You Don’t Have to Pick a Side


We talk politics sometimes in our house. While we encourage a very open discourse and thoughtfully consider all sides of an issue, I always remind the boys that they should be silent – very silent – outside of the house. If hints of our open-mindedness (and dark sarcasm) went from my son to a friend to the friend’s parents, or the results of the “telephone game” slew a sacred cow, he might actually suffer socially. There’s no quicker way to earn someone’s animosity than to challenge their political dogma. 

That’s quite concerning and more than a little sad, but it’s also a bit foreign to me. If you took my most beloved politician and trashed him / her and everything he / she had ever done, I’d be like, “Meh.” I don’t personalize my relationship with any politician. Some are admirable, some are contemptible, and none are perfect. My biggest concern, in fact, would be why you were feeling such passion.

Earlier this week as we discussed current events, I told the boys that politicians were like vegetables. Some might be better than others, but you don’t have to like ANY of them. They do serve a purpose, and you need to tolerate them and let them try to do their job (this earned a deep frown from the missus, who is part of the very obscure “vegetables are good” movement…). If someone is offering you a “choice” between a steaming bowl of brussels sprouts and a plateful of broccoli, just pick the one that disgusts you less. (Then smile at the missus and say, “Mmmmmmmm.”)

If you absolutely loathe a politician, you do not need to automatically love the competition. In fact, you should be very circumspect in evaluating the competition, to ensure your hatred of the one isn’t blinding you to the flaws of the other. The enemy of my enemy probably sucks too.

This of course goes well beyond individual politicians. For example, I think the U.S. healthcare system is an expensive mess. I also think a more centralized / government-administered system would be a mess. (If you’re suddenly outraged, don’t worry – I agree with your position more.) There is no black or white – the trick is to look at both solutions objectively and decide which of the two is a slightly lighter (albeit still very dark) gray. 

Many people don’t seem to roll this way. Something is either the best or the worst, and there is no in-between. Conversations with these folks are a wild ride too – they’ll open with a tentative prod, and if you give the answer they like, they’ll assume you’re part of their boolean world.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Very few issues truly oblige feelings of love or hate. Instead, it can be one of “like” / “dislike”, or even “dislike” / “dislike a little less”. A scale of 1-10 actually has ten numbers. It’s fine if you sit squarely at 5. 

As we enter a season of insane passions, it’s good to remember that we need not froth at the mouth or make enemies for life at every turn. The people who don’t rush blindly to pick a side may be the best ones to objectively evaluate and solve the many problems we face, in politics and in life.

If you hate cats, you don’t have to like dogs. Wanting Tom Brady to lose doesn’t mean you actually want the other team to win. And when someone asks what’s your favorite vegetable, it’s of course a trick question 🙂


5 thoughts on “You Don’t Have to Pick a Side”

    1. Au contraire – the dislike of vegetables came long before even knowledge of politicians. I’m just using a powerful and visceral symbol for them to learn about politics 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Mmmmmmm Mmmmmmm Mmmmmmm – that’s OK. The veggies are so yummy it’s like THEY’RE the dessert. (Now can I have a real dessert?)

  1. Hi Paul,

    Very nice brussels sprouts picture. I cannot remember the last time I ate them, even so I like it a lot. I’ll look for it at the supermarket this week.

    Concerning the main topic of the post, I have the same feeling. More and more looks like that the people are on this binary selection, 0 or 1, dark or white. The dialogue is more and more difficult, with the people inserted in their own bubble. Confirmation bias…

    Sometimes I see myself in this position, especially at work. I try to police myself constantly to avoid it and to be open to new ideas and opinions.

    Concerning politics…it is even more difficult. In my home country, most of the people get the information on Facebook and Whatsapp groups…develop a conversation based on this “source” of information is not easy.

    All the best.


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