Advice: Painful Partisan Politics and Bad Manners

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a second semester freshman, thinking about majoring in political science. I love trying to understand how our policies actually work. I’ve been doing projects with local campaigns and for our town commissioners since 9th grade. I’ve found that even the people whose views weren’t mine were usually good people, looking to do a great job. In fact, the woman who was my best mentor was one with whom I share very few political views, but she loves the process and the privilege of the work and was really encouraging.

I turned 18 in December and have been very excited that the first time I get to vote is in a presidential election. I’ve been working on a campaign on campus and feeling really great that there was room for a freshman.

Except it all feels like it’s gone so wrong. These are the primaries. It should be exciting that different people are supporting different candidates. Of course I don’t like all the candidates. But that doesn’t mean that everyone who thinks differently than I do is a person who is too stupid to live. Someone from the same party as mine came over and terrorized me because I am campaigning for a different candidate. He called me the worst names.

I managed to hold on to my cool but I was really hurt and could feel a whole mouthful of childishness rising up my throat.

What happened to the notion of worthy adversaries and civil discussion? I thought I’d be most upset about the fact that people don’t think it’s worth voting. Instead I’m overwhelmed by the hostility.

How do you engage in constructive ways? And how do I keep from feeling beaten up for being different than some people want me to be?

Concerned Citizen.

 

Dear Concerned.

P: You are so right to be concerned, the Bartender and I are firmly in your camp. Being a priestess and all that, I usually try, at least publically, to refrain from vulgarities. There’s this one cartoon, though, that really sums it up for me. I’m sorry I couldn’t find it to give the artist credit. Hive mind? There was a guru sitting on a hill. And people trudging up the hill. There was a kiosk bearing the sign something like: Meaning of Life —don’t have time to wait. There was a person reading a pamphlet that said simply “Don’t be an Asshole.” It is stunning to me how many people use the electoral process to discover their inner asshole. Surprisingly — to them, at least — this does not make things go either smoothly or their way. And they become bullies.

This nonsense is bullying, pure and simple. What becomes a problem is how do you stay engaged in what you love — and how do you not get beaten up? And the fact is, the only way to stay engaged with the process is by disengaging with the bullies. You have to find a way to do what my friend Michael’s mother always suggested: Rise above. There is no sense working on a beautiful swan dive if you’re headed into quicksand — and conversations with people who aren’t interested in you, or facts or common courtesy are pretty much nothing but quicksand.

B: While modern-day politics may not be quite as dire as the sentiment expressed in A Game of Thrones—when you play the game of thrones, you either win, or you die—it can often feel that way. There is a tremendous amount of personal investment that goes into politics. Particularly when you’re young, enthusiastic, and establishing yourself and your beliefs as you take on the mantle of adulthood. We choose a political affiliation because it resonates with us on some level. We believe in their fiscal approach, or their take on social justice/international policy/environmental issues/health care, and so on, and so on. There are a million different policies that can attract a person to a party, and then further on to admire one particular politician over another. All of which should provide fertile ground for lively debate, particularly if you and your politico-colleagues are informed and passionate about your favored issues.

But we seem to have lost the ability to disagree. There’s a pervasive Game of Thrones mentality that rejects legitimate conversation in favor of trying to crush your opponent under your heel. Again, it’s an easy trap to fall into when you’re young, before you’ve learned the ins and outs of tact and diplomacy. Kudos for you to figuring this out long before many people in politics ever do.

P: You may need to develop some stock response that gives them no openings and repeat until they walk away or you can get them to stop biting your ankle. Words like: “It’s so interesting that people can look at the same issues in so many ways, don’t you think. And it makes me excited that people are so involved in this election. Oh, is that the time? Class at 11. Gotta run.” And then go! Don’t wait for rebuttal.

You cannot engage someone who is not interested in fact, nuance, or reality. It just doesn’t work. Being polite doesn’t mean letting people beat you up.

B: And learn how not to get baited into an argument. You can exercise your right to not engage in something. When you were accosted for supporting the wrong candidate in your political party? You don’t have to try and convince the accost-er of your rightness. If someone’s that hostile toward you and your political choices then you’re usually at an intellectual impasse. If that’s the likely case, remember, you have the power to say things like, “I’ll be happy to talk to you about this when you’re less aggressive,” or go short and sweet and say, “I’m not having this conversation with you right now.” It’s not that there isn’t room in the political spectrum for spirited debate and mindful conversation. There’s just not room for it with that guy, at that moment. If someone were to walk up to you, knuckles up, out of nowhere, looking for a fight, would you tear your shirt off and dive into the fracas? Or would you think, this is nuts, and walk away? It’s the same thing. Learn to read a situation. Take a (mental) lap around the room before you commit to a debate.

P: I was so excited by the first part of your message. Not only are you interested in government, you’re getting great experience. And you’re allowing yourself to be mentored by people on both sides of the aisle. These are the people who matter. These are people who are doing the work and acknowledging your worth. Stay close to them. Learn what you can. Find more great examples of caring candidates. Watch them. There is nothing more exciting to me to see someone who is both idealistic and realistic about the democratic process. Go be part of it. Make the world better. It’s one way, for sure.

At an earlier point in my life I might have said some of the behavior you’re experiencing is based on people’s age and experience. But I am on Facebook, and I can’t tell you that I see loads of posts from my older, (cough cough!) wiser friends, filled with thoughtful maturity. I was so happy to see the (alas false) story about the knitting gorilla. Who cares if it’s false, here’s to knitting gorillas.

But there is something about that heady first taste of voting and freedom of opinion. You seem to recognize that it’s a responsibility as well as a privilege! Great adulting! Sadly, too many of your cohort does not. Again, don’t let them get you down.

B: I think Ann is right in that you’ve found some great people to get you started on the right foot. You need to remember the internal lesson you learned from your mentor. You and she differed politically, but were able to work well together. Why? Because you were invested in the process, and not in your ego. I mean, God, yes, it feels great to be able to express your opinions and—literally, when you’re voting—stand up and be counted. Who doesn’t like feeling like they matter? You and your mentor could still find common ground from either side of the aisle because you both understand that a political disagreement doesn’t mean you’re totally rejecting one another as people. It’s not your soul that’s attached to a political party, it’s your opinion, and those can change with time and circumstance. Don’t forget that.

P: And lastly, I am so sorry, but dealing with assholes is part of the skill set you’re going to have to develop to be an effective politician. So, yes, their behavior is intimidating, but you’ve got bigger things in view, so don’t let them intimidate you. Find your feet (we believe in you, and I’ll bet others do to) and stand your ground. And when at all possible, walk around the human quagmires. Otherwise make your landing a belly flop and breaststroke the heck away from there. Because you have something you believe in. Hold fast to that. Put a pebble in your pocket and name it that cause and grab onto it when people are being ignorant and hateful. But keep going. Because we believe in you. I’ll bet a lot of people do!

B: I just want to say, even if you’re not going into politics but plan on being an adult, you’ll still have to deal with assholes. Sad, and true. So. Learn to read a situation as it unfolds in front of you before you find yourself at their mercy, no matter into what arena you decide to throw your hat. Good luck!

political napkin

Here’s to wonkless politics! Ever forward.

Moscow Mule Mocktail
1/2 cup Ginger Beer
3 tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
3 tbsp Club Soda

Mix ingredients in a copper mug 3/4 full of crushed ice. Stir together. Garnish with lime wedge.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

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Advice: Partisan Politics at Home

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a second-semester sophomore at college. To save money and make life easier for my parents, I am attending the college in our town and living at home. It’s been a lot of fun and with one exception has worked very well.

My parents are Democrats. They’re not just great-hearted policy liberals they are staunch, wild, my way or the highway kind of Democrats. My older brothers, who all live in the area, are exactly the same. Nothing’s more fun than casting stones at the opposition! So what’s the problem, you ask?

Well, my boyfriend is a Republican. They “tease” me unmercifully and call him names when he’s not there. If I have him over for dinner, they mock him to his face. It hurts him, and it certainly doesn’t give him a great opinion of Democrats. “See,” he says, “See, that’s what they’re all like.”

The other thing? I’ve been taking nothing but finance and poli-sci courses since I got to campus. I’m a Republican too. And now I have this amazing opportunity this summer to work for a state senator. It’s a dream job. My parents would think it’s a dream job too, except that it’s for a Republican. He’s a good man! But that won’t matter to them.

I’ve avoided bringing up my newly-embraced party affiliation to them. I know it’s cowardly, but I have to live here. I can’t afford to go to school if I don’t live at home. I don’t like living with all the shouting and ugliness. So…Help! Where do I go from here?

Signed,

Stealth Republican

Dear Stealth,

P: Oh, dear… This is going to be a challenge, isn’t it? First and foremost, and easiest, I think you should stop asking your BF to dinner. Although you should be able to invite your friends over and have them be welcomed, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Make clear to him that you’re doing this because you care for him and not because you’re giving up on the relationship.

If one of your brothers is an easier touch for you, you might be able to say to him, not when you’re being what they probably think of as “teased,” but when you’re alone, “I don’t know whether you understand exactly how much it hurts me when you name call and humiliate this guy I care about. I don’t feel safe and I don’t feel that my friends are welcome in my home.”

Maybe he can hear the pain and stop because he loves you. He might then be able to de-escalate what goes on with other brothers.

B: You’re nicer than me. I really want her to confront her parents. I get that it’s a difficult thing to do, but they—and the messages they’ve sent to their other children—are causing our letter writer pain. I don’t think she will make any progress trying to back-door-wrangle this situation. Her entire family is causing her anguish and behaving in an insulting and derogatory manner towards someone she brought to them. Someone has to start acting like an adult here and instill manners. I’m afraid that’s up to the letter writer.

P: I want her to confront her parents; I just want her to develop an ally at home FIRST, if possible. If you can talk to either or both of your parents, you might mention in a non-confrontational way, that you’re confused. Supposedly, they taught you to be open and welcoming of everyone. What does it mean that they’re willing to accept immigrants but not their neighbors? You might lay it on heavily and say that you’re sorry, but you hadn’t realized that you wouldn’t be able to bring people to the house who were different from the family. And say something along the lines, “I’ve told him, that it’s not fair to him to ask him to come to a home where people are mean and hostile towards him.” Tell them the truth, that you respect this guy too much to allow anyone to bully him and that it hurts too much to see the parents who talked to you about inclusivity be so mean.

B: Where does the letter writer say that her parents talked to her about inclusivity, or taught her to be open and accepting? She doesn’t say that anywhere. In fact, she said they’re “My way or the highway” as far as politics are concerned. Which is inherently exclusive. And damaging. As we have proof, written above.

P: I’m holding fast there, Terri. I’m sure they talk easily about accepting all sorts of people. It’s part of the party platform. My guess is if she came home and said she were gay, they’d be all, oh, wow, look now you can get married. They’re not willing to accept anyone outside their norms — but things are hard because they probably actually think the ARE inclusive.

Now you knew that we would get to this — the boyfriend, while his presence in your life exposes uncomfortable truths about people you love, is really only a sign of what the deeper problem is. It seems that you don’t live in a house that accepts you. That’s a crying shame.

B: Much of the time—not all, but much—children continue the affiliations they were raised with. They keep the same religion, the same political ideology, the same diet, even. It’s what people know, and it’s an easy way to define one’s world. The problem comes in when a kid rejects an affiliation. Think about what the gay kid coming out to her or his parents goes through. I mean…I’ve seen fights break out over an adult child’s decision to embrace vegetarianism (Parents: But what will you EAT?  Kid: My vegetables.) I had my own moment with my family when they realized I had given up the religion I was born into. And for you, your decision to switch political parties—it feels right to you, doesn’t it? For you, it makes sense. But for your parents…if it’s how they define their world then it’s also partly how they define themselves. Your defection to the other side is also a rejection of them and who they are. I’m not saying this perspective is the correct one to have, because you’re not rejecting them. But a lot of people take this sort of thing incredibly personally, which is why I think they’re so hostile towards your beau from the very beginning.

P: Presumably you’ve tried the yelling back thing and that hasn’t worked too well. It never does. It just gets everyone all roiled up. If you want change, you’re going to have to be the one who changes. You’ve got things you want to do; you don’t want to spend college simply reacting to their judgmentalism. And you don’t want to become judgmental from the other side. Nothing good comes of that.

However, now you’re going to have to make some hard decisions. Are you willing to live in a house where you’re not accepted? Your quick response might be, “but they’re paying for my school and I can’t afford it any other way.” That translates to “Yes, I’m willing to live with this.”

B: And in your case, that’s a bitter pill and hard to not take personally. Because being made fun of, and having your boyfriend mocked, around the dinner table? That IS personal. Sometimes, people see things upside down. They think if you reject a value system that they believe in, you’re issuing a personal attack. But if they behave antagonistically toward you and someone you love, and make you want to leave the house, somehow, you’re not supposed to take that personally?

P: Some people aren’t willing to put up with this, and they will find a way to pay their own way through school. Sometimes they quit and find a full time job, and live incredibly frugally and skimp and save and get it done. How much do both your education and your self respect mean to you? You can’t have a conversation with your parents, if you don’t know what you’re willing to put on the line. Well, you can, but they don’t usually go well.

B: To be fair, and practical, the idea of the self-supporting college student is increasingly a myth. And even if she strikes out on her own and is fully independent, the way the student loan laws are written, she still needs to access her parents’ income tax records in order to get federal funding, until she is 24 or married.

P: There’s all of that, so if you can’t get an education appropriate for what you want to do without them, can you get some counseling for coping strategies? Because this isn’t going to work forever. Consider your options. Think about coping strategies; think about an exit strategy. Then talk to your parents, who actually may just be clueless about how hurtful they’re being with the boyfriend and with you. It’s not good to live where you’re completely disregarded.

Be prepared. They’ll tell you it’s your boyfriend. They’ll tell you it’s a phase. Even if those things were true, you don’t feel welcome or safe to explore who you can become. My guess is they told you, you can be anything you want to be, and guess what, you want to be a Republican. So did they mean it?

Here’s the thing. Conversations like the one I’m suggesting take a lot of preparation and an absolute dedication to being calm and deliberate. This may be a series of conversations. It’s going to be a lot for them. I just Googled: How to tell your parents you’re a Republican! Of course there was stuff. If you let them see how you feel, let it be the pain, not the anger. Give them space to maneuver a bit. In your home, the anger is a tried and true tool for getting away from the point. Clarify what you want. Practice what you want to say. Start little. Don’t close any doors. But hold fast to your vision for yourself and what you’re willing to do to make your dreams come true. Don’t threaten them; just focus on your dreams.

B: And write a list of topics to cover. Don’t let the anger or pain or arguments or tears or name-calling get in the way of you making your point. If you’re going to intern for a politician, you may as well get acquainted with the idea of sticking to the determined talking points. This? Is what they are. Stay on point. Make your case.

P: You want your parents to support and love you. Even more than that, you need to love and respect yourself first.

Oh I hope this goes well, however rockily. Families are meant to keep growing. The chances are pretty good that they love you and want the best from you. It’s just that your best and theirs are a bit different. And good luck with the internship.

Prepare carefully. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Prepare carefully. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Elephant Cocktail

  • 1  Ounce pomegranate liqeur
  • 1  Ounce  black cherry rum
  • 1 1/2  Ounce pomegranate juice
  • 1 1/2  Ounce  fresh sour mix (2 parts simple syrup, 2 parts lemon juice, 1 part lime juice)
  • Blueberries as garnish

Combine all ingredients (except blueberries) in a cocktail shaker, shake, and strain into a rocks glass. Add garnish.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advice: The Real Work of Parenting

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am struggling to manage my household, and feel like I am failing miserably.

Recently, I lost my job, so the all the financial burdens of our home are falling on my husband’s shoulders. I am looking, but haven’t found anything yet, since I’m a little older and it’s harder for me to find work. My husband is a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy and he hasn’t so much as said one angry thing to me, but I know the bills are piling up and he’s under a lot of stress. I hate it.

We have three kids living with us, and two of them are adults. One of the older kids is in college but the oldest one works. We also have one son’s girlfriend living with us, and two of their friends. They’re all employed but it’s part-time and they don’t make much money. Nobody contributes to the household.

I want to be a good mom, but I also feel like maybe these kids are taking advantage of me and my husband. What should I do? I’m really worried about how the financial stresses we’re under will affect my husband.

Signed, Worried about the Future

 

Dear Worried,

P: Oh, we are so sorry you lost your job. It is hard to find work as you age. There’s no question but that the market place isn’t forgiving of age. Check with all the local help sites and see if there’s support in getting a job. Don’t hesitate to call every single friend you have. You need every piece of help you can get.

However — about your home life! I worry that in your worry, you’ve lost your balance as well as your job. You’re allowing people to leech off you. Young adults whose parents don’t choose to do the same are living with you. Why would you allow them to drive you into poverty or bankruptcy? It’s not smart. It’s not kind. To you or them. Do not allow them to make your life more difficult. Your relationship with your husband is precious, you need to protect that.

B: Way back in the dawn of time, as human civilization developed and we gathered in communal caves and humans developed the traits associated with our sort of community-mindedness, rituals emerged that helped members of a family/clan/unit cross from youthful dependency to adulthood. These coming-of-age rituals were often dangerous (or at the very least emotionally trying) tests of strength or quests for survival. The participant had to manage on their own in the wild, or fight a bear, or walk through fire. And so on, and so on. The rituals served an important purpose, though, and they marked an important, life-affirming transition. The child left the hut, but then returned as a man.

Sometimes, I think it’s too bad we’ve gotten away from this sort of traditional journey into adulthood. Because your son and his friends and girlfriend could really use a “kick ‘em out the door and let ‘em fight the bear” kind of moment. It’s time they all grew up.

P: If there are people in your house who are earning but not contributing, they need either to pay or leave. If they’re making enough to buy gas to get to work and have clothes, then they can contribute from what’s left over. No one owes them beers, vids or tats. Especially people with money problems.

You’re not really being generous, you’re being taken advantage of.

B: By my count, there are eight people living in your house, including you and your husband, and only one person supports the entire lot of you. That, Momma, ain’t right. We will give a pass to the youngest child, who I assume is still somewhere in the K-12 range, and the older son who’s in college; for all intents and purposes, their schoolwork is their job right now, so we will leave them alone so they can focus.

Now. As for the rest of them…

Your son, his girlfriend, and two other friends all live under your roof—eat your food, make use of your facilities (shower, laundry, etc)—and don’t contribute a thing? Oh, Momma, you are being taken for a ride. With adulthood comes responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is participating in the upkeep of the roof over one’s own head. There is nothing about adulthood that entails living off the sweat of your parents while you behave like a high schooler who works at the mall for mad money.

P: Figure out what base costs are for you and your younger child to live there. Is your college kid working? Is his/her grade average high? Have you always paid for a child in school?

I know I’m old fashioned. I was brought up to participate. Are you doing laundry? Supplying food? Electricity? Sheets? Living space? All of these cost money. Put a price on it. And then set a date.

B: I’m not necessarily advocating that you throw your brood out into the street. I don’t know where you live, housing may be difficult to come by or prohibitively expensive to rent if you don’t have any savings for security deposits, etc.  But allowing them to live responsibility-free in your home does no one any favors. You and your husband are stressed out. Your youngest and the one in college are getting the message (loud and clear!) that in a few years they can live off your largesse, no matter what. And the oldest son and his crew are living an extended adolescence, which doesn’t help anyone. It’s time they take on the mantle of adulthood.

P: Set a schedule: As of a certain date, each of them will owe you $X per month (or week). Establish chores, as well… You might allow those who refuse to pay to sleep there an two extra weeks while they make arrangements, but there will be no food, no laundry, no wifi, no tv. If you have to, take those things out of their rooms. You take that tv out of their room, they’ll move really quickly. Or their devices, or, or, or.  Changing passwords is not all that difficult.

You do these young adults a disservice when you make them believe the world owes them a living. When will they be responsible? I’d want to be darned sure that son and girlfriend were using birth control as well. (when did I get this suspicious?) Because wouldn’t it be lovely for them, now when they have no responsibilities to have a baby you can support and babysit. Yikes. I mean really: Holy Moley!

B: Parents are afraid to seem “mean”. But do you know what’s more cruel than forcing your kids to grow up? Not preparing them for the realities of how the world works, so when they go out into it they can’t function. You can’t coddle them forever. You may think you’re showing love, but you’re emotionally crippling them all.

P: You need to protect your husband. You also need not to be so busy taking care of the house and the freeloaders that you can’t get a job or can’t find the energy to look for one. You also need to be a good role model for your kids and the neighbor kids.. And you owe your youngest a safe place to grow up. The older ones had it; if you can, you want to give the same stability to him/her. What you don’t want is a child that is seeing other people take advantage of you and then beginning to think that she/he can take advantage of you and of people in the future.

B: Long ago, living in the caves or the huts, once people crossed into what was determined to be “adulthood” for their era, they were expected to behave accordingly. Imagine an able-bodied young caveman saying, “I’m hungry…Dad, go out and bag us another caribou, will you? Me and Becky will be snuggling under our fur blanket while you and Mom kill and clean it. K? Thanks.” It sounds ridiculous, right? That’s because it IS ridiculous. Of course you’re worried, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. There’s no better time than the present to take control of this situation.

Taking care of someone doesn't necessarily mean coddling them. Remember that.

Taking care of someone doesn’t necessarily mean coddling them. Remember that.

The Stiff Upper Lip:

  • 3oz Gin
  • 3oz Apple Cider
  • 1/2 oz Triple Sec
  • Lemon Slices
  • Sliced Apples
    Preparation: 
  • Combine all ingredients into a shaker glass and shake well. Pour into a highball glass and garnish with apple slices and a lemon.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

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