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Why you *should* talk politics around the dinner table

We've all heard people say it—"no politics at the dinner table." Whether you are celebrating a holiday or enjoying a family dinner, it is universally accepted that meals are a time to keep the peace. One of the primary reasons that people refrain from discussing politics is to prevent the uncomfortable, tense conversations that often arise as a result of lively discourse. 

While debating divisive topics, conflict-averse individuals often struggle to entertain these unpleasant confrontations. Given the divided nature of American politics, it has become increasingly difficult to keep political conversations civil and productive. Although it can be uncomfortable, political discourse is a vital tool for exacting positive change—and we must not shy away from such important conversations.

Politics are the basis of the decisions that impact our everyday lives. Because *everything* we do is political—from shopping to consuming media—it is nearly impossible to be apolitical in the 21st century.

In today's political climate, it is common to disagree with friends and family on matters of political ideology. Although it may be uncomfortable, engaging loved ones in political dialogue forces each party to consider new perspectives and aids them in understanding the thought processes of those with whom they disagree. People are more likely to listen to the opinions of individuals they respect than those of a stranger or a political ad—meaning you could be the person who changes their perspective on a candidate or policy issue.

Initiating political conversations over a meal is especially beneficial as it forces people to engage with another individual face-to-face, which often leads to more productive, meaningful conversations than those that occur online. By normalizing political discussions with your family and friends, your understanding of one another will drastically improve. 

Holding friends and family accountable for their political beliefs is also an integral aspect of initiating these conversations. While it is important to respect other people's ideologies, there is never an excuse for people to use bigoted or harmful language to advance their political goals. Although diversity of thought has been instrumental in shaping our society, it is important to understand where to draw the line between differing opinions and bigotry.

In political conversations, it is often easier to remain neutral than to speak your mind. By staying silent, however, we are complicit in maintaining a status quo that is not equally sustainable for all people in our country. Historically, large portions of the population have been excluded from the political process due to race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or other discriminatory factors. Many of these groups are still underrepresented in our political system, leading to inequities that contribute to continued marginalization today. 

In an age where people's basic human rights have been reduced to political talking points, it is important to remain informed. Policies implemented by Congress, supported by the President or debated by the Supreme Court all have tangible impacts on people's lives. To be able to refrain from political discussions comes from a place of privilege, as some people don't have the luxury to remain disengaged. As human rights activist Desmond Tutu once said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

Politics should not be a taboo subject. While there are certainly instances where it is better to discuss more lighthearted subjects, political discussions are necessary for gaining perspective and for holding your loved ones accountable. So next time politics get brought up at the dinner table, don't shy away from standing your ground—even if it means disrupting the dinnertime peace.

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by Claire Hutto | 10/15/2020
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