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    The Boor Wars

    So we’re back to discussing the difficulties of talking politics politely. Eric says:

    I’ve noticed that the louder and more opinionated a person is, the more likely he is to see a political disagreement with his position as a personal attack. Perhaps it’s because he’s put so much of his persona into it by being so loud. I think these types are best dealt with in blogs, where insults and ad hominem attacks tend to be self discrediting, WHERE YOU CAN’T SHOUT ANY LOUDER THAN THIS, and the loudly opinionated boors are reduced to inferior-looking lines of text.

    Real life is another, very ugly matter.

    I’ve always had friends who disagree with me, but things are getting a little ridiculous where it comes to meeting new people. When I meet new people, I often wonder about the advisability of telling them what I think, especially if they show signs of being in kneejerk group agreement on a given issue.

    Is there a duty to publicly disagree when that can turn an otherwise enjoyable social event into an ordeal?

    I haven’t lived in the States for years, and I frequently socialize in groups in which I’m the only American. Most of the time, conversation stays neutral: life in Japan, where else everyone has traveled, the wretched weather (usually not a bland topic in Tokyo, actually).

    If talk turns to politics, people tend to register the stock surprise that a gay man could possibly be “right-wing”—-not the way I characterize myself, of course, though I try to resist the temptation to bore my dinner partners senseless by explaining how being a libertarian is different—-but I generally find that keeping an even tone and having a sense of humor gets me a fair hearing. In the overwhelming majority of political discussions I’ve had, I’ve been the only person to the right of Hillary Clinton but have been treated respectfully, if not always amiably.

    One does at times, though, encounter people for whom it’s not topics but positions that count as intrusively “political.” More than once I’ve heard someone venture placidly over the rim of his gin and tonic that the Iraq invasion was terrible (or that America is turning into a police state, or that it’s awful how Israel and its allies gang up on the Palestinians), clearly expecting the remark to be no more controversial than “What about all this rain, huh?” If, instead of murmuring assent and passing to the next pleasantry, you respond that you supported the invasion or that you haven’t noticed anyone’s opinions being suppressed in the US or that Israel happens to be the only liberal democracy in its neighborhood, you’re accused of being an agent of acrimony–hijacking an innocuous discussion and trying to turn it into a political debate.

    Well, okay. Frankly, I don’t like conversations that give me indigestion any more than the next guy. Having been brought up the old-fashioned way, I avoid being the person to bring up politics (or religion) among people I don’t know very well. But surely once a topic has been put on the table by others, it’s fair game. I’d generally be happy to let these things pass were it not for the fact that they come from the sort of people who maintain that Americans are complacent and ignorant about the state of the world because we’re not exposed to dissenting views!

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