April 7, 2010 in Features

Keep politics and religion out of the conversation

Judith Martin, United Feature Syndicate
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is wrong with people? What happened to the politics and religion rule?

There are people in my van pool and co-workers (some of whom are managers) who think that everyone benefits from hearing their political views. It is interesting that they all share a common opinion that is simplistic and naive.

It puts people who are not in agreement in a no-win situation. Do I speak up and cause acrimony in the van pool? Do I speak up and cause more acrimony and retribution at work?

I don’t think so. Also, I do not appreciate receiving e-mails from this same faction that are almost always outright lies, distortions and half-truths. There is plenty of room for criticism on all sides, and it is hard enough to get rational information about Washington’s plans for us. The offenders are only perpetuating partisanship, polarizing their audience and making any positive changes impossible. Miss Manners, please share your thoughts.

GENTLE READER: What happened to the etiquette rule banning casual social discussions of politics and religion is that it is roundly pooh-poohed and ignored. At best, it is thought to be a prissy and unnecessary restriction of adult conversation; at worst, it is considered a repression of free speech and the democratic process.

Miss Manners acknowledges that these accusations might have some validity if people knew how to express their opinions civilly and to listen to the thoughts of others with open minds.

But guess what, folks: In this society, most of the acrimony short of violence is over religion and/or politics, and it doesn’t always stop short of violence. And those who are supposed to be dealing with these topics professionally aren’t behaving much better.

Instead of civil conversation, discussion and debate we have wholesale denunciations and personal insults. Funny thing – it turns out that a real exchange of ideas and opinions is possible only under the rule of etiquette.

Miss Manners advises you to cultivate the aura of someone who is so immersed in work – reading papers in the van pool, concentrating intensely in the office so that you have a blank look when interrupted as if you had not heard – that it is useless to attempt engaging you in what passes for conversation.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am having a party in honor of the engagement of my niece and her fiance. Each family has given me a list of invitees. Is it proper for me to invite my friends (who will not be invited to the wedding), as the party is in my home?

GENTLE READER: You would be doing your friends no favor. To be included in such an occasion suggests that they ought to be more involved in this marriage than they probably may care to be – yet if they do want to be, they will find they are not invited to the wedding.

Miss Manners is puzzled about why you would want to do this. To pay off social debts? To be able to keep away from your relatives with people who amuse you more?

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners @unitedmedia.com.

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus