DEAR MISS MANNERS: A relative of mine will soon be moving to Europe. She is unhappily anticipating all kinds of disparaging questions about American politics, having had these unpleasant exchanges when she lived in Europe before.
The questions typically run along the lines of “How can Americans vote for that candidate?” or “How can they support such a policy?” – delivered in such a way as to imply that Americans are stupid or naive.
We were hoping you could suggest a way to respond to unkind opinions masquerading as curiosity, which would neither indicate that she agrees with the opinions nor open the subject to an unpleasant disagreement about politics.
GENTLE READER: Your relative should be studying the politics of the country in which she will be living. This is not only a responsible thing to do, but it will doubtless provide ample material for a more general discussion of controversial voters and politicians, on whom no country seems to have a monopoly.
This should turn the conversation into what Miss Manners would consider a not-unpleasant examination of political problems. But that requires others to speak realistically about their own issues. If they do not, but insist on bashing America, no American should accept that, any more than the bashers would accept insults to their country.
Politeness does not require accepting insults. To admonish them without creating a scene, she should say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way. We Americans have our problems and our differences, as do all countries, but I’m proud of being an American.” A stiff delivery should at least lead them to backpedal and apologize.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was out with friends at a local brewery, and we engaged in a block-building parlor game. The game was progressing quite feverishly when another group next to our table started filming us on their phones.
We attempted to pretend they were not filming, but by the end of the game, 3 out of 4 of them were pointing their phones at us and commenting as they filmed. They engaged us in a brief conversation after our game was completed, and then we offered the game to them.
How do you politely ask someone not to film you, and how did these people not know it made us feel uncomfortable? We are in our 40s, and this group looked younger. Do younger people feel more comfortable being filmed?
I, like most of my friends, prefer anonymity, and felt it was a violation of my privacy. But I could not find the words to ask them not to film us – especially while they were filming us. Nobody wants to go viral for being incendiary these days.
GENTLE READER: If that is what stops people from rude explosions, then public exposure is not all bad.
It puzzles Miss Manners that nastiness is the first defense that comes to people’s minds when the alternative is so simple. It is entirely possible that these people think everyone is flattered to be filmed.
The polite way to tell them to stop is to say, “Please stop filming us.” Should they persist, you should stop playing your game and either complain to management or simply move away.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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