How to lose friends and make enemies in five short minutes




(photo by Ronnie Bergeron)

I am reading the news this morning when I come across this advice:

“I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face,” he said.”

I cut my political teeth as a wet-behind-the-ears high school senior during the Reagan / Mondale election campaign. I only had one class in high school that year – Government. I worked a 40-hour job as an assistant manager of a fashion boutique store in the mall but spent 55 minutes each morning listening to my teacher wax eloquent about the beauty of our political system.

My teacher was a product of the 60’s, a true flower-child. I once overheard the principal telling her that she couldn’t dress like a hippie at school and that she needed more formal attire. I waited for her angry retort, but it didn’t come. She simply said, “Yes, sir,” and walked off.

I was so disappointed in her. What kind of a radical just bows to authority when the rules handed down are unfair and target only a single person?

And then I watched her. For a week she came to class dressed in evening gowns and faux jewels, her hair piled in curls on top of her head. She wore enough make up that I considered buying stock in Max Factor. And, after a week, the principal relented. My government teacher was happy to be back to her Birkies and peasant skirts.

She was my hero. She knew how to make a point, argue her position, and never alienate the other side. We were free to discuss politics in her class, and she showed respect when I argued why I thought Ronald Reagan was the best choice for our country. I can only imagine the restraint and self-control that took on her part. She forced us to stay on the facts, argue the issues, and the only way we faced a failing grade in her class is if we persisted in attacking our political opponents personally.

“You are friends outside of this class, and you should respect each other as friends who can like each other despite your differences,” she would lecture us when things got too heated. It was the only time I heard her raise her voice.

I wish more students had a teacher like her today. I wish candidates had moms like her who would ream them out for taking the low road in their quest for office.

I could go on and on about my own opinions about this election, and we do as a family within the walls of our home. We talk every day about the issues and what we think of the candidates. We talk with our teenagers about our opinions and ask them about theirs. And we enjoy the lively discussions.

But I like my friends too much to lose them over an event which will be over in just a few short weeks.

So I won’t get in your face, and I won’t start an argument that will only get uglier.

That’s not what my politics will ever be about.

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