Growing up, you might have heard your family members remind each other not to bring politics to the dinner table, especially at gatherings with members of your distant family. In fact, in America, almost everyone knows the unspoken rule of “no politics at the dinner table.”
When I first learned of this rule as a child, it was unquestionable for me to comply as I wanted nothing more than to enjoy a peaceful dinner. I grew up with the idea that discussion of politics led to arguments and awkward dinners, and I did everything I could to prevent or avoid heated political discussions.
I observed how one could easily leave the meal and retreat to a “safe space” if tensions happened to rise from a political disagreement. This type of evasive behavior has infected the political world and has been ingrained in American political culture, where people are taught to avoid discomfort. In a family with very polarized political views between my father and his brothers, that was often the result of disputes at dinner.
I never questioned my uncle’s political views until Trump and his administration took office. That is when I began inviting politics at the dinner table.
I was ultimately able to comprehend where he was coming from and the reasons related to his living conditions that made him vote for someone I found to be the most pompous person to ever be called a president.
I recall feeling my blood boil last year when my aunt shouted, “All lives matter!” as we were having a Thanksgiving dinner, and for the first time, I began an argument at the dinner table. Although our argument went nowhere, it made me realize how she has been influenced by the people she is surrounded by, the Trump supporters in Las Vegas who visit her salon for a haircut or a trim.
While it is difficult and uncomfortable, political discourse is one critical component to evolving our own understanding of each other and society and for enacting positive change. In today’s extremely polarized political climate, it is important that we are able to communicate across our differences.
Although it is important to respect each other’s ideologies, it is also paramount to understand the line between differing opinions and bigotry, as it is never acceptable for people to use harmful language to advance their own political goals.
With passionate discussions of our political views and our willingness to embrace the discomfort that comes with it, we will be able to cultivate a nation that can work together to solve problems. We should embrace discomfort and learn from new perspectives. Without civil discourse, we can never truly improve ourselves or the society in which we live.
Politics at the dinner table will allow individuals, especially younger generations, to endure the initial struggle and learn to be more understanding of not only other perspectives but of their own family members.
Of course, with political conversations, it is often easier to remain neutral than to speak your mind. However, in a time when people’s fundamental rights have been reduced to political speaking points — as seen by police violence in BLM protests — it is crucial to stay informed.
The 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 deliberately refrain from political discussions is a sign of privilege. Some people do not have the luxury to be disengaged from the political world.
Politics should most definitely not be regarded or seen as a taboo subject. While there are moments when it is better to discuss a more lighthearted topic, political discourse is essential for learning and developing different perspectives and even for holding your own loved ones accountable, too.
For instance, my aunt, at the very least, was able to hear my opinions on the topic of “All Lives Matter” and understand my perspective as well. While it was both intimidating and not easy for me to argue with my own aunt, it was needed as we were both able to hear each other’s opinions.
With this, the next time politics is brought up at the dinner table, avoid shying away from standing your ground, even if it means sacrificing dinnertime peace.