I don’t like confrontation. Who does? Well, I suppose there are some individuals who thrive on the excitement a good verbal spar brings, but I think most shy away from it when possible.
With their feet firmly planted in the quagmire of political correctness (as if that’s actually possible), many Americans, Southerners in particular, still avoid hot button, sensitive topics for pleasantries and small talk masked in good manners like our mamas taught us. Others avoid discussing complex issues with friends and family for fear of appearing ignorant or ill-informed.
I recall a radio program on National Public Radio (NPR) just before the Thanksgiving holiday during the last presidential election cycle. The show hosts were making a list, with listener input, of current events and political issues that should not be discussed at the family dinner table so as to maintain peace and harmony for the holidays.
I understand not wanting traditional family events to erupt into the chaos of a heated debate over turkey and dressin’, but I had to chuckle.
How else do we solidify our views on any issue if we don’t discuss them with our peers and who better to disagree with than family? Chances are, they’ll still welcome you to the table next year. Others may not be so forgiving.
Both my husband and I are mild-tempered folks, hiding the spinning gears in our brains behind a pleasant smile and amicable greeting most of the time. Listening to the news in the car or perhaps watching a show before bed, however, is an entirely different scenario.
We find ourselves in lively debate with either the NPR host or the talking head on TV, rarely with each other thank Heaven. Jeremy laughs at me, teases that smoke will soon erupt from my ears.
But, those “discussions” help me figure out where I really stand on current issues, why I’ll vote for a certain candidate (or not vote for one), and the reasons why I take a particular stance on hot button topics.
Any person holding a journalism degree or who has worked in media for a length of time knows one of the basic tenants of our profession by heart: A well-informed society is a healthy society.
Being well-informed, however, doesn’t come just from digesting information presented to us by media outlets. A key component of a well-informed society is critical thinking and debate.
My only caveat to this advice is to encourage these discussions with friends and family happen in person. In this digital age, too often folks hide behind Facebook posts and comments, Tweets, memes and gifs. It’s much easier to spout your opinion in a malicious manner when you’re not looking someone in the eyes over green bean casserole and cranberry sauce (who can stomach that stuff!).
As you gather with family this holiday season, don’t shy away from the hard topics. Find ways to discuss issues that may result in conflict with decorum, but don’t be afraid to voice your opinion either. Then, write us a letter and tell us how it went!
Letters to the editor can be mailed to P.O. Box 410 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters are subject to editing for length, good taste, and newspaper style. Letters must be signed and include a daytime phone number and address. We look forward to hearing from you!
• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at email@example.com.