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Port: Thankful we can disagree on politics

Every year as we we enter the holiday season one of the popular storylines from media outlets looking for slow news cycle filler is about how people handle political disagreements at family events. It can be hard, to be sure. This is a topic on w...

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columnist Rob Port

Every year as we we enter the holiday season one of the popular storylines from media outlets looking for slow news cycle filler is about how people handle political disagreements at family events.

It can be hard, to be sure.

This is a topic on which I have some expertise. It's a year-round phenomena for me. What do work-obsessed Americans like to talk about when they get together on holidays or other types of socializing? Work, of course, but my work is politics. And not just politics, but articulating what are often quite provocative political arguments.

Politics is already a fraught topic. Some consider their political views to be private, and not something they care to discuss. Others find it intimidating to talk politics with someone like me.

It's funny how often I meet people who read SayAnythingBlog.com or my columns, or who listen to me on the radio, and they are quick to tell me that they don't always agree with me.

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They say it apologetically, as if having a different viewpoint is something to be sorry about.

I'm quick to assure them that disagreement is fine by me. In fact, I welcome it.

"What a boring world it would be if we all agreed all the time," I usually say.

It frustrates me when people treat political disagreement as a negative. I don't think it's healthy to view it as something to be avoided. I'd argue that it's very unhealthy for us to avoid talking about these things with one another.

In particular our friends and family.

I'd argue that a great deal of the rancor in modern politics is born of our seemingly collective decision to treat politics as a rude topic.

If the topic itself is rude, we have license to be rude while talking about it. If the topic is off limits in polite society, we have permission to stop listening to one another politely.

After this most divisive of national election cycles we need to reject these notions and engage one another like never before.

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So this Thanksgiving holiday, in addition to being thankful for my wife and my kids and all the trappings of a darn good life, I'm also thankful for your disagreement.

I'm thankful that our nation is one with strict laws protecting a sprawling debate over the issues of the day.

I'm thankful when people take the time to notice an issue, consider it, and form an opinion. Even if I think they've arrived at the wrong one.

I'm thankful when people engage me in talking politics, whether it's to tell me that they agree with me on some issue or that I'm full of beans. Or full of something else which wouldn't be polite to describe here.

I hope that maybe, if we can change how we view politics as a topic, we can change how political discourse works. Which, in turn, might lead to a healthier sort of political process.

But it all starts in your living room, with that conversation with your uncle or cousin or parent, and how you respond when they say, "So, how about that election?"

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