Political Prattle

Jaime Coyne

As The Maroon-News‘ Commentary Editor during a very exciting year for politics, I spend a lot of time copy-editing political articles. I’ll admit, it’s not my favorite part of the job. Whether you’re gung-ho for McCain, Obama or Nader, the fact is that I’m just not that interested in politics. Please, withhold the snipers. I understand that politics are very important. I’m interested in the issues they address. But politics as we know it seems to come down to trivial and/or sordid details about the people involved and the reputations of their friends. But it doesn’t even matter that we argue over the wrong things, because our political debates do, in fact, become arguments instead of discussions. It seems that most people who try to take some kind of a stand are only yelling from their pulpit over the voices of the opposing side who, in turn, stand across the room yelling back.

How often do you hear of a Democrat-turned-Republican or a Republican-turned-Democrat? Who is honestly listening to the points the other side makes, thinking them over and deciding why they disagree? How often do people take up every ideology of their side, merely because they checked off that they belong to Political Party X, and Political Party X currently takes this particular stance on this particular issue?

It seems like most of the time you really just can’t talk to Them, to those apparently vastly different people, about anything remotely political. We are often closed minded about anything They might have to say, because we know it is coming from the mouths of The Opposition. So we say something for the wonderful reward of hearing our own voices, and they wait until the noise goes away to listen to themselves speak, in turn.

It takes a legitimate discussion to be reminded of this. I feel like I’ve had a lot of other people’s politics shoved down my throat during this election period (as have many people), and it’s made me put forth a conscious effort not to bulldoze through differing opinions. A good friend of mine recently said something to me about a political issue that was so immensely different from my own opinion that I was almost offended by how much it went against my own beliefs. It’s really easy in moments like that to retort immediately with a mean, defensive remark. But that doesn’t solve anything. It further alienates someone who is different from you. We don’t learn from and accept each other when our shields are held up so high that we can only see a glimmer of our own reflections.

Instead of starting an argument with my friend, I asked her to explain what she meant. It didn’t make me change my mind about the issue, but it taught me something about why she sees the matter differently than I do. A political discussion doesn’t have to end with someone deciding to vote in a different primary in order to be successful. We just need to try to listen to each other. Otherwise, there is no point in interacting at all. Just stay close to your like-minded friends, or buy a compact mirror, and enjoy how nice your words sound, echoing back at you.