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On talking about politics and religion

The prevailing wisdom amongst many for the past years has been to never talk about things like politics and religion with friends and relatives to avoid fights and arguments. It’s more important to keep up the good vibes.

A friend’s post made me consciously realize that perhaps that is not necessarily the right thing do to after all. It also made me remember some old memories. In my family, I was (and maybe still am) the only one who chose to be agnostic/non-practicing Catholic, while the rest have committed themselves in different Christian denominations.

We had a lot of conversations and heated arguments back in the day. We were young and equally passionate about where we stood. And then there was this one time when my dad was sitting with us at the dining table as we were arguing. I don’t even remember what it was about specifically. But I knew me and my dad shared similar sentiments about religion, so I was half-expecting him to back me up. Instead, he stayed quiet and intently listened to us. At some point we had this brief moment of silence. That was his opening.

My dad finally said something close to this:

“Better men than us have argued about this in the past for hundreds of years. If they were not able to settle this matter after all that time, chances are, we won’t either today. “

Mic drop.

It was our cue to calm down. He was, of course, right on the money. We cousins would continue to go on and occasionally discuss religion in the years to come, but that was the last time we ever had a heated argument. I still have fundamental disagreements with my relatives with regards to religion, but we have all learned to respect our differences, or at least put them aside when we’re together.

Last night, some of us had a very cathartic video call to talk about what’s been going on lately — we had the kind of discussions about life that we haven’t had since that time with my dad. And the whole thing lifted much of the heaviness I had been feeling for days. Part of me wanted to cry as I was thanking them before we adjourned. I was reminded of why these people, despite our differences, mean so much to me.

Yes, I no longer believe in going out of our way to avoid discussing politics, religion and any other difficult issues with friends and family. What we should be doing from now on is to learn how to critically discuss these issues with respect and civility and not let it devolve into mudslinging and bickering. And maybe somewhere down the road, shitshows like the big one we’re seeing now will stop happening. Then again, you know what? I don’t want that to be just a maybe. We *need* to be better. We *need* our next generations to be better. And we have to make it happen.

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