Grace Manning ‘21
There is a saying that is common in many American households: “No politics at the dinner table”. My family doesn’t ever follow this rule and we have engaged in many a rousing dinner debate, often resulting in someone stalking off and others refusing to speak to each other for a few hours until the passion wears off. However, growing up, this was an integral and thoroughly enjoyed part of my home life. My friends asked to come over for dinner because there was sure to be a heated discussion of some sort. My younger siblings took it all in with wide eyes, understanding more than we thought, and asked many a difficult question afterwards. We didn’t live in the United States, so I wasn’t introduced to the idea behind “no politics at the dinner table”, until later in my life. I didn’t even really believe in the need to take some topics off the table, until the past few months when the current political climate forced us to do so.
Political discussions among family and even friends, has become a point of contention. There is a distinct lack of respect for each other’s opinions, beliefs and ideals, an overwhelming desire to force one’s opinion on the other and a refusal to budge or even to acknowledge the other’s points. This is a problem. We have become so unwavering in our beliefs, so closed off to the suggestions of others, that we are unable to see things from another point of view. When we refuse to expose ourselves to thoughts we don’t share or people we don’t agree with politically, we shut ourselves off and stop growing intellectually. One of my grandfathers has polar opposite political beliefs to myself, but I find him one of the most interesting (if sometimes frustrating) people to talk to, not despite, but because of this. We are able to share opinions with each other and even if we can’t convince one another to change, we can inform and help the other understand where these beliefs come from and why we have them. Without this ability and opportunity, we risk surrounding ourselves only with those we agree with, creating a homogenous, and rather boring, personal community.
But the fear now has to do with the climate of hatred, bias, discrimination and disrespect that has been fostered over the past four years. We can no longer have these open conversations, because they inevitably turn personal. I have witnessed conversations that start political and lead to insults being hurled across the table, personal jabs at the other person or their family members and insulting language. It is refreshing then, to travel elsewhere in the world and to find that one can discuss the country’s politics and government policies without attacking one’s integrity. This has become impossible in the United States, partially because those in power, who we should be looking to as role models and examples to follow, are not doing it either. It is terrifying to me, that people say they can’t be friends with or even be around people who don’t have their same political views. I am much more convinced by the opinion of someone who takes other viewpoints into account, than someone who refuses to even explore the other side of their argument. This means that we have strayed very far off that path that American politics used to take. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be passionate and invested in our views. It just proves that we must also be educated, not only on our own belief system, but on the beliefs of others, in order to give ourselves the most well-rounded, balanced standpoints.