Don’t Talk About Religion or Politics

The Absolute Turmoil We’ve Created By Polite Conversation

Becky Meadows

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Having tough conversations doesn’t mean pretending tough conversations don’t exist. Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

When I was in elementary school, my well-intentioned elementary school outlawed Pokémon cards. They were everywhere and the teachers were tired of trying to get us to focus on academics while little minds remained affixed to who had the shiny Bulbasaur. You’d think that this ridded us of “Gotta catch ’em all” fever, but really it just threw kerosene onto the issue. What was once a public activity was now relegated to corners of the playground, quick passes in the lunch line, and constant scheming to trade when the teacher wasn’t looking.

Similar things have happened in the 1920’s with alcohol. Taking booze off the menu just heightened the allure of speakeasies and underground distilleries.

Throughout history, it’s clear. When you take a “problem” away from people, you don’t actually address the problem at all. Our boring math teacher never got more engaging because they outlawed Pokémon cards. A country’s trauma never got resolved just because they criminalized everyone’s favorite coping mechanism. Removing a problem and addressing a problem are two very different things.

The first time I was told not to talk about religon or politics I was 10. Sitting around a family dinner table, I learned that some things we just didn’t talk about unless we were in close circles. I learned that my beliefs, whether they were spiritual or otherwise, we’re less important than being safe and palatable for the others around me.

One by one I think we all got this lesson. We learned to talk about the weather. We learned to hoard “fun facts” about ourselves because revealing the truth of who we are was much to risky for polite conversation. And the more we accepted that we were “too much” to connect with others, the more we didn’t allow ourselves to belong.

Brené Brown speaks a lot about belonging in her book Daring Greatly.

Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our…

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Becky Meadows

Becky is a consultant and copywriter. She lives, thinks, and works in Florida with her wife and cats. Reach out for inquiries at rebeccananns1@gmail.com.