Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Vacation and Politics: Some Survival Tips

While on vacation this week I caught part of a talk show segment about how to survive a vacation with friends and family members. I watched couples as they described the inherent conflicts they faced when making decisions about where to eat, how much to spend, and where to stay with family members. However, the show didn't touch on another important source of conflict: how to deal with differing political views when staying in close quarters with family or friends. Certainly, the polite stance to take would be to not bring politics up at all--but with 24 hour news being blared from every restaurant, the polarization of the political parties and for God sakes, that horrible Fox News, who can help but get incensed?

As a libertarian/independent, I am often in the company of family members and friends who do not share my political persuasions--to them, I am a rabid right-winger because I am not against the war, like Fox News, support Israel and think Bush is doing the best he can under the circumstances (although I certainly disagree with some of his policies; to other of our friends I'm a liberal!). On my recent vacation, one of our family members is a staunch liberal who sees the world in black and white terms while preaching tolerance. In her view, those who do not accept blacks and minorites are rabid racists but she talks non-stop about the horror of the religious right and the need to defeat them.

A husband of a couple I talked with on vacation told me that he very rarely puts himself in a position to vacation or stay with his wife's sister's husband who non-chalantly chats about how Americans need to learn to tolerate Muslims and other minorities but talks about others in derogatory terms such as "Oh, you have to discount that man, he is German, you know how they are." In another case of a single woman I know, her beach vacation ended early when the friends she went with (several of whom she did not know well) sat around the vacation house watching Fox News. When she voiced her displeasure and stated that she disliked Bush and perhaps used some very strong language, an argument ensued where the other vacationers told her to leave--ouch--what an unpleasant way to end a vacation.

So what can you do to get along when you vacation with loved ones or friends whose world views are different than yours? First, accept that everyone has differing opinions and that this might be a good thing. The same family member I described above who had little tolerance for the religious right had been very active in the civil right's movement years ago and is a very good and loyal person. Second, if there are topics that hit a nerve such as discussing the religious right in derogatory terms, change the subject if possible to something more pleasant that you can both agree on or change the topic all together to the weather, sports or something neutral. Thirdly, if you choose to engage in a discussion, realize that it can get heated--perhaps you enjoy this type of verbal engagement--go for it, but do not let it get out of hand and realize that you will probably not change the person's mind. I calm myself in these situations by focusing on what I can do to change things in some way by discussing information with a larger audience such as by blogging, podcasting or helping in a political campaign. Next, I breathe calmly and count to ten and tell myself I am practicing relaxation techniques in all situations. Finally, if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen, in other words, if there are some friends and family members whose political and worldviews are so difficult for you to deal with that you border on hypertension or go into a blinding rage, perhaps being in close quarters is something you should avoid--limit your visits to short ones that involve an activity and less talk.

Have other readers had experiences on vacations where heated political discussions or worldviews clashed? Is so, share some tips with how you coped (or not).

117 Comments:

Anonymous Billy Hollis said...

I've found that betting small amounts of money is an easy way to defuse many disagreements. For example, I was with a group in summer 2004 that were all convinced that Bush would re-introduce the draft within a few months after being elected. Countering such balderdash is impossible, but I simply offered to bet each of them five bucks that it wouldn't happen.

Result - everybody goes away feeling like they've supported their position, so to speak.

I don't ever expect to collect such winnings (and never did in the case mentioned). But I'm not above reminding them about that incorrect "analysis" from them the next time there's a disagreement. Doesn't make them agree with me, but they do become more respectful of my views.

9:45 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Alan Furman said...

Might as well face it -- this is the era of the Fawlty Towers Rule ("Don't bring up the war").

9:46 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger JAF said...

I prefer the method of leaving them at the next rest stop.

9:50 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always admired the system described by Patrick O'brian in the Aubrey/Maturin series (think the movie Master and Commander). Sensitive topics such as politics and religion (both of which were arguably much more contentious in the 19th century) were verboten in the cramped confines of a sailing ship.

Why? Because a voyage or a cruise took months if not years to complete in exceptionally tight quarters. Political or religious disagreements would have been utterly intolerable in such conditions and would have led to disintegration of crew morale, and probably death or injury (dueling was in practice). So they just talked about banal subjects, repeated familiar anecdotes, and stayed in safe, but perhaps boring areas.

Seems like a good system to me.

When I am comfronted by a person or group who starts a political discussion by saying something that I disagree with, I just say something like "I find discussing politics is a sure way to ruin a good party," and that usually puts a stopper on it. If not, I just go do something else.

-Mike

9:53 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Brett Rogers said...

My mom and I couldn't disagree more on politics, but we get along swimmingly. I think most folks simply want to feel some level of validation.

"Mom, I can see how you feel that way."

If I use that as my entry and speak to her point without disagreeing first, I find her to be more open to my point of view and we walk away with a respect for each other's perspective.

The other important aspect of this: my relationship with her is much more important to me than her political opinion. I'll walk away from the discussion before I burn that bridge. I don't need her to think as I do.

9:57 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Fenrisulven said...

Its not just relatives/friends either. At restaurants, I frequently encounter Moonbat activists who attempt to "educate" the surrounding diners by discussing politics at deliberately rude volumes.

They don't seem to realize that they ostracize any potential converts.

10:10 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Bill Lipe said...

I encountered the mother of all political kerkuffles when vacationing in Cabo San Lucas during Thanksgiving in November 2000.

Half the house was for Bush and the other half for Gore.

The house we were staying in had Dish TV, so it was a battle for either Fox or CNN.

Needless to say we didn't cope very well.

Everybody was out to find a chink in someone's statement, any statement.

Of course we're a family that likes to engage in this type of conversation, but even this occassion proved too much.

Towards the end of the vacation we simply kept the TV off of the news channels (my Aunt's command) and things cooled down a bit.

Best suggestion for those that don't want conflict, just nod your head and keep your mouth shut.

10:15 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Bill Lipe said...

And if you're wondering which side I was on...thanks a lot Al!!!!

:)

10:18 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Azadi said...

Helen,

I am quite a strange creature in that I am a pro-war social liberal who is an avid fan of contemporary folk music. Every year I attend a folk music festival in upstate New York. It would be one of my favorite times and places in the world except that the favorite sport is Bush-bashing, both from the stages and the audience... it also manifests in the campsites. My favorite musicians almost never fail to turn at least a quarter of their sets to the perceived failures of the Bush administration, the alledged debacle of the Iraq war, the supposed lies greed and imperialist oil lust etc. etc. One is hard-pressed to find a single person in the thousands of attendees of the festival who would disagree with any of the screeds and diatribes delivered from the stages on everything from fixed elections to American right-wing Christian theocracy. It is assumed that if you do not oppose Bush, you are a right-wing Christian republican racist sexist homophobic gun-toting oil-guzzling rich anti-abortionist who wants to put hidden cameras in everyones bedeooms.

What to do, as a poor Jewish bisexual pro-choice independent who supports Israel and military action in the Middle East?

What I end up doing is I stick close to my friends... the ones who disagree strongly with me, but know it and love me anyway. I turn aside and chuckle slightly when the performer onstage starts to talk about how everyone should just put down their guns and everything will suddenly be okay... I turn to a trusted friend and joke that war is good, I love war, we need more war in the world. Sarcasm can be a very good defuser in such situations.

Mostly what I do is I try to focus on the fun that there is to be had in the setting, and when I get home I write. I write and write and write. I read Glenn and I read Roger and I remind myself that I'm not alone, as much as I feel that I am at times.

But to be honest, it is getting harder and harder to put myself in that environment every year. My coping mechanisms seem to be breaking down a bit, and I'm still trying to figure out how to be who I am without feeling like I need to cry all the time.

10:20 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Just ask detailed questions--the subject will change soon enough.

10:22 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger TWM said...

Each family should be required to drag small children along for the trip. They will be fighting so much the adults won't have time to discuss politics.

10:25 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Rob said...

When it comes to vacationing with other couples and trying to decide where to go and where to eat and so on, my wife and I have found that the easiest method is to designate a "team leader".

The Team Leader gets to break all ties and give final rulings on all subjects, up until they get tired of it (it is tiring and, more often than not, the Team Leader ends up saying, "I'm sick of deciding, it's time for someone else to be Team Leader") or make too many unpopular decisions and get removed from office.

As long as everyone is good-natured about it, it works fine and cuts down on endless discussion and argument. Usually, we had a lot of fun with it.

10:28 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous rastajenk said...

When I was a young adult, I would get strong urges to travel, so I'd just pack up and go somewhere by myself. Now that I'm middle-aged with a family and have several family vacations under my belt, I'm convinced that I had the right idea in the first place. Travelling alone is the only way to get a real vacation.

We've been to the Outer Banks a few times, and invariably when we see those huge houses and someone will say, "Wouldn't it be great to rent one of those and get (some combination of) aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc.) together," my heart sinks. I can't imagine a worse way to invest vacation resources. Fortunately, it has never happened.

10:31 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use a variation on 'I'm not talking politics today'. It works well when political talk is clearly not the top choice, for instance at an art festival I attended this past week-end. At other times I let the topic die for lack of contribution.

It does seem that since the advent of 24 hour cable news shows there are alot more casual discussions politicising every event, an instance where more information isn't always a good thing.

Retread

10:37 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger AShiningCity said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:48 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger AShiningCity said...

Great post Dr. Helen!

I think the best advice to give is to make sure that one uses polite language while debating. It is amazing what that will do for the conversation.

Next, keep away from name-calling. Comments like: "You are a communist!" "Well, you are a fascist!" are so overused that they don't mean anything anymore.

Finally, keep away from personal comments. Be sure to give examples for your debate points but don't use the other person. In a debate there is trouble when there are a lot of words like: "You", "Your", "Me", "Mine" involved.

10:49 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous k in abq said...

Part of going on vacation is 'getting away from it all'. From my perspective, that includes the 24/7 news cycle.
The great thing today vs. 20 years ago is that the news is still there when you get back - news source websites, blogs, and so on are all archived online.
On my honeymoon, the resort offered us a 6-page fax edition of the NTY in the morning. I politely declined. To me, there is only one purpose for a newspaper on vacation: looking for 2-for-1 discounts at favorite restaurants.

10:53 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Azadi (10:20),

I don't think you are alone in your views at all--it just seems that way when you listen to the MSM or if you live in an area where Bush bashing etc. is the norm. I never realized that Instapundit or Roger Simon acted as group therapy for those of us who have different views but I guess they do.

11:01 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Out4Blood said...

What that old adage about not discussing politics or religion in polite company...?

11:03 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Rizzo said...

I can't really imagine the situation because my family almost never discusses politics, and never really has. The only person whose politics I'm aware of is my father, who has no great love for either political party, but tends to vote Republican because he dislikes high taxes, unions, and OSHA. I couldn't even tell you how my mother, brother, or sister vote, nor any of my aunts, uncles, or cousins.

However, I'm a somewhat of libertarian-leaning conservative, and work with a bunch of socialist leftists, so I've learned to just keep my mouth shut. Actually, I think my job kind of depends on it.

11:05 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Paul Hager said...

When I met my future in-laws in 1986, I was a libertarian-Democrat and they were left-liberal Democrats. Not surprisingly, there were a number of views we shared. For instance, my (eventual) wife observed at the time that I was the first person other than her father who, when using the phrase, "That son-of-a-bitch", meant Ronald Reagan.

Over the years, as I became even more libertarian and, after a period as a Libertarian Party member, joined the Republic Party, we have become more-and-more at odds politically. The War and Bush are the major points of disagreement now. My in-laws usually visit us once a year and it is nearly impossible to avoid political discussions.

I have never been one to allow someone to render unchallenged negative judgements or opinions about issues I consider important. I do reasonably well at presenting counter-arguments in a non-confrontational way though I'll admit it is harder to do when the issue is the War.

In is especially hard to discuss the War with my in-laws given that they barely made it out of Europe before the Nazi's made it impossible for Jews to escape. That my in-laws are unable to see the obvious parallels between psychopathic Nazis who quite explicitly stated their intentions and psycopathic Mullahs who do the same is utterly incomprehensible to me. To them, Bush is the Great Evil and the New York Times is the purveyor of unalloyed truth.

Above, I stated that my in-laws views are "incomprehensible" - that's not quite true. I'm quite familiar with the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance so I am able to detach myself enough to see that is what is going on with them. That awareness is important in how I attempt to deal with their political views. I don't think avoiding contention is desirable - I don't think you're doing either yourself or the person you disagree with a favor by "changing the subject". Knowing that you are unlikely to change someones mind because of extreme cognitive dissonance caused by "Bush Derangement Syndrome" doesn't mean you shouldn't try. The other important consideration is that it is always possible that I am the one who is blinded by cognitive dissonance. Very unlikely in my view but being at least aware that it is possible helps presenting one's arguments in a more dispassionate way.

So, to sum up, I don't avoid political discussions with friends or relatives. People who know me also know it "comes with the territory." Make good arguments and never make things personal. Do that and you'll do OK.

11:12 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger erp said...

What usually works is just agree to disagree about the subject and go on to discuss something neutral.

11:15 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Z. said...

I find that avoiding political debates with people I don't get along with is good, but I don't mind debating with friends and family even though most of my friends are more liberal than I or libertarians.

11:21 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Maggie45 said...

Helen said:

I don't think you are alone in your views at all--it just seems that way when you listen to the MSM or if you live in an area where Bush bashing etc. is the norm. I never realized that Instapundit or Roger Simon acted as group therapy for those of us who have different views but I guess they do.<<<<<

I live in one of those areas, and I've learned to keep my mouth shut as there is no "discussing" issues. I see the snap inside their heads, and next comes the attack...so I just nod and umhmmm away. When I get home I read Glenn, Dan Riehl, Jeff G, you, etc .And there are a handful of people who I can discuss things with..not many, though. lol

11:36 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quote my grandmother, who always used to say, Don't talk about race, religion, or politics if you want polite conversation. That changes the subject slightly to, Do we want polite conversation or an emotional bloodbath. It also provides a line of retreat if Bloodbath is the choice.

11:36 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Bill Peschel said...

I have family members like that, too, who I see rarely, and found an interesting way to debate them is to simply ask more questions about their position. And then listen carefully. If nothing else, I gain insight into their thinking, without turning it into a shoutfest.

Besides, I know I'm right anyway. :)

11:36 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous "Eric Blair" said...

Great post, Dr. Helen...and one that most people can appreciate in these partisan times.

The thing that always gets me is the assumption that "right wingers" are "stupid" or "cruel" or "love war." Some folks on the Right have opposite but similar feelings about the Left. Things degenerate from there.

I seldom talk about my beliefs with others, but I always say how terrible I think partisanship is, and how awful it is to assume that one's political opponents are "stupid" or "evil." The truth is always quite different.

In political discussions, it would be great to keep the extremism that seems to always pop up!

Interesting posts....

"Eric Blair"

11:42 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Kelly Moore said...

I, too, was taught to live by the adage, "don't discuss politics, religion or personal finances in polite company." As I've never considered my family "polite company", we occasionally broach these topics; but, respectfully. Since we avoid any hostility, we are free to eventually move onto more gentile topics, such as, "when will the damn cubs get their act together?"

11:43 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous stacy said...

I'm also a libertarian type, so I rarely encounter anyone who agrees with me, on vacation or otherwise.

I find the statement "reasonable people can disagree" to be priceless, both as a reminder to myself, and as a reminder to my family/friends.

11:46 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Ric James said...

You really don't like Fox News?

11:52 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

ric james,

In my post, I am talking about liberals etc. who do not like Fox News and get angry that it exists. I like Fox News very much and get my news from it frequently.

11:58 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger ed said...

Hmmm.

Generally I just let them talk. When they stop I ask them a few specific and pointed questions about their various positions, and then let them continue talking. Where I see a logical inconsistency or a misunderstanding about historical events I correct them, and then encourage them to talk.

In my experience the more rope you give liberals, the more likely they are to hang themselves with it.

11:59 AM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Jake said...

Hi Helen!

Being a former Marine officer and moderate Republican in a family littered with limosene liberals, taking summer holidays back home (Maine) is like dancing through a mine field. Just imagine a dinner where you are the only person who: 1) Has not inherited all your money, 2) Is not a Democrat, 3) Works in a field that is not academia, jounalism, or NGO, 3) Has actually gotten a job on your own. As you might expect, I have thought deeply about the subject of your post.

Through the years of Republican bashing followed by Kumbaya sing alongs (I kid you not), I have found the best strategy is to simply keep my mouth shut. But I have alos accumulated some useful survival techniques.

1) Never accept newspaper articles as evidence. People will readily admit that newspaper articles about subjects that they know a great deal are inevitably lacking. Force them to extend that view to all subjects (this takes the latest NYT propoganda off the table.)

2) Play this game. Suggest that interlocutors make the countervailing argument to their own position. For more on this, see my blog post here: http://spyralnotebook.blogspot.com/2006/04/all-dogmatic-statements-are-untrue.html#links

3) Use the Socratic method on people with strong opinions. Politely ask penetrating questions about the subject until it becomes readily apparent that they have only a cursory knowledge of the subject. In most political discussions, it usually takes only two or three questions before total ignorance is revealed.

4) One great truth of life is that the less people know about things, the stronger their opinions tend to be. Use this to your advantage.

5) Always understate your own knowledge. For instance, if asked how you feel about the War in Iraq, admit that you don't know enough to have an informed opinion, but then launch into a detailed treatise on insurgency warfare techniques being used by the Marines in Anbar Province. Others soon realize how little they actually know about which they are bloviating.

5) When it comes to political discussions, differentiate between policy and politics. Most people (particularly liberals) confuse the two, thinking they are one in the same. Yet if you focus on politics as it is actually practiced (fund raising, getting out the vote, legislative techniques), it suddenly occurs to people that not only do they not know much about politics, but they don't know much about policy either.

6) Never use the second person. And of course, never make ad hominum attacks.

Finally, if all else fails, heed my Mom's advice and "Never argue with people who are wrong"! :)

(PS I continue to enjoy the podcasts. Keep up the good work. Finally, an alternative to NPR!)

12:03 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting fact - In British military officers’ messes there is a rule - no conversations about politics, religion and women. A rule I might add honoured in the breach, especially the last item ( I was in an all-male regiment).

____________

I recently visited family in the UK – I live in South Africa - and my brother and my World and political views are rather different. He is rabidly anti-American, hates GWB in a vein popping way, his views are very BBC-Guardian. I'm pretty much like Helen in my views on Bush and Blaire and the war against Koranic literalist inspired terrorism …..strong support in broad brush terms on foreign policy, critical on some of the execution and on some policies (I don’t like the term ‘war on terror’ and think he’s wrong on stem-cells).

It's impossible for my brother not to get onto politics. This visit I gave him and his wife a full response to their anti-Americanism…. A conversation which I did not solicit; one that covered anti-Americanism, the Iraq and Afghan wars, the Islamic issue, neocons etcetera….on the list of global current affairs, all the usual boxes were ticked!.

His wife - my sister in-law, was quite shocked, saying she'd never seen me "so aggressive"...I pointed out to her that this time I’d simply chosen to say my piece rather than tip-toe around their sensibilities. I explained that they should broaden their sources for current affairs beyond the tight ideological strictures of their social circle and the British left wing media.

Sometimes it's best NOT to avoid conflict. The rest of the visit went fine and I think no grudges were borne; hopefully they will be a little bit more circumspect about my sensibilities before regailing me next time….though I think I have more hope than expectation!

As a result of the conversation I did send a hyperlink through to my brother via e-mail. It was ‘pointing’ to an episode of the Hugh-Hewitt, the one where he interview US Senator Santorum vis a vis the discovery of 500 plus mustard and sarin filed artillery shells a few Months ago in Iraq. A rather important story which the MSM has, for some bizarre reason, been almost entirely silent. I e-mailed this simply because much of my brothers argument was predicated on the thesis that Bush and Blair went to war on a lie – the WMD ‘Myth’ (never mind that for many of us WMD were a minor part of the justification, and objectively were a small part of the congressional authorisation, a matter of record)….I tangent…mea culpa.

Luckily, when this little tête-à-tête lot ensued, we were at my brother and his wife’s house. When all of us visit our parents it’s a little different, my 77 yr old Mother simply hates political discussions. She sees having her ‘brood’ under one roof as rare and precious time (mindful that I live in South Africa) and does not care for this sort of thing, which she sees as sullying it. I respect her views; indeed more, I agree with her. My brother sometimes can’t help himself…it’s a pathology really it is - this Bush-Derangement-Syndrome!

Nick - South Africa

12:07 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anjali said...

Duct tape.

12:17 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger José Giganté said...

I sure wish I'd read this before the trip I took last week. I work for a University and had to travel in a van with five liberal minded people for five hours. Then I spent a couple of days with them at a conference and basically was beat up idealogically until the final night when we were drinking and, well lets just say things almost became physical.

I'm done discussing politics on these trips and certainly not while imbibing.

12:30 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Some great advice is in here! Billy's bet is freaking genius. I like (and have used) Mike's method when a quick shutdown is desired. Man, it works fast. Paul's view is sane and clear-sighted, and points to the controlled strength and directness shown by Nick. And those are just a sampling.

Personally, I like Jake's take best. Never saw such a well thought-out collection of techniques for this little problem before! Item #5 (the first one) is my mainstay already, and seeing it elucidated like that refines it further. Some of the others have been useful as well, though if I use them, chances are it's the sound of me folding my wings to stoop.

12:56 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Disillusionist said...

I've found - time and time again - that you simply can't argue with liberals without them getting angry. It's a pathetic cliche, but I've seen it demonstrated over and over again: for liberals, it's all about how they feel, not about what the facts might be. I have a very dear friend that I simply don't discuss politics at all with - because everything that's wrong in the world is GWB's fault. I just roll my eyes and say nothing. It doesn't do you any good to point out that they don't actually know anything about history or logistics or whatever else the subject matter might be - these are people who believe that Paul Krugman knows more about what a US Navy hospital ship should be doing in New Orleans than the ship commander does. Don't bother.

A liberal is someone who'll stick firmly to their principles as long as the only by-product is lots of dead Africans and Asians.

12:57 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said - "In my post, I am talking about liberals etc. who do not like Fox News and get angry that it exists."

You touch on a point that I find very puzzling - the all-to-prevalent attitude that the very existence of a voice that does not conform to a liberal viewpoint is taken as "proof" that America is a hotbed of narrow-minded right-wing fundamentalism. That this reaction actually proves the opposite is apparently beyond the grasp of many otherwise intelligent people.

When I try to explain to my relatives that I honestly respect their right to their opinions, and ask that they also respect my right to mine by not becoming angry and insulting, I see a look of disbelief on their faces that says "Well, my beliefs are CORRECT and GOOD, so you SHOULD respect them, but your beliefs are WRONG, so I need not respect them!"

But I have noticed that one fairly effective way to counter absurd statements like those about living in a "police state" is to simply ask for examples. When someone tells me how Bush hates black people, for example, I just ask for examples of this behavior. Invariably the first "examples" given are simply repeats of the allegation. I find that continuing to ask resolutely but politely for specific instances that show evidence of the "bad" attitudes sometimes results in a bit of frustration on the part of the accuser, which I hope is an indication of the beginning of some questioning of the mantras they have been chanting.

I have become convinced, by the way, that a fundamental part of the belief system that encourages very leftist attitudes is blind, unthinking respect for the perceived "underdog". I call it the "strong is wrong" phenomenon, and I see it very frequently in those who feel that strong entities like America (or Microsoft) always have the worst motives, while any "disadvantaged" or rleatively weak group is always pure.

I have a VERY close relative (ahem) that will become furious if she sees an old Christiam preacher warning his flock about being saved, but who reacts with bemusment to a radical muslim (for example) who is stating quite earnestly that he has been told by God to either convert or kill the infidels.

I have to conclude that many among us just do not believe that there is real evil in the world, and that expressions of good will and a willingness to compromise can always solve any situation. I know I will not be able to really connect with those people, so I have to avoid contact with them in situations where politics can come up. Of course, this is not always possible, and so I have to fall back on the "give me an example" tactic.

1:00 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has been an absolutely fascinating read--both Dr. Helen's post and all the comments.

Lornkanaga

1:20 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel so very lucky that members of my family are either not interested in politics or are of the same persuasion. And now that we're all spread out, we don't get together enough to make arguing about anything worth while.

But...I do have friends and co-workers who are rabidly anti-Bush. Right-wingers this and right-wingers that. Some can be easily swayed to other topics, like books or movies. But some are real fanatics. They aren't interested in discussing anything. They just want to tell you how wrong you are about everything.

I have nothing vested in arguing with these people. They aren't close friends, and talking politics just makes for bad feelings. It's not that I don't like to debate or that it's not important to defend your point of view. It's just that I wouldn't discuss politics with some types any more than I'd discuss theology with someone I consider a religious fanatic.

So when they go off on a harangue, I just give them The Blank Look. Pleasant but blank and just a little bemused. I've actually enjoyed refining the Blank Look over the past five years. At this point, I flatter myself that I could easily play a minor character in a Christopher Guest movie.

1:30 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Re "anger" --it seems to occur often when someone is wrong on the actual issue but right on the "meaning" they see in it.

Often it involves a leap--as in, from the facts of the Lebanon war to "I hate violence".

When you find yourself over and over thinking or saying "yes, but...." then it's a good bet that regardless of the text you're not really on the same topic.

1:59 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger ckoz said...

I see my in-laws all the time. They're big into "Social Justice" and don't ever miss an opportunity to screech political.

Last week, during dinner at their house, the sister-in-law proclaimed while lamenting urban sprawl, "I think it should be illegal to cut down trees."

Noting their 5,000 square foot dwelling carved out of the woods in a prestigious Minneapolis suburb, I quietly got up from the table, grabbed a cold beer and went outside to play with the kids.

Hiding behind children during war isn't always reprehensible.

2:06 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Terri W. said...

I generally keep my mouth shut or if asked, say, "My politics are private," but that tends to upset friends and in-laws though it's not intended to be a snub that they're not in my "inner circle." I just don't enjoy the tit-for-tat, you regurgitate your talking points, I'll regurgitate mine, blah blah blah that it usually boils down to. Unless I'm talking to my dad, because that cynical SOB makes me howl with laughter regardless of whether we agree or disagree.

My brother is a political director for a labor union, and our politics are very, very different. I feel it has negatively impacted my relationship with him. I'm making a concerted effort to discuss non-political topics with him, but if you view everything in a political light, it always seems to circle back.

2:11 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Peg C. said...

My family experience: We've long enjoyed weekly card games with my in-laws. This continued for 9 years, until fall 2004 before the election, when my in-laws' insults about Bush and Republicans (we never brought up politics) made both my husband and me decide we weren't having fun anymore but were enduring stress and anger. Long story short, we've played cards with them about 5 times in the ensuing 21 months. I explained to these in-laws months and months ago that we wanted no political discussions. The last 2 times we played, they initiated discussions with verbal digs. We're not calling them anymore, which is too bad, because this was the bulk of our social interaction with them.

What does it say when righties are perfectly happy to avoid the subject completely and non-righties (I can't call these relatives lefties; they aren't) can't stop themselves from being offensive? I see this played out everywhere, including at work: the Bush-haters go hunting for fights.

So much for the peace-loving crowd.

2:12 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont have family, simply becasue I am a single immigrant. Thankfully, I dont have to deal with lefty in-laws and other relatives. But i do hang out with friends from college, and to a person, man or woman are moonbat lefties. My response has been to find new friends, and to cut down my interaction with the lefties to the minimum possible.
It also helps that they see me fiddling with a couple o f "evil" or "ought to be banned" type of knives, before we sit down for the evening card game.:=)

2:26 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Breaker said...

Hi Dr. Helen,

My challenge occurs consistently at work. I am well known to work colleagues as a conservative and a Christian - not in that order. I am a lawyer on the left coast. The majority of may colleagues are liberals.

Most of the time we do not discuss politics, religion or worldview. When the discussions do come up, I usually avoid responding unless directly confronted.

Then I calmly state my viewpoint on the topic and offer the basis for my viewpoint in fact or understanding of human nature. I never deny my deep faith.

Most of my liberal colleagues quickly drop the topics that involve politics or worldview. I think they write me off as just unenlightened on those topic or tainted by my service as an Army judge advocate.

My liberal mates can't write me off as unintelligent because I am viewed as having superior expertise in my areas of law practice concentration - tax, formation and operation of entities and ethics - I am availed as a resource for quick and accurate assistance by my liberal mates in those areas. I find that most liberals want to think of themselves as more intelligent than right wingers.

My political and world views are actually quite close to your husband's in many respects but we do disagree in a few respects - so I don't consider myself as anywhere near hard and extreme right.

My mates and I get along by just not communicating in areas of disagreement. I would be happy to have a dialog in those areas but my liberal mates seem to get angry or exasperated quickly - so we don't talk.

Just last week in the middle of a pleasant lunch a liberal friend blurted out to me, "You just can't believe now that it was right to invade Iraq?" I answered, "Yes, I do." My friend answered with a scowl, "God!" He is not a Christian. We dropped the topic of the war.

The area that does generate discussion is Christian theology. My non-churched liberal mates occasionally seem fascinated by Christian issues and topics from the Bible. They have many misconceptions of tenets of Christian faith and hold erroneous beliefs as to Biblical texts. They seem to leave conversations with me in a bewildered state because Christian tenets that I explain don't seem to be as threatening as they feared. If I reduce their fear of a radical Christian jihad, then I am happy that I may have changed a mindset that Christians must be defeated.

P.S. I blog anonymously to keep my liberal mates from feeling the need to retaliate in the workplace.

2:56 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Trey said...

Funny story. I have relatives near New Orleans who actually voted for David Duke, an avowed KKK kleagle or beagle or somthing. I on the other hand, minored in African American studies in college and have very different views on race. We accomodate each other by trying assiduously to mention the subject of race while together.

But I think my cousins have taken it too far. My cousins son was scratching intently on his legs last visit. I asked him if poison ivey was the source of his affliction. "No sir, I got eat up by chiggers" was the reply. His father stepped briskley into the room and said "Son, if I have told you once I have told you a thousand times, when your cousin is here we call them chegros."

At least he is trying.

Trey

3:26 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Michele said...

Azadi-

"What to do, as a poor Jewish bisexual pro-choice independent who supports Israel and military action in the Middle East?"

That was so funny.

I feel the same way as a socially liberal christian artist unschooler who supports the war and loves music from the sixties and seventies. Of course that means we can often find some common ground with most anybody if they can get past their assumptions!

3:29 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Ann said...

As an American expat living in the UK, I often have coworkers begin conversations about politics. My method is self-deprecation, preferably in a humorous way.

Example: Today I made one of those throwaway comments about how I was going to 'kill' a demanding customer.

Coworker: You're American. Shouldn't you nuke him?

Me: Hey, we haven't nuked anyone in several years, at least!

Coworker: But you still hold the world's record for nuclear bombs dropped. America 2, rest of the world nil.

Me: Yes, and we LIKE it that way! God bless the atom.

Though I have gotten into serious conversations on occasion, I try to keep most discussions on that footing.

If anyone starts to get really involved in any type of "America should do x", I start going into the ways decisions are made according to the constitution (separation of powers, etc) until their eyes glaze over, but that probably won't work as well if the audience is all American.

4:10 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous dani said...

I have a terribly hard time not discussing affairs a little bit. I work at a university so it's really quite entertaining. I am also a great education for them. I remember a colleague coming over to my house and standing stupified in front of my compost pile- "YOU have a compost pile?" All of her assumptions about Christian conservatives were starting to crumble right then and there.

I agree that the best tactic is a little question as an answer- why? That's all the further one needs to get 90% of the time. As Jake said, most of these folks simply don't know why. This worked great with a waitress this VERY day when she thought Bush's idea of bringing the brightest young minds over from Iraq to the US for a few years was totally stupid.

It also helps to have some stock statistics memorized (like military recruitment/reup figures) because, as Jake said, whatever "knowledge" they have is usually some meme not backed up by reliable sources.

Finally, be unfailing polite and upbeat. It is a verifiable fact that liberals are more depressed than people from the center-right. As the saying goes- "Piss off a liberal-work hard and be happy."

I also give them alternatives to the MSM. Some of these older liberals don't know about blogs, and it's really easy to play to their "strong is wrong," (thanks, Anon.) belief before they even know what's happening.

4:37 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you misunderstood the thrust of your "family member's" remarks about the "religious right." Perhaps the f.m. objects, not to the right of personal belief and practice of evangelicals, but their drive to force ALL citizens to follow their tenets by writing them into civil law and practice(e.g., the attempt at an abortion ban, opposition to discarded fetal cell use in stem cell research). Remember when contraception was banned in many states as "unChristian" by the Roman Catholic Church? Bought any wine on Sunday in Knoxville lately?

4:42 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger DRJ said...

Excellent post, Dr. Helen. My mom and my in-laws are Howard Dean-type liberals while my spouse and I are Fox News conservatives. The technique that finally worked for us and that I would add to your list was mentioned by Dani: Be unfailingly polite and upbeat. So when I am asked "How do you like your President now?" after some derogatory story about GWB has come out in the national media, I invariably reply - with a big grin - "He's great, I'm very happy with his leadership". For some reason, it works every time.

5:12 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen:

If you have to work that hard on vacation, it is not worth it.

5:14 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Laura said...

Classic. My favorite was ckoz's "hiding behind children during war isn't always reprehensible". I find much more tolerance (aka silence on the subject) amongst the kiddy-friendly world of the suburbs I live in now. Maybe people are just too busy and are worrying about the really important stuff like which juice box to pack. Some very good advice here for the visits with the lovely and very liberal family members.

5:19 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger josil said...

one of the main reasons for the nastiness in social intercourse on matters of politics is the fact that the preponderance of media content(e.g., MSM, Hollywood, arts)emanates from the northeast coast and the west coast. if what we saw and read all emerged from, say, wichita or birmingham or amarillo or ogden, it would appear to be a different world around us.

5:23 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Pogo said...

I avoid most political discussions when family is involved, but if some particluarly outrageous falsehood is stated, and I know the facts, I state the facts. Without comment.

Since I am a voluminous reader, and give citations for the facts, there is rarely a counterchallenge. Otherwise, I'll go play frisbee with the young-uns

5:31 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Mercurior said...

ok, in my house, mum is a tory (conservative) brother is labour, mum is monarchist, bro is anti monarchist (he wanted the french revolution to happen in the UK)..

so.. i am in the middle, i have no politics, i have no stance.. and pogo i try to be like you, state facts regardless of my own personal opinion, but i do have to stop stupidity or people who are plainly wrong, maybe make them think a little..

i try to see every point, there are good in all policies, some are betterthan others, some are just plain insane.. but.. there should be a common ground.. a middle way as it were

5:47 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sister and brother-in-law are D.C. area residents and wear their politics on their sleeves. I quit arguing with them some 20 years ago when they stated that Reagan was responsible for the Yellowstone Park forest fires. I realized then I could not have a rational disucssion with them

These are smart and fun people who emotionally cannot control themselves when it comes to political viewpoints. It is really sad and all too common.

6:42 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Mama Duck said...

Ah, I also try to avoid the topic or change the subject. It is indeed a touchy subject, you have some good ideas on dealing with it however.

6:45 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Janet from Tucson said...

My mother is a yellow-dog Democrat. She is 80. I don't argue with her but I do insert facts now and then without comment. That doesn't usually distract her. However, I took some pleasure in educating my sister-in-law who was astonished to learn the draft-dodger GWB had served two years active duty and flew fighters faithfully enough to qualify for flight pay.

7:17 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger BobH said...

Reading over these posts, I'm struck by how many of the posters' relatives seem to be more interested in manipulating and controlling their relatives' behavior and attitudes than in having a reasonably pleasant relationship with them.

I must be lucky since I never talk politics with my relatives. Religion on the other hand could have been potentially explosive (I'm a fairly conservative agnostic with two liberal protestant minister uncles) except that we have informally agreed never to discuss that either.

Furthermore, I never get into political arguments with my dog. I can say whatever I want and he just keeps trudging along and smelling the mailboxes.

7:55 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous ThreeDimen said...

About six hours after receiving a phone call from my father telling me that he was dying of cancer and had less than four months to live, my in-laws had to once again start in on me about Bush. I was really hoping that I would have a reprieve from their Air America-inspired shouting for at least a day after getting news like that.

On the bright side, they didn't discuss politics as my dad's funeral.

8:17 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trey's anecdote was quite funny. I am reminded of a similiar episode I once witness. Our medical team was rounding on our patients. The resident was talking about a particularly puzzling patient and said "This is quite an enigma." One of the black interns stepped forward, pointed his finger at the resident and said "what did you call me?" There was dead silence for about 5 seconds until the black intern broke into a big smile and said "You should have seen the look on your face!"

8:47 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger Eric said...

"the Bush-haters go hunting for fights."

How very, very true that can be! What that means is that if you want to avoid such fights, you've got a problem when you're forced to eat dinner with an anti-Bush "fight hunter." I don't know that there's any easy rule, but the last time I was with a particularly rabid, teeth-gnashing Bush hater, I just let her know what I thought, and sat there calmly while she fulminated. By that time everyone was looking at her, and eventually she began to tire. When I sensed this, I did my best to change the subject. Others then joined in to help me out -- not that they agreed with me (they were nearly all antiwar) but in the interest of preserving decorum. It worked.

BTW, I also have family members who believe passionately that Bush rigged the Twin Towers with explosives and who attend "9/11 Truth" conferences. Sometimes it helps to just let people know what you think, let them freak out, and then change the subject. I also like to tell people that because no one agrees with me and there's no one I agree with all the time, that these things are "relative," and they're free to consider me insane if they want.

(I may be unusual, but my low self-esteem allows me to rationalize allowing people who think Bush blew up the Twin Towers to think I'm the one who's crazy.)

10:12 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the "other anonymous"
I thought it was legislatures, not the Catholic Church, that passed laws! And is that the motivation behind the ACLU, buying wine on Sunday? I try and actually think ahead in my life. Perhaps it is this Liberal inability to plan ahead more than 24 hours that makes expansive government so attractive. It does all the planning for them! So what it the wine tastes like shoe polish, you can get it on Sunday because the goberment says so.

10:25 PM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can identify with the comment about moonbats being concerned with their feelings and not with facts. I recently had a discussion with a very nice young woman from Australia. The topic was religion. She is of European descent and is a semi-pagan but she has leaning toward Islam. She told me Christianity filled her with disgust. The reason for this? Christianity teaches against premarital sex. She could not give me a reason why she would despise one religion because it prohibits premarital sex but be leaning toward another that is even more strident on the issue. To paraphrase the woman "I don't have all the facts and figures, I just have my feelings to go on" I told her I thought this was great. Facts are facts and do not change but her feelings are subject to influence so she may well come around to Christianity some day. She flipped out at this but later said she would have to think about my point. We were together a few more days and she didn't talk to me again, so I guess she was afraid of having her feelings influenced.

10:34 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger dadvocate said...

I've gotten to the point where, for the most part, I avoid the liberal members of my family except my mother. (I tolerate her views with a smile and a nod.)

I'm tired of the worn out comments about how everything is the fault of Bush/corporations/rich people/Bill Frist/etc. My nearly fundamentalist Christian brother is less judgemental and the easiest to tolerate. For otherwise intelligent people who think they have open minds, they don't. Only the names and places change but the tired messages are always the same.

11:02 PM, July 25, 2006  
Blogger inmypajamas said...

This post hits close to home because I have had to learn to live with a difficult in-law situation that really only started after the 2000 election (we got along fairly well the 14 years prior to that).

My in-laws are lefty New York Cindy Sheehan-worshippers and my husband and I are solid conservatives from Texas (couldn't get more dangerous). We have learned to cope by agreeing to never talk about politics, which has turned out to be fairly easy since my in-laws have many interests that we can discuss instead (including the grandkids). It was just sad that we had to sit down with them and say we were tired of the Bush-hatred and Texas-bashing so the price of admission to our home was keeping their mouths shut about those topics. They agreed and things have been much, much better. I have never felt the need to bash New York while we're there visiting and never made snarky remarks about Clinton during his presidency (even though many certainly came to mind) so this desire to bash Bush or denigrate the state your child has chosen for his home is something I don't understand.

Anyway, in some ways I can't wait for Bush to no longer be president, though I voted for him twice and support a lot of what he has done. This strident BDS and its tiresome, unrelenting anger has me hoping for a different atmosphere after the next election (unless Republicans win again, I guess).

12:10 AM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Out of Step in Kfar Saba said...

You just have to make sure there is a third person around who can interupt at the right moment with some comic relief ... and a cold beer.

12:11 AM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous jpickens said...

When the Republicans win again in both 2006 and 2008, the moonbats will get even worse.
They'll just blame whoever is in office, and lead back to Bush bashing.
"Rudy wouldn't even BE President if Bush hadn't stolen the first term in 2000".

I can't wait!

Remember, Socialism and radical Islamism are both EVIL ideologies.
Those who support them are wrong, and need to be politely debated with.
Its not a "see both sides" issue.
Democracy and Capitalism are successfull ideologies, and need to be defended as such.

12:38 AM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Dr. Melissa said...

There are some scriptures that apply to this: 1) Do not answer a fool according to his folly. 2) Seek peace, pursue it, earnestly. 3) When in Rome, do as the Romans.

Don't take the bait. My brother and I disagree about a lot politically, but I don't bite. Why bother?

I have friends all across the political spectrum. These people are also respectful of me even though they are mystified sometimes by my views. I am respectful of them. I don't have to like or approve of their views. If that respect doesn't exist why even be friends?

Family is tougher, but again, if someone prefers to be "right" rather than prefers the relationship--let them be right and minimize the relationship. Their loss.

By the way, welcome back and thanks again for the link!

12:59 AM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger AST said...

Azadi,

You nailed just how I felt when I got the new John Prine Album and heard the track, Some Humans Ain't Human. Funny how these peaceloving compassionate folkies can be so judgmental.

The problem I have with this stuff is that my brother-in-law starts yelling. Who wants to converse with someone who's attracting attention from all the other diners in a restaurant.

I finally decided that he doesn't really want a reasoned conversation. He just wants to shout down anyone who disagrees with him, so why bother?

3:56 AM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Owba said...

My grandma taught me a saying when I was very young: “God’s perfect; we aren’t.” I’m poud to say her wisdom really sank in by the time I reached middle age. Now I’m not terribly shy of saying, “I’m not really certain about this, but here’s what I think ....” A bit of honest, well-deserved humility on my own part comes in handy.

I have to admit, though I try not to let it show, I have very little patience for people who assume they know the “facts” or the “Truth” (note the capital ‘T’) and that I’m nothing but a fool. There are no “fools” in my family and friends. If I treat them like fools, that says something about me, not about them.

Besides, you've never said something stupid in anger? You've never earnestly believed something you now recognize to be foolish? Never argued about something for reasons that had nothing to do with the topic? I sure have. And I'm not going to judge people harshly for making the same mistakes I'm made.

This isn't really about dealing with other people. It's about our own puffed up images of ourselves.

10:14 AM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Unfortunately, the people who most desperately need the messages of moderation, thought and patience listed here are among the least likely to actually come here and read them. Alas.

12:23 PM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Michael W. said...

Last night I meditated that God would destroy both you and your husband individually without doing harm to anyone else(except other corrupt republican scum like yourself). I will be meditating at every possible chance for this from now on.

Hmm, a psychologist advocating the murder of innocent Iraqis that had nothing to do with September 11th, 2001. You are the very definition of a moron.

Didn't your mom ever tell you that because you are so unattractive physically that you should make sure to work on inner beauty??? You have neither and are vile, one can just imagine how you have infantilized your husband and destroyed his soul.

I would bet the house that God frowns upon women who corrupt and infantilize grown men and destroy the male mind?

Who exactly would ever seek counseling from you? You appear to be a carbon copy of the violent youths you supposedly have counseled. Fascinating.

P.S. As a liberal democrat I will be voting republican for the first time this year(Democrats must not clean up the mess your dirtbag party has made or be even remotely held accountable for it). Your group(republicans) will be held accountable at some point for what you have reeked on this country. I wait with baited breath to see the people of this country drag pieces of filth like you through the streets by your hair. What a day of rejoicing that will be. Amen.

You are working too hard to achieve that ugly hick look, straighten your hair or get a head transplant, please do it as soon as possible since you insist on posting your fright picture on your site.

1:04 PM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Michael W.,

You must have a pack of family members and friends beating down your door to go on vacation with you. What a charmer!

1:10 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you convince anyone in your family to go on vacation with you a second time? You're bizarrely proud of being an obnoxious contrarian.

1:23 PM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Sam said...

What's a vacation?

2:02 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Tim said...

Dr. Helen could you clarify what you mean by "In her view, those who do not accept blacks and minorites are rabid racists". I'm not sure they would necessarily be rabid, but they would at least appear to be racist. However I'm not sure you expressed your point correctly.

More here
http://www.siliconinvestor.com/readmsg.aspx?msgid=22659773

2:18 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Tim said...

BTW, other than that one choice of phrasing I think this blog post was interesting and potentially useful. Political conflict spoling personal relationships is a potentially serious issue, esp. for people with strong political beliefs. Knowing when to let it go and stay silent, and how to politely but effectively state your case when you do make it, can be important.

2:37 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael W:

Thanks for providing such a classic example of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

2:40 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Didn't your mom ever tell you that because you are so unattractive physically"

What kinda crack is he smokin', you're a beauty!!!

2:44 PM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Dr. Melissa said...

A head transplant and hair straightening (commenting on appearance), personal invective and bringing the hubby into it....(commenting on gender and sex politics)

is Deb Frisch in the house?

I thought she was an exception. Maybe she is the rule.

2:57 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous "Eric Blair" said...

Dr. Melissa (and Dr. Helen):

I sure don't like it when "right wingers" get all personal and nasty...but isn't it interesting how often folks on the "tolerant Left" seem to enjoy trolling with sexist statements that they always say they detest?

Sounds like projection to me.

Dr. Helen, you handled that individual just right.

"Eric Blair"

4:09 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the good Doctor is quite fetching, especially considering her intelligence and accomplishments. Michael, on the other hand, is ugly--no picture needed.

That said, someone recently sent me some of Bill Maher's blather and when i responded that half-baked cliches bore me, the response was, "You must be a Republican." I answered with a brief but thoughtful analysis of why I support Bush's foreign policy. The crickets chirp on, admittedly debatable wisdom of the policy notwithstanding.

4:10 PM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Tim,

You misunderstand my point. The point is not whether one is a racist or not (and yes, if you discriminate against others because of race--including whites--etc, you are a racist--like some of the racists on the left who have come by my blog to call my husband a cracker).The point is that it seems unfair to force/tell others to be tolerant of certain groups (blacks, minorites, etc.) but allow others, whites, religious, conservative etc. to be discriminated against.

6:59 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only solution is to avoid political discussions with loved ones when you know you will disagree.

After all, I was brought up to believe it was bad manners to talk about sex, money, politics or religion. What smart parents I had!!!!

7:08 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous ckitching said...

"you simply can't argue with liberals without them getting angry."
"A liberal is someone who'll stick firmly to their principles as long as the only by-product is lots of dead Africans and Asians."
"most liberals want to think of themselves as more intelligent than right wingers."
"Perhaps it is this Liberal inability to plan ahead more than 24 hours"
"It is a verifiable fact that liberals are more depressed than people from the center-right."

Wow... All I can do is shake my head. Add to this list the stereotypes many liberals hold against conservatives, and is anyone surprised things devolve into shouting matches? Here's a suggestion to both sides of any argument: leave your stereotypes at the door, try to keep in mind that just because you hold a particular belief, that doesn't make the belief right by definition and above all else treat people with respect even if you believe they're completely wrong.

As for the Bush issue, Bush happens to be a very polarizing figure. In many ways, Bush stands for everything liberals aren't. I guess the conservative equivalent to Bush would be Franklin Roosevelt. Think of the animosity that many conservatives feel towards FDR and his policies, and perhaps you can start to understand why many liberals feel the way they do about Bush. Don't take it personally.

But don't mind me. I'm just depressed, angry, stupid commie posting on a right-leaning blog. Obviously something is VERY wrong with me. Maybe I just like Internet echo chambers where I know my voice won't echo.

9:58 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Acksiom said...

Eh.

Me, I just bring up the right to male genital integrity, i.e. routine and ritual male genital male amputation, AKA 'circumcision', and then proceed to argumentatively

DESTROY

anyone who ignorantly dares to oppose equal genital integrity rights for little boys, whether they be left or right, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, statist OR LIBERTARIAN, alike.

But then of course that's not a topic that Dr. Helen or the Insta-Hubby is ever going to directly address.

Let alone their consistent silence on that particular civil rights/cultural misandry issue.

Now is it.

[cocks an ear]

[crickets chirping]

Ayup.

Same as it ever was.

4:10 AM, July 27, 2006  
Blogger PJB said...

So much complaining about "closed-minded liberals" yet the consensus here seems to be "just ignore those crazy people". Glass houses, anyone?

Whatever happened to learning something from an opponent? Surely you stand more to gain from interacting with a person who has different ideas from you than one who thinks exactly the same way.

12:26 PM, July 27, 2006  
Blogger DAN said...

Another way of asking this question is: How do you talk about sensitive issues with people you may not know that well?

Count me in with the "talk about them anyway" crowd. I know it is not easy, but the whole point of having a vacation is to get to know people better. Isn't this just the type of thing to do that?

8:37 PM, July 27, 2006  
Anonymous Breaker said...

ckitching said:

"Here's a suggestion to both sides of any argument: leave your stereotypes at the door, try to keep in mind that just because you hold a particular belief, that doesn't make the belief right by definition and above all else treat people with respect even if you believe they're completely wrong."

I think most (not all) people on the center right do exactly as you request. I experience that most people on the left - even center left - react emotionally and project prejudgments against those who hold views to the right. In my experience on the left coast, that this distinction is one of the core difference between those on the left and those on the right.

And those on the left are the ones that project and complain about "stereotyping" people. There is nothing wrong with "stereotyping." It is merely the process of ordering groups and identifying their generalized characteristics. "Stereotyping" only becomes a problem when one acts on negative biases without giving an individual a chance to become known and present their views on a rational basis. People with right of center views are far more likely to listen to an individual and the support that the individual offers for a stated viewpoint than people on the left. The left demands of its own orthodox group think. Identity politics is a tool of the left - not the right. Just take these examples - the left vilifies Condi Rice, Justice Thomas and Colin Powell as not "authentically black."

What is the purpose of even bringing up the racial characteristics of these dedicated and accomplished public servants by the left? It's simply to shun them from the racial identity political group of African Americans who are locked into an orthodox group think to vote only for Democrats - the political party of the left. And to generate fear in African Americans that they will lose their supportive friends if they show independent thought. That's sad and that's the essence of true bias. Remember, this is just one example. There are myriad other examples.

8:57 PM, July 27, 2006  
Blogger a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

If I might address a 'prior event' in this sequence, which is why one's agreement seems needed. I would venture to say it might be projective identification. The speaker probably is not intending to express what in life they feel denied about but see the object of their compassion as having been similarly denied. Thus agreement vicariously affirms that the speaker has been denied etc. In this case, Polonius' rule is the arbiter. "Be true to yourself and you canst be false to no man."

1:14 AM, July 28, 2006  
Anonymous ckitching said...

"The left demands of its own orthodox group think."

There is plenty of group think on the part of those who pretend to be on the right, too. The sheer amount of echo on right of center blogs and forums on some of the key issues like gay marriage, abortion, fetal stem cell research, Israel, the 'War on Terror', etc can be quite deafening, even if there is the occasional dissenter. These same issues cause similar effects on left of center blogs.

One thing I've often observed is that the strength of a person's convictions on a particular issue tend to be inversely proportional to how much they actually know about it. This, of course, is why Micheal Moore, and Bill Donahue are so absolutely sure that their positions on everything is correct. Inserting facts into someone's pleasant fantasy is disruptive, and muddies an issue that they were able to view in black and white terms before.

A lot of people who start talking about politics don't actually want to talk about politics. They may not even be interested in politics. They want a gripe session. They just want to complain, and since the party they didn't vote for has complete control over the federal government, everything can be pinned on them, right? Getting bogged down in an actual political debate is not what they were looking for. Changing a job gripe session into an actual debate on the inner workings of a business would probably piss some people off, too.

"Identity politics is a tool of the left - not the right."

You were watching during the 2004 election, right? Seems to me both sides used it for their own gain during that election. Both were disgusting. Bad behaviour, like bad policy, doesn't obey political boundaries.

1:45 AM, July 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I really enjoyed the post and comments.

I have to admit that I get angry too fast with those friends that I disagree with politically. Mostly it is because their typical idea of "discussion" mirrors my brother's on a recent family trip. It begins thus:

"I don't see how these idiot's support 'X', I mean there's no rationality there, they are all brainwashed, etc, etc, ad hominem, etc"

I have put up with this for YEARS from people I consider close friends. It is really hard to respond when someone basically calls you an idiot and your views as baselsss.

I thought I would share this absolutely beautiful thing I found that sort of relates:

http://betweenhopeandfear.blogspot.com/2005/04/walk-with-leaves.html

I can't comment on that blog. But I really appreciated it. Brought me to tears even.

10:29 AM, July 28, 2006  
Blogger AShiningCity said...

Michael W. is a complete idiot.

Dr. Helen is totally hot! And you gotta dig that voice of hers on the podcasts!

Damn!

10:49 AM, July 28, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Anonymous 10:29:

Thank you for the wonderful link-- I do have to admit that the radical behavior in Berkeley is what turned me off to getting my PHD there. I was born there and visited later when looking at different grad schools but found the place and the politics too extreme.

11:56 AM, July 28, 2006  
Blogger Michael W. said...

Helen,

I did not mean anything I said regarding your physical beauty. From your funny, graceful response to my vile screed I gather you know that.

Your hair looks good in both photos.

However, I am extremely angry at any and all human beings that voted for George Bush, even once. Especially women. Therefore everything else I said stands, except for the death and street dragging.

6:11 PM, July 28, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Michael,

Thanks for the handsome apology. If you are angry about people voting for George Bush--say so--I don't care if people disagree with me but personal attacks are tacky. When you talk to people like that, they shut down. If you want others to listen (as I assume you do or you wouldn't be commenting), don't come out with your fists swinging.

7:17 PM, July 28, 2006  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Am I the only one wondering how someone can be a "loved one" and post the kind of scatalogical attack that Michael W did above? It has been my observation that the Liberal Left are the group that feel free to be so abusive, and I wonder at what point they gave each other permission to behave that way.

Be that as it may, however, is MichaelW. anyone's "loved one", and can you imagine wanting to spend a vacation with him?

If someone behaves like Michael W. or believes like Deb Frisch, or pontificates like Cindy Sheehan they are stricken from my list of "loved ones" because associating with them would be a barometer of what *I* am willing to contenance, too. By spending quality time with them, I must be contenancing their activities and thought processes, aren't I?

12:09 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger Rowena Hullfire said...

When in an unpleasant political discussion and being grilled about my position/opinion, I say, "I am totally 100%, shaved-head-drank-the-Koolaid behind the new blood pressure recommendations of 115 over 75, and mine is there, and I intend to keep it that way and I hope your blood pressure is good, too!" (Disarming smile and chuckle, plus hug or half-hug.)

My parents were English (i.e., good manners) and entertained a lot, and were great role models on how to gracefully change the subject when someone drank a little too much wine and started spouting off on politics or religion. Gentle redirection.

Of course, my siblings' spouses and their families don't necessarily have the same upbringing, so stuff like this flares up occasionally: a bro in law who believes in the mandatory sterilization of welfare mothers, a sis in law who really believes the Twin Cities MN MSM newspapers and is a fully pledged member of the People's Republic of Minnesota. Nod and smile and let the person pontificate until they've said their peace. I focus on trying to understand their point of view while listening, rather than feeling defensive that my POV is different. I'm sure it shows up more kindly on my face.

The thing is, all of us have our little inconsistencies and none of us really have bought the party line whole hog. My liberal SIL is extremely conservative morally. I'm more libertarian/ conservative and have a heart for poorer people, and have made it my life's work to help them succeed in the opportunity structure of our current situation. Our righties are very compassionate and generous, and our lefties believe in high personal moral standards. No broad brushes here.

I value relationships with these people more than if they, or I, am right or wrong. We are immigrants and we don't have a lot of extended family here, they are all I have, we have to get along!!!

Plus, we grew up in Iowa, so there's that whole "Iowa Nice" thing. Interdependent farm communities learn to get along and help each other out and not fight. Would that the rest of the world had the "Iowa Nice" attitude.

BTW...all my vacations are working vacations...as a rowing referee!

I find getting people talking about their personal experiences is far more fascinating than their opinions.

Trey...chegroes...ROTFLOL!!!!!!

5:15 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger AmericanWoman said...

I just came back from a vacation with old friends from New York (I now live in Georgia). I had to keep my tongue a few times, and got up early to catch the Fox news on Israel/Lebanon.

I did get into one Bush Bashing conversation and just said, 'well, we can all bitch about what a moron Bush is, but really, who do the dems have to run in 2008?'. And that turned it into a bitch session about how pathetic the dems are. If I just ranted about Bush, they would have never spoken about the Democrats and their weaknesses.

I did meet a person for the first time who was shouting about Israel. So I asked her why she felt that way and if she really understood the whole situation. She really didn't, so I just dropped it. We had many other things in common and I didn't feel like it was that important.

9:16 PM, July 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The typical American is simply unable to have an argument. His identity is composed of his ideas, thus when an idea he has is attacked or refuted or denied, it's always taken very personally. It's rubbish, I tell you.

12:34 PM, August 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Family resorts offer special discounts on their packages if the vacation is taken in the off season and at particular times throughout the year. Cruise ships are not all family friendly, but there are several that are; you have to check them out before your vacation.

Family Vacation

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11:29 PM, June 07, 2009  

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