How to discuss politics with friends, family

Colin Roberts, Copy Editor

Well, the midterms are over.

Moving on, I’d like to discuss how we frame the issues that lie ahead of our country. To paraphrase John Adams, or maybe it was President Johnson, or maybe a Halliburton executive in Iraq? I forget, anyway, we have a battle of “hearts and minds” ahead of us. We have to mend this country, and make sure the good values rise above the bad.

But how can you do that when rhetoric has taken over all forms of conversation? When every term to describe every issue has been carefully tailored to evoke positive or negative emotions?

The answer my friends, is inventing a new language.

Winning over friends and relatives to egalitarian values is especially difficult in light of the polarizing and disheartening events of the last two years. But it can be done if you completely abandon mainstream terms.

Let’s start with healthcare. Never use that word again. When discussing issues regarding healthcare, refer to it as the “medical industry problem.” What does that mean? Why, the complete failure of America, for decades, to meet the needs of the public while satisfying private influences. It means unnecessary tests that send medical costs skyrocketing. It means a litany of pharmaceutical drugs that are exorbitantly priced, and administrative insurance costs that are downright criminal. It’s the ugly mix of business, lobbying and profit that has soaked its way into how hospitals function.

With the “medical industry problem” or MIP, you can broach these conversations, as well as discussing solutions like single-payer systems, universal healthcare and the dismantling of the insurance industry hegemony. But never use the single-payer word or the universal word. Only MIP. You can also use this verbiage to avoid misinformation and exaggerations normally brought up in conversations about such things.

Immigration is another biggie. When you want to discuss people who wish to come to this country, avoid using words such as “immigrants,” “migrants” or “people seeking asylum.” These words have unfortunately been coopted by bad faith actors and weaponized to dehumanize our neighbors.

Too many Americans dislike people who do not look or sound like them. But Americans do like America, and capitalism, and rugged cowboy individualism. Therefore, when discussing immigration policy with friends and family, refer to the immigrants as “future consumers.”

Bring up the fact that we need to stop “separating the little future consumers from the big future consumers” during diner conversations. Even your oldest, most xenophobic relatives will pause to consider this. They might even agree that everyone should have the right to one day stand in line at McDonalds. Use this opening to suggest that we should also stop restricting access to the asylum ports, or “Freedom Towers.” Naturally your family members will clap and agree.

Consumer phraseology is useful when discussing anyone else the current administration is trying to dehumanize. African Americans and LGBT folks. Birth citizens. Jewish people and Muslims. I’m sure this list will expand. The point is, change how your unsympathetic friends view others. After all, we’re all in this shopping mall together.

Moving on, the environment is another very important issue. It’s very important that you never use any terms associated with conservationism, meteorology, oceanography or climatology when discussing it. In America, corporations are people, and people have the right to individual pursuits of profit and happiness.

America does NOT like when things infringe on other things. Infringing is bad. Use this to your advantage. Refer to the environment as “America’s lawn.” Mention to your anti-regulation relatives that “some subsidized free-loaders sure are infringing on America’s lawn. What happens if they seize all our grass?” Your more libertarian friends will dislike most of the words in that sentence and hopefully start thinking about collective survival over individual wealth accumulation.

I could go on, but the main point is to tailor the language to your audience. Healthcare, immigration reform, human rights and the environment are just a few of the issues that have been unfortunately maligned by special interest groups. We have to combat misinformation with truth. Failing that, we have to reframe the conversation faster than the special interest group can poison the conversation.

Or, if I’m being perfectly honest, we could push the special interest groups out of the talks, and have a frank conversation with each other about what we want next. It’s our country, after all. And if nothing else, the midterms showed that well care deeply for it.

Colin Roberts is a senior professional writing major. He can be reached at 581-2812 [email protected].