Over the past several years, it’s become harder and harder to talk to someone who disagrees with you politically. After the bruising, exhausting 2016 election year, it might even feel impossible. If a political topic comes up, many people will plead, “Oh, please, can we not talk politics. I’m so tired of it.” Others will instantly be emotionally triggered and start repeating the stale arguments of the recent election.
I admit that I’m in the second group. I try to be respectful and not be the one to bring up political issues in conversations. But, if somebody else starts it, I can’t let it go past me. Just can’t do it. In a non-political meeting recently, a good friend insisted that Hillary Clinton was “disbarred four times.” I found myself yelling at her, “Prove that! We’re sitting in front of a computer right now! Find me a reputable news site that says that!” Not one of my better moments. Another friend had to figuratively separate us, and after I calmed down I apologized for yelling. (P.S. Before we disengaged, my friend did try 3 different fact-check sites and they all called her claim False.)
So maybe we’re not quite ready to talk rationally. At least I’ve made it clear that I’m not. But maybe we can listen. Here is the challenge I am setting for myself this week. I am going to ask someone who supports President Trump what they are hoping for from the next four years, what they like about this President I find so appalling (and I promise not to say “What the hell do you like about that inarticulate authoritarian egotist?”). And I will exercise whatever level of self-control it takes to JUST LISTEN. Not for the purpose of arguing back. Just for the purpose of understanding what one of my fellow American citizens is thinking.
I’ll report back next week on my results. Try it, and let me know your results, too!