As has been noted, I don’t share my political opinions on this blog. I have them, but they aren’t relevant to Old Money, which is a culture that transcends political ideology. Nevertheless, I think some guidelines are in order as we approach the holidays.
It’s the time of year that often offers us an opportunity to reunite and reconnect with family and friends we may only see once or twice a year. We’ll dive into conversations to catch up on 11 months of life over one meal. We’ll run into old friends we haven’t seen in twenty years and it will feel like we haven’t been apart twenty minutes. We’ll see how much children grow in short periods of time, and how well friendships endure over decades. The opportunities for joy and laughter are numerous.
So are the chances that the subject of politics may rear its tricky head at a family or social gathering. This isn’t a problem if your entire clan is rock-solid conservatives or fire-brand liberals, but even then, are those conservatives also Trump supporters? And did those liberals support Hillary? Or Bernie? Things used to be so simple, but alas…
We live in a highly politicized environment. Long-standing relationships can end over political disagreements. We all know this. Here are a few things we can do to minimize the impact politics has on our holidays…
First, know that you’re not going to change anyone’s mind by arguing. Political opinion is shaped by numerous factors: family background, education level, income level, work, travel, experience, and even, according to some researchers, the population density of the area we live in. (Liberals, they say, tend to live in more crowded areas; conservatives in less crowded areas. I don’t know…)
It’s best to let life change people’s minds. A Republican friend of mine who once screamed bloody murder at the notion of ‘socialized medicine’ recently learned that her less0-affluent cousin had died. The disease that caused her cousin’s death was easily treatable. The protocol, routine. Her cousin simply didn’t have the money to drive from her rural home into the big city hospital where the doctors and facilities were located. She also didn’t have the money for the treatment. She didn’t have healthcare coverage because she couldn’t afford the premiums, despite the fact that she worked full time. Most heartbreaking to my friend was the fact that a member of her family didn’t feel like she could pick up the phone, call, and ask for help.
My Republican friend is not now, nor will she ever be, politically liberal. But this experience has left her less dogmatic about her political positions in some regards. So don’t argue. Let life play out. Intelligent people, and even your relatives, will have opportunities to change their minds. Life will also deal you some insights and experiences that will challenge your certainty, your cherished and long-held political beliefs. Allow new information and new perspectives to wedge their way between the brittle wooden planks of your dogma. This will allow light to shine into dark corners. This illumination often dawns into wisdom.
Second, there are usually 3 sides to every story. There’s your side, your idiot uncle’s side, and a much more nuanced, complicated, and contradictory side that is more truth than either of the two sides. If you’re simply parroting what you’ve heard on talk radio and cable television news, you’re probably not as informed as you could or should be. The resulting sermons delivered from on high at family dinner tables and cocktail parties around the country are transparent, tedious, and boring. Especially to people who really know what’s going on in the world, like me. (Wink, nod.)
Third, there are some things that should transcend politics. Friends and family are two of them. Community should nudge in and be a third. We embrace all of these around the holidays. So let’s do so without reservation, sabotage, condemnation, or division.
Readers of a certain age will remember Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart, two of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars of the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s. They were roommates early in their careers, sharing a house in Los Angeles before they each hit it big. In an industry notorious for its fickleness, they remained life-long friends. Jimmy Stewart was a supporter of conservative candidates and causes. His son was killed in battle in Vietnam. Henry Fonda was a dedicated and vocal liberal whose daughter, Jane, visited Hanoi during the war, and smiled for the cameras that followed her.
A reporter once asked Fonda how he and Stewart reconciled their very different political views. In his customarily curt style, he replied, “We don’t talk about it.”
This attitude takes no small amount of discipline, but it shows an enormous amount of respect for your friends and your family. They’re entitled to their opinions. You’re entitled to yours. The focus should be on what we all have in common, and the awareness of how little time we have, and how precious these holiday moments can be.
This holiday season, don’t talk about it. Transcend.