The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Opposing Viewpoints: Healthy debate a good mental exercise

2 min read

Maybe that conservative uncle won’t be so angry since you’re family, or maybe he’ll yell just as loud as he normally does.

No matter what, engaging in the argument could help you articulate your ideas quickly while yelling across the family table. Your debate skills will most definitely improve and your family might finally realize that you have an individualized opinion about something other than what food at the table tastes best.

I’ll never forget the fight between my conservative uncle and my ultra-liberal brother a few years ago during Christmas. After my aunt had finished talking about the Iraq War, my brother added, “It’s for oil anyway.” This did not sit well with my uncle. After screaming about the flaws of Donald Rumsfeld, the mistakes made by the Bush administration and the liberal media turning the nation into anti-patriots, my uncle got up and left the table, only to be seen about an hour later.

While talking about politics can create a hostile environment and uncomfortable family tensions, it was one of the first times our entire family participated in a politically substantial conversation.

It’s important to remember that these concerns are not confined to your family. These are anxieties felt by the entire population. You get the opportunity to experience some of these concerns first hand and apply these smaller conversations to national discussions.

This discourse obviously has limits. If you have a gay cousin, you probably should not start ranting about how homosexuality isn’t a valid lifestyle. Beware of your family’s sensibilities and try to keep the conversation in the intellectual realm, leaving personal attacks out of the argument.

Also, keep in mind some state of tolerance. Do not engage in unwarranted dogmatism and accept the opinions of others. This was the flaw of my brother and uncle. Just because you politically disagree does not mean you cannot get along as people.

Perhaps the most valid advice I can give you before you see friends and family this holiday season, is to approach political subjects with humor. Do not begin a conversation by quoting some ridiculous line from Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin. People will immediately respond to that type of die-hard political ideology.

These conversations will create an open environment for political discourse. It might even install certain values that were not entertained by your family before. Maybe the quiet cousin at the end of the table will start speaking about some of these issues. No matter what happens, it is definitely important to bring up the discourse that we, as a nation, engage in daily.