ASK AMY: ‘Best of’ column looks at political differences


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Dear Readers: Every year I step away from my column for two weeks to work on other creative projects. (Anyone interested in my personal essays and photographs can subscribe to my free newsletter: amydickinson.substack.com).

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I hope you enjoy these “Best Of” columns from 10 years ago. Today’s topic: Politics.

Dear Amy, The community I live in has many people who are so rabid and strident in their political positions that they can’t seem to shut up about it at a lunch or dinner party.

I feel strongly about issues that are important to me, too, but I do not enjoy listening to people rating.

I recently had lunch with friends, and one woman, “Barbara,” launched into politics (as usual). When I pointed out that “friends who don’t talk politics stay friends,” Barbara laughed it off and continued her diatribe. At this point, I don’t think she can help herself. Is my only option to quit having lunch with Barbara and others like her?

– Fed Up

Dear FedUp: If everyone in a group is engaged in a spirited discussion that is dominated by one topic, then you’d be wise to hop on board rather than try to dictate what people can discuss in your presence. You can try to control the conversation through diverting it to a topic you find interesting — just as “Barbara” is doing — but really the primary requirement in polite company is that people remain civil. If you find that an individual (or group) consistently rants about a predictable dominant topic that you aren’t interested in, and that every social gathering seems like a political conclave, then you’ll want to avoid this company, at least until after the November election. (July 2012)

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Dear Amy, We are friends with an older couple who live down the street.

In all the years I’ve known them, we’ve never discussed politics. Maybe that was a good thing, because in the past few weeks a sign appeared in their yard for a candidate I cannot stand.

Without going into specifics, if this candidate should happen to win, I would seriously think about moving to another country.

I’m gay, and my neighbors know it. Prejudice against gay people is a plank in their candidate’s political platform.

I tell myself that my neighbors are the same people I’ve liked for many years, but I feel differently now. Should I talk to them about it and try to explain what this man’s election would mean for people like me, or should I ignore it and try to forget it?

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I know past slights, real and imagined, fade with time, but I hate feeling this way. – Confused Neighbor

Dear Confused: Your neighbors have posted a yard sign advertising their support for a candidate, inviting a conversation with people who see it.

The question is whether you are up to having this conversation with them.

Your neighbors may not be aware of this candidate’s stand on gay issues. They may be aware of it but might not vote on social issues. Or they may agree with this candidate’s views.

If you choose to speak to them, approach them with an open attitude, tolerance, and a determination to listen. This is an attitude you would want from anyone questioning your own political views.

Sophisticated people living in a country devoted to free speech should be able to tolerate different – ​​or even offensive – perspectives without wanting to leave the country, but you don’t seem able to see things this way. This is something for you to work on. (October 2012)

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Dear Amy, My friend “S” and I have been friends since sixth grade — almost 40 years ago!

I’m politically conservative, and S is a diehard Democrat.

I have been posting political items on my Facebook page, in favor of my presidential election.

Recently, S sent me a private message saying she has temporarily “unfriended” me because she doesn’t want to see all of my political drivel. She ended her message from Ella by saying that she will “see me back online after November.”

How can I possibly accept a “friend request” from her after the election and allow things to go back to normal, after she basically kicked me to the curb?

– Sad, Angry, Confused

Dear Sad: Your friend S could have handled this in a way other than by “unfriending” you. She could adjust her Facebook settings to “hide” your postings until after the election and you would be none-the-wiser.

But S isn’t really kicking you to the curb. She is rejecting your candidate. (October 2012)

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