Dear Tell All: My mother- and father-in-law have always been conservative, but my liberal husband and I got along fine with them - before Scott Walker became governor, that is. In the last year, they've turned rabid. They spew the most vile comments about Democrats, schoolteachers, unions, etc. My husband and I keep our mouths shut, since engaging them would just lead to horrible arguments.
As Walker's recall election gets closer, however, I feel like I'm going to blow. Should I just enter into pitched battle with them and risk being banished from their house?
Dear Lydia: Your story suggests the sorry state of Wisconsin in these intensely politicized times. In the good old days, Badger folk often got along fine even if they didn't see eye-to-eye on the sitting governor. I don't recall children banished from their parents' houses over Tommy Thompson in the 1990s or Jim Doyle in the 2000s.
Call me a dreamer, but I think it could be that way again. Surely, part of the responsibility rests with the governor. Whoever wins the recall election on June 5 needs to remember that we're all Wisconsinites, all Americans, all human beings. The best way to govern is to unite us, not divide us. And that obviously requires moderation, whether the politician is a Democrat or a Republican.
But part of the responsibility also rests with us. Your in-laws have come to see those who don't agree with them as the enemy. And you've fallen into the trap of seeing them that way, too. Rather than storming into battle against them, how about making a plea for civility? Suggest a polite conversation in which each side respectfully airs its views. If that doesn't work, suggest a change of subject.
Maybe it's nave to focus on civility, given the high stakes involved in our current political battles. But without "civil," you have no "civilization."