Talking US Politics While Travelling. Engage or Avoid?
Why do I even bother?
I should just keep my mouth shut but I always try to explain it to people and nobody seems to get it.
It makes me look like a crazy American idiot who has no idea how the world works and of course there’s nobody else there to back me up.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I AM an idiot. Probably am in fact.
But every time I explain my point of view to people, especially non-Americans, I’m met with dismissive head shakes. They just don’t get it.
I’m of course talking about gun ownership, or perhaps more broadly, political discussions.
I’m American, I have an unalienable right to own a gun and it’s even written into our nation’s founding documents. I own a gun. And that makes some people uncomfortable. It also turns myself into a target for criticism to which I’m forced to defend my views.
This video by Jordan Peterson is a good explanation on how I feel about gun rights in America. It’s important to the freedom of our people against a tyrannical government, and that’s the most foundational argument in support of gun rights that I can think of. Others may disagree here but I’ve never heard a compelling enough argument against this.
These controversial topics almost always come up when you are living in a hostel with a mix of nationalities in shared spaces. It’s almost impossible to avoid or ignore. These topics just naturally come up when you’re an American overseas.
Now, I could just sit there and not engage with it, and I usually try to avoid such topics because it so divisive. It never leaves anybody in a good mood or has their views changed.
It’s pretty pointless to engage is what I’m trying to say. I don’t gain anything by engaging but I certainly have something to lose.
But I have a nagging feeling inside that if I don’t speak truthfully and honestly about my views than I am being weak. I don’t like to feel weak. As Jordan B. Peterson has said, “Stop saying things that make you feel weak.” In this case, I felt by not saying anything or defending my views, I felt weak.
Now, I usually enjoy political discussions. I think we should be able to talk through these ideas objectively in a civil manner and there needs to be a good reason to believe them, or else, why do you even believe those ideas? Why do you believe what you do and why do you have those views? “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer. You must have an answer and be able to defend them.
These discussions almost always end up with somebody’s feelings hurt and my mind about gun ownership is never changed, in fact, in most cases it strengthens my argument FOR gun ownership. But then I end up looking like a warmonger in a crowd full of pacifists and falling right into the trap of gun owning American stereotype we’re so known for around the world.
Other cultures fundamentally do not understand American culture around this issue because they have nothing to compare it to. They just think, guns are bad, and for them it’s the end of the discussion.
Sometimes people don’t care but it’s really not good for making friends or meeting girls.
Recently I was on a date with a girl I met on Tinder and I brought up a touchy subject. Donald Trump.
Regardless of your opinions about him, it was a seriously stupid thing to do. But why?
I broke the #1 rule of first dates..
Don’t bring up politics.
I don’t even know how we got on the subject but we can all agree this is not a good subject to be on, especially on a first date.
Two reasons for why this is a bad idea.
First is that you shouldn’t come to a date with such strong opinions. It’s tacky and it turns people off. They want to fuck you not hear your thoughts on the Paris Agreement. I took the bait and failed that one.
Second is that outside of the United States, most people have a negative opinion of him, not everybody (to my surprise), but most.
Outside of the US, the only opinion they hear is through the media and the media’s opinion is relentlessly negative of Trump. Very rarely is he (or any other political leader for that matter) praised by the media and people outside the US don’t really follow our policies very closely so really their only opinion is negative without much reason to back up their opinions.
Trump’s policies may not be in the world’s best interest all the time but that’s not his platform. His platform is #MAGA, Make America Great Again so this could be the reason I sense resentment towards him from other travellers. He stands for America first, but that viewpoint is seen as US against the world, which I don’t believe is always the case.
Regardless of how I feel towards him, anything other than straight condemnation towards my President is met with a negative attitude from others.
What should you do about it?
This dilemma has led me to believe that I should either:
- Avoid these topics altogether
- Lie to myself and others just to be agreeable and avoid an argument
- Or tell the truth of how I really feel and face the ensuing backlash that inevitably follows.
I’ve tried all 3 options and I have to say, I feel weak when I chose options 1 or 2. I think the reason why is because they are both passive approaches and that’s not who I am.
Option 3 is really the only viable option. In telling the truth it makes me defend my views with reasons and evidence to support those views.
This inevitably leaves others frustrated that I don’t agree with them or their social norms and rarely is anyone’s mind changed in the end.
Which brings me back to the question I asked at the very beginning, “why do I even bother?”