A couple of years ago at my sister’s wedding, we reconnected with our cousin. He was a bit younger than the rest of us and we really didn’t see much of him growing up or beyond. Let’s just say that my aunt (dad’s sister) and my Dad didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things so visits were limited. Family drama – can’t beat it.
Since the wedding, we’ve seen him a few times when we were visiting my parents. Unfortunately, he got divorced this fall and it became final this winter. Which was a little awkward since we had all become Facebook friends with both him and his ex-wife. He did encourage us to maintain contact with her and we’ve done so. But he’s coming down to see my brother who lives close by and we’ve arranged to all go to dinner on Saturday night.
He’s a good guy but he’s very political and his politics are very hard left. Which is why he fit in with my brothers and sister and parents because they all tilt very hard to the left as well. I have some left of center views and some right of center views so I’ve never really fit in (story of my life) which means I tend to avoid all political talk.
I do have my own set of beliefs but they are mine and I don’t like sharing them with people who I know don’t agree. Why? Because I really don’t want to argue. And politics tends to bring out the worst in people – anger and other strong emotions which I can only handle so much of. It is like going to see my parents now. I know my father will either be watching sports or news. If its sports, we can talk about the game and other things and all is good. If it is the news, then he starts in with rants about anyone who doesn’t think the same way he does.
See, my other problem with political arguments is that they are usually emotions with a thin layer of facts. Most of the issues we face are complex but we crave simple solutions so we boil them down to a few talking points and spend endless hours arguing about who is right. The truth is that there are good points to be taken from each side but neither side wants to hear that. We’ve reached a point where those who are true believers automatically reject anything that comes from the “other side”.
And, then they tend to get all judgy and lump everyone from the “other side” into one category. It is not that those on the other side have a different opinion, it is that they are wrong. And, they are stupid for not knowing they are wrong. When you live in a bubble and surround yourself with others who think like you do and read only those who agree with you, it is easy to believe that you are well informed but you can’t see that you’ve become closed minded. Since I have friends on both sides of the aisle, I really don’t like it when someone starts lumping everyone from one side into the same bucket and running them down. Of course, I’m also not the type who is going to start any conflict which means I just get super quiet but it then bothers me for several days afterward.
I guess the other thing is that if you are so far into one camp that you accept everything that they believe without question, then it kind of makes you one-dimensional. It means I already know everything about you. I know how you are going to react and how you are going to think about every issue. It makes discussions pointless because your mind is closed and made up and if I don’t agree with you, then you’re likely to argue with me.
Now, maybe I’ve built this up into something it won’t be. We may just have a nice dinner with some pleasant, mindless small talk about his dad and his job and what he’s doing with his life. I’d like to hope it turns out that way but there is always the risk that it won’t.
Funny that I wrote something earlier about family and what defines it. By blood, he is family. But I don’t know how much we really share other than a set of grandparents. Is that truly enough to keep a relationship going? Well, I should keep an open mind because maybe we’ll just spend the night talking about baseball which starts soon. That would bore my wife to death but it would still be better than a night of politics.