There are several topics we’re supposed to avoid at the table. How sub-par the meal is, how obviously drunk the hostess appears, the fact that Moxie isn’t actually human…
At other people’s houses, we’re not supposed to talk about religion, money, or politics. It’s impolite. There are good reasons we avoid these topics, too.
Have you ever had to sit through your friends’ bragging about their debt and felt uncomfortable? “If you die owing money, you win!” Or how about when your rich friends pressure you to make the same investments as they have? This is the stuff that couples save for the car and say, “Wasn’t that weird when Jack brought up Napalm shares?” “Yeah, he wouldn’t let it go! I almost gave him a grand just so he’d shut up…”
Once, I drove a friend through a Taco Bell drive-thru where, stuck in line with nowhere to run, she asked me point-blank about my religious beliefs. I stumbled my way through an answer, trying my best to match what I thought she wanted to hear. What I should have done was remind her that it’s rude to talk about religion over burritos, but she persisted (I didn’t even mention the fact that she was drunkenly scarfing a quesadilla, and what would JC order from TB?). I still love Taco Bell, regardless of religion. Remind me to try that new Cantina Bowl. Looks filthy.
But “Impolite” is a bit of a cop-out. You can’t just go around trying not to offend people based on a set of “manners” that their parents may or may not have instilled in them. When you travel a lot, this is especially true. People were brought up to value different things, and we can’t possibly live our lives without stepping on some toes.
Instead I think it’s fair to say that we avoid these topics because you’re not going to change anyone’s mind.
Fred Phelps and his crew yell and scream about the things God “hates” at funerals (and apparently Lady Gaga concerts) but not once have I thought, “Wow, maybe I should reconsider my views because of this screaming extremist and the children in his employ.” His efforts are futile. He simply isn’t going to make a difference.
You can yell and scream until you’re Phelps in the face, but you won’t change someone’s mind if she feels that what you’re saying totally conflicts with her values. And morals. And general well-being. Yes, the Phelps example is extreme to everyone who reads this, but to him? He makes perfect, logical sense. And you’re not going to change his views no matter how many times we all counter-protest (and we will, every time, until they all F off already).
With the presidential election only days away, I have a feeling that the rhetoric will only get more enthused, more outlandish, more intrusive. And then it’ll stop. We’ll have our president (especially if Colorado gets their shit together) , and the winners will say “I told you so,” and the losers will say, “Voter fraud!” And we’ll look into it, and then we’ll go back to work.
In the meantime, realize that you’re not going to change those who’ve made their decisions. You can talk it out with those who are undecided, but make sure it’s at the kiddie table. Hook ’em while their young.
(Not sure how to register to vote? See if this helps.)