Dinner Table Politics

My Dad. On his wedding day. Debating something. 
My first dinner time memories include warm milk (it was cold when dinner began; but I delayed drinking it) and debate.

The first debates were about local school board politics--constant school closures made me shift from elementary school to elementary school (and I hated it).  Later, it was discussions on race--Bucks County was not a place of diversity in the 1980s (and I had close friends who were treated poorly). And as I matured to the ripe old age of 7, the debate became presidential in nature when Regan ran against Mondale.

That was the start of dinner table politics. My father, ever the Independent, vacillated between conservative and liberal. My mother was raised under the mantra: "When in doubt vote Republican." And then there was me: born to be a bleeding heart liberal.

Voices were raised. Facts were checked in the newspaper, encyclopedia and whatever news magazine was lying around (no FactCheck.org, yet). On occasion, I'd grow frustrated and cry. Or my mother would hide. Or my father would slam a fist on the table.

But the three of us would come back for more the next night.

Politics should be discussed. Politics should be argued.  It should be researched. And so what if you get mad, frustrated or want to hide? So what if you find out everything out of someone's mouth is a lie? It is the discomfort that makes shifts in the way the world works. I imagine the American Revolution was extremely uncomfortable.  It is this discomfort that makes us patriotic.

And while I dislike rules in general, I do have my own set of political rules, honed from 30 years of dinner table politics with my dear old Dad (he is certainly spitting mad in heaven about something political) and my mother (who might actually vote against her familial party this election).

1. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. It might offend you. It might make you flaming mad. It might make you question their sanity. But they are entitled to it, as you are entitled to your own.

2. You must fact check every word that comes out of a politicians mouth. They are salespeople. Research them as much as you research your next new car purchase: just because you like the leather interior, does not mean the car is built to last. (I use FactCheck.org, religiously).

3. And don't forward information or post information to Facebook or Twitter that you have not researched. I've seen more lies and misrepresentations this political season than I can count: so much on the Internet is simply not true.

4. If they are under 21, politicians' children and grandchildren are off-limits. If you are a parent you know the truth: none of us can control our own children. We have a better chance of controlling China.

5. One man or woman does not run it all. The United States is not a dictatorship. Do not be distracted by shiny presidential elections. Do, however, vote in all elections and research as many candidates as you can.

6. Unless you are a member of the CIA or a NY Times reporter, it is disrespectful and completely irresponsible to  accuse a standing president, official presidential candidate or other American of being a terrorist, of not being an American or of practicing secret religions.

7. When the election is over and a candidate wins, they are the winner. Of course you can disagree with what happens when they are in office. But, they won: we all have a responsibility to not wander about like sore losers for years on end and plot revenge. To quote Tim Gunn: make it work, people.

8.  Snark is delightful.  Bold face lies are not delightful.

9. It is okay to admit you are distracted by their hair, flag pins, speaking voice and overall fashion sense. (See #8 snark) We are human beings; not academic robots.

And finally: 10. Disagreement is American. It is Patriotic. So what if you are a conservative and I am a liberal, let's argue. And then let's break bread.


  1. I believe if I am correct that is grandad he is arguing with. That would be typical of the man.


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