. Friendships may be destroyed; family relations can be shattered. Many people are so passionate about their political views that they feel insulted when someone disagrees. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t need to be this way.
Individuals have come to fervently value their political beliefs in a way they do religious ones. Religion is a part of one’s identity. For some, religious beliefs serve as a form of truth. Naturally, disputing people’s varying definitions of the truth will result in passionate disagreement. To question one’s religious beliefs is to question their morality, their intelligence, and their value as a human. Challenging somebody’s political values, unfortunately, is a similar phenomenon nowadays. A person’s views regarding politics are essentially how they feel the world should be run. These political beliefs have come to symbolize another form of personal truth in such a way that an attack on them is an attack on the individual. For example, if someone were to categorically controvert a fact that you were sure was correct, it would be exasperating. The more this fact — this piece of truth — were questioned, the more personally attacked and passionate you would feel about the subject.
The media, per usual, play a role in this affair. There is a television channel tailored for the political views of one’s choice. These programs spoon-feed biased political reports into the hungry mouths of viewers, fueling the ferocity of their political faith. I, like many others, am guilty of watching a report on something I know very little about and adopting the opinions of the commentators, even repeating their sentences verbatim and with matched intensity when discussing the situation with others.
Low-key discussions about politics should be possible because politics are such an important topic to be able to debate reasonably. Political views should not be an extension of oneself like religious beliefs are. People can be passionate about their political beliefs but should understand that, like any other subject, there are many opinions involved, none of which are necessarily the right or wrong ones, and that’s OK. None of it should reflect on an individual’s character or intelligence.
So the next time you find yourself in a heated discussion about politics, remember that it isn’t an attack on you, it is merely a common debate not unlike any other. But if all else fails, try to keep your voice quieter than a yell.