How to Avoid Politics and Religion

​You hear it all the time – when you’re gathering with family for the holidays, going on a first date, getting a drink with colleagues – it’s best to avoid discussions of politics and religion.  On a grander scheme this means; don’t talk about things that make people uncomfortable.  So how do we avoid it?  Can we avoid it?  Should we avoid it?  And with everything being related to some social media outlet or another these days, how much should we emotionally invest in discourse with strangers over uncomfortable subjects?

I challenge you to “bring it”.  It’s hard, it’s frightening, it can even make you feel like you’re losing brain cells.  But what’s the alternative?  That nobody’s opinions ever be challenged?  That people are no longer asked to grow and change?  To evolve?

Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that a simple online “conversation” or talking with a relative over a beautiful holiday meal is going to be a life-altering event for most people, most of the time.  People don’t like change, especially if we are asking people to change their set belief system, which is something that has grown and developed with them since birth.  But maybe it’s time to adjust our approach.  Maybe the white girl bringing home her new Asian/African/insert-your-minority-of-choice-here boyfriend doesn’t have to change the minds and hearts of her aging grandparents who still believe that mixing races is a bad thing.  Maybe the homosexual young man introducing his partner to his work colleagues doesn’t have to convince the Christians in the group that there’s nothing wrong with his “lifestyle”.  Maybe it’s time to look to the fringes.  The people “on the fence”.  The kids in the room looking for role models.

If we are to take that approach, maybe we can have some positive impact.  As a parent, I believe in the next generation.  I believe it’s our chance to make things right for this country and this world because, thankfully, kids are flexible.  And as someone who identifies as a tree-hugging hippie bleeding heart liberal, I know my strong opinions are easily met by others with strong (opposing) opinions and that those people are not as willing to truly hear what I’m saying.  But what about the people around you?  Maybe people listening to your debate are undecided and hearing the two sides of the argument is educational for them.  Maybe it makes them want to learn more, to find information for themselves, to think critically and reach their own conclusions.

It’s easier to become mad and defensive and to shut down.  It’s easier to see a friend or family member’s online post that is in direct opposition to your views as a personal attack and a reason to remove them from your “friend” list.  It’s easier to shake your head angrily, remind yourself why you never bother talking to them about such things, and let it bother you for hours or days on end.  Perhaps, instead, we can see it as an opportunity to share.  To share our experiences, information we’ve gathered, or to link those people with other people who are better equipped to have the conversation.  And if you can’t impact the person you’re speaking with, look to the fringes.  Who is watching?  Can you calmly and intelligently voice your opinion in a way that leaves them wanting more?  Can you spark that desire to learn, decide, and then become another advocate for your cause?

Because you know who can?  The “alt-right”, the Neo-Nazis, the terrorists.  Of course, there is a different motivation for feeding impressionable minds with bits of hate to convert them to a specific cause.  But can’t those of us who preach love and peace and unity learn something from this?  Shouldn’t we be recognizing opportunities to feed those minds with bits of love, acceptance and respect?  Shouldn’t we be setting an example by volunteering, showing up to vote, getting involved in local politics, attending worship services that invite spirituality and equality, becoming a foster parent, joining the armed forces to protect American freedoms for all, and a whole host of other vital ways to better spend our time?

In the digital age, all we want to do is surf the internet, post an article on social media that has not been fact-checked (but goes along with our belief system, so it must be right), and then argue about it with friends, family and perfect strangers.  I challenge you to “bring it”.  Find a news source that is at least a little bit impartial, do your own extensive research to learn about issues that intrigue you, share that information in a way that is meaningful and impactful, and then actually do something about it.

So how to avoid politics and religion?  You can’t.  They are the building blocks of civilization, for better or for worse.  However, you can change the way you approach these and other uncomfortable subjects, which in turn may inspire others to change as well.  And if we can do that, we’ve already taken the next step to enlightenment and a true connection with our fellow man.

Pick Your Battles. Laugh A Lot.

People ask me how I do it with all these kids, dogs, and chickens running around.  And I think the answer is that I pick my battles and usually choose laughing over yelling or crying (unless I have PMS, in which case, I will ALWAYS choose crying).  I probably tell my husband at least a few times a week to “pick your battles”.  Our two-year-old daughter is just full of personality and I don’t want to squash that by not allowing her to express herself.  And she’s not supposed to be perfect and clean and happy all the time!  Oh, and my son, who is typically always happy, is teething and feverish and crabby most of the time now, so that’s fun.  Ya just gotta lighten up or you’ll end up in the looney bin!  So here are a few fun examples of how I deal with my life…

Getting the kids to bed is an exercise in patience.  We throw them in the tub together, but if we don’t gauge their moods, when they last ate, when they last napped, and how the stars are aligned, the timing of this can be a real problem.  Either they scream while having their hair washed, demand bottles, ask for a second dinner, or some unholy combination.  It was on just such a night when my daughter uttered her first curse word.  We had just gotten them out of the tub, toweled off and in diapers.  My daughter (and husband) we’re both annoyed that she had not received her bottle in a timely fashion so my husband made a growl of frustration.  My daughter copied him, with her little fists in the air, and exclaimed, “Damn it!  Damn it!”  I looked at my husband, ran across the hall to my son’s room, put myself in the corner and laughed hysterically while my husband asked her not to say those words (which she probably learned from him).  Now, I don’t want her to be “that kid” at daycare who teaches all the other kids to swear but, she did use it in the proper context, and it was adorable.  I’ve also found, if you don’t make a big deal of it, neither will they, and after a short while they’ll stop, thankfully.  Pick your battles and laugh a lot.

Feeding a toddler is a pain in the ass.  My daughter used to eat everything, from broccoli, to salmon, to wedges of lemon.  Now she wants waffles.  Day in, day out, all day long, just waffles.  We do manage to get her to eat eggs, fruit pouches, cheese, yogurt, etc, but my girl loves carbs (she is surely my daughter).  My husband has been a little too concerned about her eating habits from day one, in my opinion, wanting her to finish her whole plate at every meal, worried she’ll want to snack all day otherwise.  I did not have a healthy relationship with food as a kid (few females do, apparently), and I’m trying to avoid that with my daughter.  I want her to eat what she wants, when she wants, and how much she wants, within reason.  She’s a peanut, so I’m just glad she’s getting the essentials to grow and that she still likes most fruits and veggies.  Most of the time, she’ll eat at least some of the meal I’ve prepared first, so that’s a win in my book!  And besides, these aren’t frozen Eggo waffles.  Oh no!  I cook batches of the waffles a few times a week, adding blueberries, cinnamon, bananas, etc.  Listen, I just want her belly to be full and happy, even if that means I’ll need to replace my waffle iron soon.  Pick your battles and laugh a lot.

And finally, I mentioned before, my son is normally a happy little dude and his older sister is full of personality.  As you can imagine, that means she’s already bossing him around.  But don’t worry, the universe had a plan – even though she’s 15 months older than him, he’s already almost as big as her!  So a lot of the time, I let them work out their little squabbles.  My son will actually talk (or yell) back to her when she’s “giving him the business”.  My mom sometimes worries about him, but as long as there’s no hitting involved, I love to sit back and laugh while they have their little arguments.  Pretty soon I’ll be telling them to pick their battles and laugh a lot too!

My daughter, enjoying her dinner (waffles) while reviewing this week’s sales ads.

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