The Scottish independence referendum to be held September 18 reminds us that even if we don’t care much about politics, it is difficult to avoid it. As a foreigner here in the U.K., I watch what is happening worried about friends about to fall out, yet unable to do anything about it. In the end, us outsiders can only hope the outcome – whichever it is – is the best one for everyone.
And nothing like when I get questions here in Europe such as, “So what do you think of Obama’s Syria policy?” “How come the U.S. doesn’t have a health service?” “Why do Americans love guns so much?”
Uh, do we have to go there? 😉
We have all heard the cliché about never discussing politics (or religion) over the dinner table. Even among friends, we might not like what each other think if we dig too deeply, so perhaps it’s indeed best to say as little as possible to each other. I have friends and relatives who run the spectrum from extreme conservative to extreme socialist: I’ll definitely alienate somebody.
So I am firm believer that politics should not define us. What we believe politically is not all that we are as human beings. Well, it shouldn’t be anyway.
I try to slip that “life outlook” into my books. I enjoy writing characters who are “all over the lot” politically, for I feel that makes them that much more believable. They may voice views that are insightful, or inconsistent, or inaccurate, or even arguably wrong; but those are part of real life as well. Views shared may also occasionally surprise us – just as in real life:
“All this in the stores here [on Long Island] and no one asks why,” Lena observed, gesturing generally to the full racks and the shoppers around them taking the selection for granted. “Before Gorbachev, before the Party gave in, in Russia we had very little to buy like this. You could get only what the Party allowed you.”….
….Isabelle asked directly, “So you don’t think [communism] can be made to work?”
“No, I don’t,” Lena replied, absolutely sure of herself. “None of my grandparents left the Soviet Union. They were not allowed to. The Party feared letting them see the world. Every year the holiday was the Black Sea. I would kill myself. I will not live behind a communist wall. They can take their Marx and F-off.”
Then there are other perspectives:
“And we have to because of the Americans,” Béatrice declared. “They rule everything.” She pointed at James approaching and smiled disparagingly. “You! You vote for Reagan! He was evil!”
Isabelle teased her friend. “You say you don’t speak English well because you don’t like Americans? We know you do speak English very well!”
“Actually, I didn’t vote for Reagan,” James replied assertively as he sat down next to Isabelle. “But he wasn’t evil.”
Stéphane yelled from the kitchen, “Former darling, you promised no politics!” He rushed to the lounge with a wine glass. “Here, stop saving the world for tonight. Drink!”
Yes, alcohol may help lighten things – up to a point. 😉
We may also find ourselves facing suddenly voiced opinions we had been unprepared for, leaving us scrambling for a polite response:
“It was a terrible shame,” Valérie replied. “The war came about because the Palestinians made so much trouble because of Israel.”
James disagreed cautiously. “I read the PLO ended up in Lebanon after it was kicked out of Jordan because it tried to overthrow King Hussein. It wasn’t Israel’s fault the PLO was so irresponsible.”
“Don’t misunderstand me,” she responded. “I’m not someone who demands ‘Death to Israel!’ Not at all. Just that there must be a solution to the Palestinians so we stop the killing.”
Others may then later have their own opinions…. about those previously voiced opinions, and perhaps share what they feel are ulterior motives:
“And Valérie! God, how she looked at you! And she will visit in New York soon. Glamorous!”
“Should I say she’s ugly?” he laughed again. “You’d know I was lying then!”
“Politics? Israel? Ha!” Isabelle threw up her arms. “She cares nothing! She loves shoes and handbags!”
And how often do we admit that we – as individuals of no particular standing – feel essentially powerless anyway:
….[Isabelle’s father] smiled, wiping his brow. “The Legion was there. I hope President Clinton does not attack Iraq again.”
“I don’t know what he’ll do,” James shrugged. “When I’m next at the White House, I’ll ask him.”
Finally, there reaches a point where it’s time to give it a rest:
Isabelle reappeared at the edge of the patio. She called out to them, “Lunch soon! Enough talking!”
“Coming, little one!” her father shouted back.
“Always blah, blah, blah!” she tossed up her hands laughingly as she turned around to return inside.
Yes, lunch is often far better than talking politics. Have a good Wednesday, wherever you are reading this. Let’s try not to argue too much. 🙂