The Battle of American Experiences – Tyler Wheat

How anecdotes prevent amicable political discussions

My mom gave one simple instruction before I started my first job at fifteen.

“Never, under any circumstances, speak about sex, religion or politics at work. No matter what.”

I’m twenty-two now. I have made my peace with the fact that most coworkers only want to talk about sex, religion or politics. People want to bait a quick debate pretty much everywhere — not just at work. And then I remember high school was like that too. It hasn’t even really been a bad thing. Whichever one of the three topics it is, it’s probably more entertaining than work.

We are all guilty of breaking my mom’s commandment, although it still strikes me as relevant. Political discourse always starts at an earnest place by the water cooler. It becomes skepticism and defense that derails most of our attempts at political conversation. Talking with a a group of people who we probably don’t even really know like that. And worse, people we engage with react aggressively from the jump. It normalizes that every political conversation might have a wrong turn — at the potential cost of a co-worker’s friendship.

After you the start, you become workplaces nemeses, and you feel the need to jump to defend yourself and your social and moral views in response to their diminutive remark.

“You’ve never had to fight for anything. You need to live in the real world. When you have ‘these’ things, then you can have an opinion. When you’re my age, you will find yourself to act my way. Only idiots would think that. They bring it upon themselves. You are not supposed to live that way.”

“I want this to happen and I don’t care about what has happened to you or your experience. This is what happened to me!”

The argument erupts over a slight comment about someone who feels close to you. It can be race, religion, politics or anything that for you, is a political core. It is difficult suppressing the crass comeback in your mind . If you release that anger, then you might misspeak and bring ad-hominem condescension upon yourself. At the final points of the discussion, you see cannot be resolved in reasonable means — and you’ll end on a “this is my opinion, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” sort of concession.

The opinion is always directly related to their personal experience. We always seem to come up with the perfect story to describe our own political standings from our own reality. This is about what happens to us and us alone.

“I started my business from scratch and that’s my success and I’m going to support a candidate that has that financial success as well — ”

“I was a nurse and I’ve seen— ”

“With my health experience — ”

“I am a teacher and — ”

“I’m trans and — ”

“I grew up here so — ”

“I have a black friend so — ”

“I came here legally — ”

It’s hard to agree to disagree if it involves your identity. It doesn’t feel like you can even cross the basic line of communication to share a common fact or goals and values. Americans are culturally “to-each-their-own” to the point of not getting past our own past, how our government relates to us directly, and whatever our friends have told us about politics from what they saw yesterday on the internet. Probably Youtube.

None of these arguments validate your opinions because they do not address everyone involved. You are only talking about yourself.

Sometimes it’s not as ill-tempered as arguing across party lines or engaged in awkward cross-the-aisle attempts of discourse. Intrinsic to the democratic party is a self-critique of your education and the fear of lack of knowledge of certain political topic may get you canceled or name-called. This is the type of democrat who has the “Bernie Bro,” class of fear. No one wants to be the one told that they have a bad take.

Someone says something incredibly crude over Twitter in defense of their favorite candidate. If one username has a misunderstanding of a topic they felt they were clear on, the other username berates them — and probably with a meme attached. The first @ doesn’t get the opportunity to learn because they can’t possibly trust the dude who pissed them off now, no, not after that.

It causes injunction where no one is willing to learn about anything. Yeah, I’ve heard your origin story. We gotcha. It’s really hard to care when you’re yelling it at me.

These anecdotal arguments prevent conversation because they don’t include factual information, just a personal narrative without consideration of those like you or not like you.

People should be prioritizing a tangible and verifiable fact. Personal stories and personal attacks make us to vote solely out of spite for each other.

I’m only going to align with someone that reminds me of me.

Individualism kills a sharing of experiences, but only because voters have few things they really care about. They would prefer not to entertain a political conversation at all. Because when anecdotes and personal attacks are political strategy, people choose to not participate. People to abhor anything related to politics at all and drown it with what they find “apolitical.”

But you can feel the politics in the air when you’re at work. It is always very bureaucratic and on a subliminal-level, competitive. Any group larger than three people is technically a political, at least in Grecian terms. Polity is designed to naturally communicate about these things. You’re not supposed to want to ignore them. This is one of the primary ways we are supposed to communicate with people to build relations and coalitions to effectively govern our home.

Voters will need to focus on fact and fiction this election season to break this tension. To those undecided, you should rely on your investigative abilities and make sure you know what are verified sources and what are not. Twitter and Youtube are not sources of political knowledge. Unfortunately, a lot of voters were never taught the proper ways to verify sources, but it is never too late to learn or teach.

I still apply my mom’s commandment and have avoided some potentially brutal Facebook arguments. If you don’t say anything at all, you don’t really have to fight with anyone in any setting. But it’s the moments where you feel like you don’t have a choice but to say anything that are really difficult.

Voters, don’t buy into the political bullying and turn the discussion around. Calmly ask, “Interesting, but could I ask where you found the source?”

“I appreciate where you’re coming from and your experience and this is what has happened to me. Both are valid but we should focus on facts about these divisive issues and the studies and demographics shown in trustworthy sources.”

“We should look this up. I will understand if there is something wrong with my view before and we can verify multiple sources to find out more.”

Taking the time to alter these dialogues might bring more political unity than we expect. If we don’t have patience or time to verify things it makes our political interactions fickle and angry. Coworkers can talk about politics, but it should only be with respect to anyone present who might be personally affected by them.

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