Today’s Dance: Personal Politics (Dedicated to Friends and Family who Disagree)

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In the workplace, we are told, and in polite company, ‘some topics’ should not be brought up. This often includes sex, personal politics, and religion, and often money as well. To me, these are some of the more important and interesting topics available to human beings, but I also understand the concerns of those who think that these discussions should be situational.

I have two family members related by blood who have unfriended me over personal politics on Facebook. I have several extended family members of the in-law and by blood variety who choose not to engage with me over personal politics and religion and happily share funny cat pictures and invite me to join games and share what’s going on in their lives. I have still more family and friends who assure me that my blatherings on politics and religion are important to them.

Here in the United States, we just finished a very contentious Presidential election and are in the midst of an equally contentious debate over gun control and gun rights. Friendships have been made and broken over these two subjects. The two relatives who ‘unfriended’ me did so specifically because they found my dirty hippie, peace loving, stick it to the man attitude offensive.

For me, though, politics are an essential part of who I am, how I relate to the world, and how I make decisions about myself and my family. My choice of a career is political. My choice of birth control is political. My choice to use birth control is political. My choice of topics on this website, even the non-political ones, is political.

The lens through which I review books is political. Politics is the art (or science) of governing, or attempting to influence or control governmental policies. Because those policies influence my life choices, I choose to spend conscious energy influencing those policies and encouraging others to do so. That, to me, is the definition of personal politics.

This leads to today’s dance. We all have decisions to make about politics and how we communicate our politics every day. In the spirit of examining how we make those decisions and how they impact our lives, here goes:

  • Do the people close to you know your real positions on most major issues? Why or why not?
  • How does that question change when you are asked about co-workers? Members of your spiritual community? Family members?
  • Do you have people who you value dearly who are polar opposites to you with regard to their political positions? How do you balance your friendship and your need to express your personal politics?
  • Are you ‘closeted’ with regard to some or all of your political views with some people in your life? Why or why not?
  • Are you someone who participates in politics above and beyond sharing posts on Facebook and Twitter and remembering to vote in every election? What does your political participation look like? How does it affect your life?
  • Do you find that you take regular or irregular breaks from politics to ‘refresh and renew’, or do you find yourself plugging ahead?
  • Are you a joiner? Do you belong to political organizations that give you social value on top of the strategizing for political ends you participate in?
  • Has anything you have done to support a cause ever, to your knowledge, made a concrete difference that you could measure or feel? How did that feel?
  • When a family member or friend has dropped you over politics or other deeply held beliefs, have you sought to repair the relationship, or let it go? Can you imagine circumstances under which you would take the other position.
  • Kid Rock and Sean Penn did a fabulous political ad during the last crazy season emphasizing how people with very different personal politics can become or continue to be good friends. I have embedded it at the end of this post. Does this scenario feel believable to you?
  • Is there a specific belief that you find so heinous or unacceptable that no matter how close a person is to you, if you found that a person had this belief, it would end all good will toward that person? Care to share what the belief is?
  • Do you make fun of your political opponents in public? Are these attacks on positions, or on people? How do you react to similar attacks on you?

As always, feel free to comment below, or to quietly ponder the question. I expect answers to be respectful and honest, without personal attacks on others. This is a particularly shareable dance, and I would be more than pleased if you used those handy buttons below to make sure everyone you know sees it. Thank you for dancing!

As promised, here are Kid Rock and Sean Penn, making a statement together. (Kid Rock has since gone off the deep end, but there was some promise at the moment).

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