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  • The Perils of Friendship in an Election Year

       October 19, 2008

    I had a couple of interesting conversations with friends yesterday. It was a beautiful day here in Wisconsin, so I spent the afternoon outside along the lake with one friend who is an East Coast-raised, bisexual environmental lawyer. So yeah, she's a liberal. Anyway, what was nice about this first conversation was that it was genial and rational. We questioned each other's beliefs, but then actually stopped to listen to the answers. That's the key. Listening. Too often, these types of conversations turn into each person trying to desperately proclaim their beliefs and belittle or demonize the opposition. It serves no real purpose other than trying to "win" the conversation.

    Read that last phrase again. "Win the conversation." As much as politicians try to win the election, some of their supporters try too hard to win the conversation with their friends and enemies. It takes a certain kind of unhinged person to literally beat up someone who dares to hold up a sign supporting the other candidate, but it doesn't take much of a leap at all to find yourself in an unpleasantly heated political conversation with a friend.

    And that's where I found myself later in the day. Actually, it wasn't a conversation at all, it was an argument via Facebook status updates (yeah, really). Even though I know it's smarter to just let some things go, sometimes I can't and I don't. In fact, I try to avoid political conversations altogether. Living in Madison, I know that most people are quite liberal (hence Kerry getting over 95% of the vote in my ward in 2004), but that doesn't mean they're bad people. Like conservatives, libertarians and the like, they want what's best for their country, they just believe in a different way of getting there. They're wrong, but not evil.

    That last point is what ultimately provoked me into a contentious argument. In the heat of the election year, the rhetoric from some of my liberal friends is that no, I'm not just wrong, I'm evil. I don't think they really believe that. I think that's the emotion of the election and the frustration of the last two Presidential elections talking. At least I hope so. I'm prepared for my candidate to lose the election (well, especially since I'll most likely vote for a 3rd party), but I'm certainly not prepared to lose friendships.

    What about the rest of you? Are you getting into trouble with friends from other political parties? How do you deal with potentially heated political discussions this time of year?

    Posted by at October 19, 2008 10:33 AM

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    #  October 20th, 2008 8:25 PM      themandownthehall
    Yeah, I've experienced that one too. I had a friend just blow up at me and walked away when he mentioned that he would like to see Bush and Cheney tried for treason and executed for the gas price situation and I challenged him on how since Bush has no dial in the White House that sets the gas prices.

    Didn't have any contact with him for 6 weeks after that. We've always been on the opposite side, but this time he went personal.  
    #  October 21st, 2008 9:08 AM      Squibbly
    Honestly I just stay away from political topics with some of my extremely liberal friends. With the more moderate ones, we are usually able to have a friendly, intelligent discussion; disagreeing without getting contentious. I know its kinda wimpy, but with friends that I'd like to keep, that I know will vehemently disagree, I just avoid it.  
    #  October 21st, 2008 9:17 AM      kris
    I don't think that's wimpy at all. I think it's obnoxious to bring up topics you know could cause a big spat. I just find that it happens almost accidentally this time of year or that after ignoring 10,000 comments I have to respond to the 10,001st one.  
    #  October 21st, 2008 5:18 PM      themandownthehall
    Exactly Kris. The friend I referenced jumped from college football to gas prices *JUST* to pick an argument. It was unreal  



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