Discussions of Political Topics?

Updated on March 8, 2018
jackclee lm profile image

Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

This article was inspired by a recent event in my Writer’s group. In the past two years or so, I participated in a writer’s group at our local library. We would submit our writing samples to the whole group for critique and suggestions for improvement. The moderator of the group was our local librarian. She kept our group focused on the style of the writing sample and avoided comments on the subject matter. Some of my submissions were of a political commentary opinion piece and it was very hard for some members of the group to not voice their own opinion. I decided to write an article on what is worthy of debate.

- Mar. 2018

Background

We were taught from early years to avoid discussion about religion and politics and money during family gatherings or social events. This was very wise advice because these are three topics that some people have very strong opinions and are also very passionate. They evoke emotions that transcend our daily decorum and may lead to arguments and create unnecessary tension.

The question becomes when is a proper forum for these kind of debates. If we are to progress as a society, we need to discuss ideas and policies openly without emotions. We need to focus on solutions rather than motives.

At the heart of writing is communications. We all have ideas and thoughts that we wish to convey to others either our family and friends or strangers. These ideas can be controversial or just creative but never the less unique to our individual perspective. Politics is one area of great concern. Depending on our personal world view, we can have vastly opposing ideas on the same topic. How do people with opposing views reach a compromise or an understanding if we are not allowed to discuss them openly? That is a dilemma.

Never Discuss...

What Are Some Guidelines...

It seem to me, there should be some guidelines before any discussion is conducted. We need some ground rules that is understood and agreed upon by all sides. That is how we keep the discussion focused on the topic at hand. We cannot let it be open ended and allow our emotions get the best of us.

Here are my ideas of ground rules.

  • No personal attacks
  • No call for violence
  • No name calling
  • Agree on topic to discuss
  • Separate facts from opinion
  • Fact check or provide references
  • It is OK to have opinions
  • All ideas should be welcomed and considered
  • Keep your emotions in check
  • keep an open mind

My Writer Group...

I belong to a Writer’s group that meets twice a month. Over the last few years, about 15 members meet and discuss our own writings and do readings and we go around the table for critiques and suggestions for improvement. Most members are very good and talented. I have gained from these sessions and believed they helped improve my writing skills.

The writings are varied and ranges from fiction to poetry and memoirs and short stories... I also submitted some political commentary essays in the past and they have generated controversy. The moderator, who is also a trained librarian, have kept the comments focused on the writing style and avoid comments on the actual content of my piece. Some participants have elected to opt out commenting which was a surprise to me. I guess they have so much emotions that it was hard to separate the content from the writing style.

Recently, another writer, new to our group, submited a poem that is political in nature. He did not understand our past history and just wanted to get feedback on his piece. I decided to opt out in this particular case. My objection to his particular piece was because it violated my ground rules. I have nothing against this person, just disagree with the content of his poetry.

My rules are simple and outlined above. My main point is not all political views are equal. Some are deep rooted in policy differences. Some are just name calling because they don’t like the person or their looks...

This brings me to thinking what is a valid forum for discussion of a political nature, and what should be allowed? And who is to decide?

I welcome opposing opions and please take the poll at the bottom. I am interested in opinions by others. Am I correct or am I opening a hornet’s nest?

Is it Possible to Discuss a Writing Without Commenting on the Content?

Here is the big question of the day. Is it possible for anyone to be objective and critique a piece of writing, without including comments on the content?

Let’s take an extreme case as a hypothetical. Suppose a writer wrote a piece about the virtues of Nazism. The writer truthly believes that it is a superior form of government. Keep in mind, back in the 1930s, there were many prominent people in the US who believe this...prior to World War II and the atrocities of Hitler. If this piece of writing was submitted to a group to critique, what would be their reaction? Would they be able to keep their emotions in check and just comment on the writing style? Or would they bring up the facts that are well known and attack the piece for being a one sided biased view...

Regardless of the writing style, or tone, or even the mechanics, there are some topics that cannot be divorced or separated from the content. The subject matter, is the whole message. Without discussing the content, it is missing the mark.

Part of good communications is to inform and to invoke thoughts. We as humans have free will. We can pick and choose who we listen to, who we watch on TV, who we trust and who we like or dislike... Most people form a world view early in life. We get this from our family, our church, our teachers and our community. It is hard to see things from a different perspective. That is why it is very difficult to have a casual discussion at a family gathering. Some topics are complex and have many sides and not just the two main opposing sides. There are usually grey areas that are not addressed. Only in a discussion group, can we drill down and get to the root of the problem. Even if people are not convinced one way or another, at least they walk away with a better understanding of the opposing views. They are not crazy or ignorant or lunatic for believing what they belief. That in itself is progress in my humble opinion.

Summary

In politics, all is not fair game. We need limits and well defined ground rules. My problem with the current environment is that avoiding the issues does not solve anything. How will issues get resolved if we are prevented from talking about them? A better alternative is to debate the policies and leave personal emotions out of it. It is not easy but necessary.

Poll

Do you think political discussions are a good idea? In Writer’s group or social settings.

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jack Lee

    Comments

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      • tsadjatko profile image

        TSAD 2 months ago from https:// www.consumeraffairs.com/ online/ hubpages. html

        lol AB i'd never ignore you - you are one of the few Hubbers who always make sense. I'm afraid however you upstaged Paula, I felt sure she'd be the one to make hay of my mention of "Hyde". I was expecting her to.

      • abwilliams profile image

        A B Williams 2 months ago from Central Florida

        I haven't seen Mr. Hyde (as in, that side of you) nor hair of you....I am sorry that is where MY mind just went. It works... LOL!!

        Ignore me and carry on!

      • tsadjatko profile image

        TSAD 2 months ago from https:// www.consumeraffairs.com/ online/ hubpages. html

        That was a nice gesture. Jack is on a Kudos roll.

        You know something Paula?

        I thought the phrase was "hyde" nor hair. As always, whenever you appear Paula, I learn something I thought I knew was WRONG!.

        No need to apologize, I took no offense. You are entitled to voice your opinions .... likewise I am entitled to avoid being assaulted by them so now maybe I'll be here more often :-).

        How's that Jack? Can I too get an accolade too?

        Anyway, the real reason I slacked of Hub Pages, kind of the straw that broke the camel's back (as I have never been a fan of hub pages management), was when they announced months ago they were getting rid of the floating capsule.

        That was my favorite part of creating a hub page which I thought was so much better than posting a page-filling video after video or picture after picture. If you remember reading any of my hub pages everyone was full of floating capsules and I had a lot of videos and pics. If I am reading a hubpage I like to keep reading and not have to skip over videos or pics constantly inserted into the main body of writing. I knew that when they ended it all my pages would be flagged as having pictures too small and the removal of the floating capsule would totally screw with the formatting and continuity of every hub page... and it did! So instead of wasting days trying to correct it I decided to unpublish them (it took me over two hours to fix the one hub page I did republish and I'm not sure it's right yet).

        The only fortunate thing about this is that I didn't waste tons of hours writing hundreds of hub pages only to have to deal with such an inconsiderate decision by hub pages. I don't know how anyone can make money with them, not worth the time it takes to deal with their censorship and random policy decisions let alone the research and writing time to create a good hub page.

        If I was writing tons of hub pages to make money and lost income because of having to fix the missing floating capsules I would definitely feel I should be compensated - I'd feel like a slave to them otherwise.

        Maybe few used it, I don't know, don't they have millions writing? What do they care?

      • jackclee lm profile image
        Author

        Jack Lee 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

        Paula, that was a nice gesture.

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 2 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Tony! I admit I have not been around here much as of late, but I have not seen hide nor hair of you in forever. Speaking of forever, I honestly believed you must have been taken home. It would be wonderful for you, but I'm quickly taking this opportunity to apologize to you for our absurd disagreements. I hope you can forgive. I surely have. Peace, Your old friend :)

      • jackclee lm profile image
        Author

        Jack Lee 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

        Tsad, we will see. This is a work in progress... I will let you know how it works out at my writers group. It is just an experiment on my part.

      • tsadjatko profile image

        TSAD 2 months ago from https:// www.consumeraffairs.com/ online/ hubpages. html

        Well Jack, kudos for taking the high road!

        I on the other hand, having tried the high road throughout my life in debating liberals prefer my take on your hub page - your rules are "tongue in cheek" :-)

        What's unproductive is assuming liberals are even capable of an honest debate or discussion because whatever the issue their real take on it is how can we manipulate this to get power and control and NEVER is it how do we solve this problem. This fact is not an opinion but a fact, just look at the end result of all or any of the policies they have managed to implement on the economy, National defense (the Iran deal) Obamacare, promise program (the reason we had the school shooting in Florida), they promulgate policies that encourage blacks (their strongest constituent) not to get married and have children out of wedlock, killing babies is top on their list!

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_YQ8560E1w

        No Jack, you can't lay down ground rules to people of this sort, it just won't work.

      • jackclee lm profile image
        Author

        Jack Lee 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

        AB, Both of you are right. In today’s climate, PC seems to rule the day. I am trying to change things in a small step... I hope we can all do our part and influence our surroundings and engage people to think about solutions rather than constantly fighting or avoid discussion...both are unproductive.

      • abwilliams profile image

        A B Williams 2 months ago from Central Florida

        I agree with TSAD. "It is okay to have opinions (only if you are liberal)", otherwise you are censured. :(

      • jackclee lm profile image
        Author

        Jack Lee 2 months ago from Yorktown NY

        Tsad, I do believe some are open to debate given the opportunity to do so. Some, a small number, may actually be open minded enough to change their opinion. I saw a glimpse of that with one of the member in my writer’s group...

      • tsadjatko profile image

        TSAD 2 months ago from https:// www.consumeraffairs.com/ online/ hubpages. html

        Nice ground rules, Jack. I like them. But what good are ground rules without enforcement? You can't discuss anything with a liberal if you limit them to

        No personal attacks (like calling ALL Trump supporters deplorables)

        No call for violence (Violence is their platform BLM)

        No name calling (you mean like playing the racist, misogynist or homophobe cards)

        Agree on topic to discuss (so they can't change the subject when they are losing the debate?)

        Separate facts from opinion (for libs their opinions are the facts)

        Fact check or provide references (Who is doing the fact checking?...I hope not a liberal)

        It is OK to have opinions (only if you are a liberal)

        All ideas should be welcomed and considered (fat chance of that with a liberal)

        Keep your emotions in check (final proof you will never be able to debate a liberal)

        Oh I see Jack, your rules are "tongue in cheek" - what you are really saying is it is impossible to debate a liberal in a mutually respectable arena.

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