What HappensWhen You and IPursue CivilDiscourse

By: Caroline DePalatis

Is it better to just keep your head down when it comes to politics, or share what you believe to be true, risking you might “stir the pot” and potentially alienate people whom you otherwise care about?

This question is front and center on my mind because I just “stirred that proverbial pot” with a Facebook post that mildly exploded, though I did not do that intentionally.

So I’m still thinking about how this question is now one we’re increasingly having to ask ourselves.

Real-life encounters over this issue

Very recently we had some German friends visit us. They live in Berlin now; the woman is a friend of ours from her time doing graduate studies at a local institute. She had stayed with us upon arrival some 11 years ago before finding long-term housing, and we had developed a warm friendship.

Image credit: Stencil

We really enjoyed our two meals with these friends, and they, too, were delighted about their experiences during this visit to our town.

The four of us were sitting around the dinner table one evening and our discussion led into politics and, specifically, how they (and Europeans in general) are viewing what’s going on in the United States.

They told us they don’t really know how to talk with Americans about their ideas because they never know which side of the ever-growing divide a person may be on, and they don’t want to offend or cause an argument.

I was struck by their response because it is exactly the same response I heard from an Indian friend I had spent time with earlier in the day.

And another real-life perspective

And then I found myself further fascinated by this idea because of a response from a doctor friend of mine who told me this:

“Oh, I don’t even pay attention to politics. All politicians are sleazy; it’s part of the profession. So I don’t really watch the news. Anyway, I don’t have time. I just need to focus on what I need to live my life, carry out my business, and so on.”

As I thought about that, it made some sense…but it made me sad. “So, THIS is democracy,” I thought.

Here’s what I perceive to be happening. But you may see it differently. ?

There’s this insidious (though, often blatant) “poison” that has leeched its way into our national conversation as well as into relationships that otherwise are close when politically charged issues come up in conversations these days.

One way to deal with it is as my doctor friend does — just look the other way, keep focused on the personal, what you can change, your immediate sphere of influence.

And, I do get that argument. It might be the healthiest way, personally, to deal with it all.

Yet I also believe we all have a place where we can choose to be civil and engage with the issues of our day rather than simply choose to avoid them. Even those hot-button issues which we might first want to avoid because our opinions might cause a stir or offend.

Increasingly this is the posture we seem to be taking when someone doesn’t agree with our ideas. It’s just plain sad. Image credit: Stencil

In America, we seem to have arrived at this place where people from opposing viewpoints over the controversial issues of the day often fail to consider the possibility the other perspective may, actually, have credence.

We frequently view the “other side’s” perspective as outrageous, fear-driven, full of conspiracy theories. (And, sometimes, it is.)

We are all highly influenced — and sometimes deluded — by the media we choose to consume and the other ways we get our information. What’s fact and what’s not has gotten muddled…across the political spectrum.

Reality is, I doubt anyone reading this thread has actually met and had a real conversation with either Donald Trump or Joe Biden or (fill in the blank). We just think we know about them because we’ve heard, read or seen things….through our chosen lens, usually.

Even if it’s a tweet we presume came from somebody directly, we can never be sure. After all, people in higher-level positions also have “handlers,” image-creators/crafters and their own PR machines at work.

We as citizens need to admit we are often blinded by our filters. And, even better, we need to read, listen to and/or watch a wide range of opinions, even the ones we don’t agree with. Otherwise, if we’re not careful, we become victims of our own confirmation bias. Each and every one.


To article has been partially republished here with permission from the 
Author Caroline DePalatis. To read it in it's entirety click here.

Caroline DePalatis is an international educator, mom of 3 young-adult children, a dedicated bridge-builder, and a published author. Join her on the journey to improve self, family & our world on Medium and at YourGlobalFamily.