We have all been there – an aunt or uncle brings up a slightly controversial subject at the dinner table, opposing opinions emerge and pretty soon all hell breaks loose. Passions flare, tensions run high, and by the end of it, no one feels like they have accomplished anything other than maybe alienating their brother-in-law, or ensuring that they never speak to one side of the family again.
Today, there is no such thing as polite discourse in politics. Whether it’s a family gathering or a presidential debate, nobody likes to hear that they are wrong, and most of the time it ends with a little more collateral damage than a bruised ego. In this election cycle alone, we have seen moderators get steamrolled (poor Jim Lehrer) and candidates -- lacking any sense of decorum -- doing whatever it takes to get the last word and the most speaking time. From hysterical laughter (I’m looking at you, Biden), to interruption after interruption after interruption, it seems that we have lost sight of why we talk about politics in the first place.
The political atmosphere in this country has become so polarized that it is now routinely acceptable to adopt an “I’m right, you're wrong” attitude about almost any topic you can think of. Even on bipartisan issues, we fight over the tiniest of details to encourage hostility and prolong the passage of important legislation. And for what? To prevent the opposing party from having any successes?
The purpose of debating these issues in the first place is to learn from others and to allow your opinions to evolve over time. Nobody is asking that we sacrifice our individual core values, but we have to be able to listen. Instead, all we hear is rhetoric on both sides of the aisle, with a dash of sarcasm and condescension to boot.
And it gets even worse on Twitter and Facebook. Everyone has read and rolled their eyes at political tweets or statuses, and we have all enjoyed reading angry comment wars from time to time. Don’t even get me started on the number of fake statistics I have seen people use to back up their arguments, whether it’s the official account of Mitt Romney or your best friend from back home.
My proposal: Let’s end the fighting once and for all. At least until this election season is over, we should all just agree to disagree. If you want to voice your opinion, use your vote. Exercise your right to participate in the process. But try not to force your beliefs down everyone’s throats.