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There’s an unspoken rule at most family holiday get togethers: do not discuss politics.
Like making sure your one aunt doesn’t drink too much wine, it’s an accepted ritual that we all try our best to stay silent on policy.
Over the years, discussing politics over the holidays with family has gained a sort of stigma that deters most from even entertaining the idea. However, despite the perceived disastrous consequences, there should be nothing holding you back from discussing politics with your family. In fact, during the holidays political discussion should be welcomed.
The holidays are all about coming together. In the Christian spirit of the three wise men journeying to see baby Jesus in all his infantile glory, we make great efforts: planes, trains, and automobiles, to come together as families and rejoice. It’s time America does too.
America today is certainly divided, and continued division spells nothing but trouble. So, there’s no better time than this holiday season to start taking steps to shrink the gap. Make being an American something people can be universally proud of. Shudder.
Colorado State Communication Studies professor, Dr. Elizabeth Williams, believes communication is a means of understanding.
“We’re so divided that it’s easy to vilify and make assumptions about why people believe what they believe,” said Williams, “If you want to come to an understanding, you have to talk,” she says.
Head of the Communication Studies department, Greg Dickinson, advises one to approach any political conversation by being “curious of another’s viewpoint instead of trying to convince them of yours.”
In today’s society, opinions and truths often get confused. It may be a hard realization to come to, but everyone’s opinion matter just as much as yours. Every opinion has, for the most part, the same level of validity. We all live in the same world, and you will surely notice things you never could before when looking at it from a different perspective.
Listening is notoriously difficult in our society: most times we listen only to form our rebuttals. Being interested in someone’s points, or at least acting like it, will make them be less defensive and lead to more civil and insightful conversation. “
If you don’t talk with the intention of coming to an understanding, the divide will get bigger,” said Williams.
Maybe you voted for Trump, and you feel no need to discuss politics: you’re on the winning side, why would you ever want to understand the perspective of the losers? You should, because according to standpoint theory, people on lower rungs of the social hierarchy understand social situations and climate more fully than those on top.
Maybe you voted for Hillary and detest everyone who showed supported Trump. You have no need to understand their perspective, and they probably don’t have the vocabulary or mental capacity to explain it. Well, you should try and comprehend their perspective because their reality is yours for the next three years.
Maybe you don’t give a shit about politics and would rather discuss family gossip or make Christmas dinner all about yourself by proclaiming your recent decision to go vegan. Convincing you to care about politics is another argument entirely. Just trust me that you should care about politics, because new bills signed by Trump’s abnormally small hands will go on to affect your life.
If you’re expecting me to address how to talk about politics with your family, sorry I’m not going to. I don’t know your family, and chances are I certainly don’t want to. Every family has their own speech codes and practices, and you know your family better than anyone else. Although families each celebrate the holidays in their own unique and different ways, we should all embrace the holiday spirit and understanding and at least make an attempt to discuss politics.
Communication about who we are, and want to be as a family and a community should extend to politics.
Columnist Ethan Vassar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or online @ethan_vassar.