With 2020 being an election year, we are going to hear a lot of talk about politics. Recently in a class discussion about politics, a classmate of mine asked the question, “Why is it so hard for people to talk civilly about politics?” I immediately responded, “Because we’ve been told not to talk about them our whole lives; we never got to practice how to do it civilly.” The bottom line is, we need to start talking more often about politics if we want to stop being so sensitive about other people’s opinions.

I love talking about politics, and it’s never been something I’ve shied away from. Growing up, my parents were neither Republican nor Democrat; they always simply voted for who they thought would do the best job. We could talk openly about politics in my home. It was never a secret who mom and dad voted for each election.

I never understood why people didn’t want to talk about who they voted for. If you believe in that person enough for them to run the country, shouldn’t you proudly support them? I’ve always been very vocal about who I vote for each election. (Would it surprise most of you to know I punched the ballot for Mitt Romney in 2012?)

Of course, those who know me or know of me know that I am very liberal. I care about women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice, and am passionate about lifting everyone out of poverty by pooling money together. I talk about these things quite often which means that at times I’m met with those who have different views than myself – and that’s wonderful. I love these discussions when done civilly, but often it is hard to find someone to have a calm discussion with.

I’ve practiced talking about politics my entire life. I rarely get heated or worked up, but for many people, especially those who haven’t practiced talking about politics, anger is the first thing they resort to. And don’t get me wrong, I used to get upset when talking politics, but through practice, I’ve learned how to stay calm, cool, and relaxed when listening to opinions I don’t agree with. The most important word in this paragraph is “listening.”

Like anything in life, you need to practice in order to get better at it – and that goes for civil discourse. We as a nation are so divided because for so many years we kept everything pent up, never knowing or practicing how to let our frustrations out. Furthermore, we haven’t practiced actually listening to other people’s opinions without yelling or name-calling. Is it so hard to simply let someone talk about why they care about the issues they care about? For many of us, yes.

I have disagreements with people I care about when it comes to politics, but what talking about politics does when everyone is doing it civilly, is it teaches us that relationships are stronger. We can be friends with someone, love someone, and care about someone, but not agree with them. But we need to listen and we need to respond with respect.

In 2020, we will likely see the ugliness of what not ever talking about politics has done to us as a nation. Talking about politics can cause conflict and it makes people uncomfortable who are not used to talking about it. But through practice, the fear subsides and the discomfort eases. Not talking about politics has gotten us into a mess and if we continue, we will be further divided. It’s time we start talking more about politics –not less.