I don’t like confrontation. Who does? Well, I suppose there are some individuals who thrive on the excitement a good verbal spar brings, but I think most shy away from it when possible.
With their feet firmly planted in the quagmire of political correctness (as if that’s actually possible), many Americans still avoid hot button, sensitive topics for pleasantries and small talk. Others avoid discussing complex issues with friends and family for fear of appearing ignorant or ill-informed.
I recall a radio program on NPR just before the Thanksgiving holiday last year. The hosts were making a list, with listener input, of current events and political issues that should not be discussed at the family dinner table so that peace and harmony could be maintained.
I understand not wanting traditional family events to erupt into the chaos of a heated debate, but I had to chuckle. How else do we solidify our views on any issue if we don’t discuss them with our peers and who better to disagree with than family? Chances are, they’ll still welcome you to the table next year. Others may not be so forgiving.
Both my husband and I are mild-tempered folks, hiding the spinning gears in our brains behind a pleasant smile and amicable greeting. But, in the car listening to the news or perhaps watching a show before bed, we have occasionally found ourselves in an arguement with either the NPR host or the talking head on TV, rarely with each other. Jeremy laughs at me, comments that he’s waiting for smoke to come out of my ears.
But, those discussions help me figure out where I really stand on current issues, why I’ll vote for a certain candidate (or not vote for one), and the reasons why I take a certain position.
At a luncheon several months back, the topics of death penalty, assisted suicide and abortion came up at my roundtable. I was attending the event with several close friends and felt comfortable making a well-mannered, but strong statement as to my opinions on those issues.
After the luncheon, one friend stopped me as I was leaving to ask if I was ok. I seemed stressed or upset about something, she said. At first, I was perplexed, but then I realized my statements had given her that impression. Simply voicing my opinion was off-putting because I do it so rarely. I don’t converse enough with my friends about important issues and that shouldn’t be.
Any person holding a journalism degree or who has worked in media for a length of time knows one of the basic tenants of our profession well: A well-informed society is a healthy society. But, being well-informed doesn’t come just from digesting information presented to us by media outlets. A key component of a well-informed society is critical thinking and debate.
My only caveat to this advice is to encourage these conversations with friends and family occur in person. In our digital age, too often I encounter folks who hide behind their Facebook posts and comments, Tweets and sarcastic emoticons … It’s much easier to spout your opinion in a malicious or hurtful manner when you’re not looking someone in the eyes.
So, as you gather with your families this holiday season, don’t shy away from the hard topics. Find ways to discuss issues that may result in conflict with decorum, but don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Then, write us a letter and tell us how it went!
Letters to the editor can be mailed to P.O. Box 218, Claxton, Ga. 30417 or emailed to email@example.com. All letters should be signed and contain a return address and phone number. Letters should be concise, no more than 250 words. We look forward to hearing from you!
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