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The Three People I Talk Politics With

March 22, 2019

Politics is like the weather. . .everyone talks about it, no one can do anything about it

Okay, that’s probably not true. While it is rare, we can occasionally do something about the weather.

I enjoy talking politics. If you’ve never talked with me about it, you probably have the view of what normally passes for political debate either online or on network shows that show “balance:” lots of yelling, no one listening and lots of ad hominem attacks.

ad hominem: an argument or reaction directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining

But, you’d be wrong. I find that form of “discussion” just as tiring and boring as you do. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s challenging, but you can actually have interesting productive enjoyable political discussions.

I’m going to tell you about three friends of mine that I enjoy talking politics with. One I’ve known since we were both eleven years old. One of them, I met over the internet and we’ve met in person a few times. The third is someone I’ve never met in person.

When someone says they enjoy talking politics, I typically consider that they like to talk to people who agree with them; an echo chamber. Again, that’s not very interesting. And it’s certainly not the type of people I most enjoy talking to.

Conservative

Let’s start by saying that I’m conservative. (That’s hardly a surprise given that I live in Utah.) But, many of my friends in Utah are liberal, so not everyone here is Republican.

My friends actually span the political spectrum. Let’s start with the one that most agrees with me. My friend Steve is also a conservative. He’s probably more conservative than I am. But, if all we did was post “Me too” on each other’s posts our friendship would be pretty boring. It’s anything but boring.

Steve has three important characteristics that make him fun to discuss with:

1. He’s smart
2. He’s well read
3. He’s humble, willing to change his mind

Steve and I often disagree. Just because we are both conservatives, doesn’t mean that we agree on everything. For example, Steve, although a conservative was very much in favor of gay marriage. He based his arguments on the fact that marriage is really a three way social contract between two people and the state. In that context, he saw no reason the two people couldn’t be the same gender.

For me, marriage was about the sanctity of the institution. In my opinion churches should have defined marriage and the government match their definitions, not the other way around. Steve (and later the Supreme Court) disagreed with me.

And that’s the great thing about my friend Steve. He helps me be smarter in my arguments. Steve won’t let me slip by with a logic fallacy. And because he’s researched stuff I haven’t (like the political circle as opposed to the linear line) I can learn from him and trust that I’m getting valid information.

And all my three friends have something in common. They are all willing to admit when they are wrong.

Moderate

I’m not sure I’d call my friend Mark a moderate. But, he’s liberal on some issues, like abortion, and he’s conservative on others, like gun rights. And he’s very libertarian on many other issues, like “leave me alone and let me live my life.”

I’ve known Mark since we were kids. We grew up in the same town. Both our parents were CPAs. We went to the same grade school, middle school and high school. And we were both Eagle Scouts.

After high school we went different ways. Mark grew up liberal and I turned out conservative. But, because we already had a friendship, our political differences didn’t define our relationship.

We disagree on some pretty core issues. Abortion, social programs, some enviromental issues. And there are other issues we agree completely on. To the point we can finish each other’s sentences. We are both strong gun rights advocates.

Can I really hold a political discussion with someone who in one thread will agree with me on the sanctity of the 2nd amendment and in the next thread oppose my position on a woman’s right to choose?

Absolutely. Because we have a relationship based on trust, I can argue vehemently with Mark on one topic without taking it personally. And would I attack Mark’s character? Would I be tempted to to launch ad hominem attacks on my friend Mark?

Of course not. So, I know that if Mark is disagreeing with my position, it’s based on arguments, not personality.

Liberal

I’ve only ever met David online. He and I were part of a debate group on Facebook. David is about as liberal as they come. He might disagree whether Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton would make a better president, but he’s sure it should be a democrat.

David and I disagree on everything. He’s pro-choice, I’m pro-life. He’s in favor of gun control, I’m a big supporter of gun rights. I’m for lower taxes, David thinks taxes should be higher, especially on the wealthiest Americans.

Now, you might be saying, “Okay, Rodney, I can see why you enjoy talking to Steve, he agrees with you. And Mark is an old friend who you have a long history and some common political positions with. But, why would you enjoy discussing things with someone who disagrees with every one of your positions?”

Because David, like Mark and Steve has the three qualities I look for:

1. He’s smart
2. He’s well read
3. He’s willing to change his mind

But, although David is a good debater, our relationship couldn’t simply be defined by our differences. David is also a friend. Well, he has become a friend over the past several years. He’s been through some personal tragedies that he chose to share with me. I’ve shared some of the issues that my family has dealt with over the years.

David runs a community theater in Chicago. He’s an award winning playright. We’ve discussed not only politics, which we disagree about, but also theater, kids, cars, Chicago, and many other things. In short, we’ve become friends who occasionally discuss politics.

Political discussions are much more interesting with people you disagree with. The trick is to find those people you can become friends with first.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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