Ugh, politics: Do you want a fight or a relationship?

Amy Fenster Brown

By Amy Fenster Brown

We are less than two weeks away from Election Day. I get so excited about Election Day.  

A presidential election occurred the year I turned 18 in 1988. I registered in the town where I was living for college and walked to the nearby polling place with a group of students. I had my mind made up to vote for Michael Dukakis, and I remember one of the students I was walking with trying to change my mind to vote for George H. W. Bush. 

After listening to his reasons, I shared mine. There was no heated debate, no name calling, no arguing. Just two first-time voters excited to do their civic duty and exercise their rights. Bliss. 

My candidate lost.

The next couple of elections found me working in TV news. Being in the mix when there was breaking news always got my adrenaline pumping, my mind racing and my endorphins flowing. 

Election night was an even higher high for me. My opinion or my co-workers’ opinions of the candidates didn’t matter because our job was to be factual with results. Because I was one of the younger ones on staff, I was probably way too intimidated to get into any discussion or debate over candidates or issues anyway. To be a very young adult in the nerve center of the place reporting the results live on TV made me feel like I was plugged in and filled with electricity. And at the end of the night, the whole staff went out for drinks. Bliss. 

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Especially the years my candidates won.

Despite leaving  my TV news career, election night is still fun for me, though I truly miss being in the newsroom to experience the excitement. I’ve volunteered for a few campaigns, standing at the polls with signs and stickers, often making small talk for hours with an opponent’s volunteers. Nice people, friendly people, passionate people, patriotic people, sensible people. Not once did I encounter a mean-spirited, trash talking volunteer.  

Voting is a right. It’s also a privilege. You get to choose the person you want in office. It doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. 

This year, as we roll closer to Nov. 3, there seems to be more anger across the board. There have been reports of people stealing political signs out of neighbor’s yards. Relationships have been damaged, with people not speaking to each other after heated political disagreements. Hateful insults and name calling are more and more common, even among those with their names on the ballot. They forgot that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Do people who yell and scream and bully others over their political beliefs actually think they’re going to win them over with that behavior? I’m not so sure even a calm discussion with someone on the opposite side would win them over. Wouldn’t it be nicer and more civil to just listen to the reasons and thoughts of the person voting differently from you? And then you could share your reasons without getting harassed. You don’t have to agree. You can agree to disagree. Preserve what will sustain you in the long run, which for many of us are lifelong relationships and friendships.  

Why are people being so combative and spewing anger at their friends? If my friend or family member is someone I respect and love and trust and enjoy spending time with, why on earth wouldn’t I want to hear their reasons and beliefs and opinions? Chances are your friend is a good person, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be friends in the first place. Of course, in some cases, you might actually find out your friend strongly believes in something you find morally offensive. Maybe they’re not the person you thought they were.

Clearly I’m not a political expert. I’m not hired by this wonderful publication to report on politics, so I’m trying to hold back what I really want to say. It might even be best to avoid the topic altogether, the same way our current president has avoided wearing masks and sharing his tax returns.