‘You’ve gotta shut up or we’re not going to have any friends,” my wife, Heather, tells me after a house party. This statement comes after a spirited political debate over whatever controversy was brewing at that moment. And when I think about it just a little bit, I realize she’s right. No good can come of political debates. I didn’t change anyone’s mind but I probably did cause a few of them to cross me off their invite lists. When you start arguing politics, the people who agree with you aren’t going to think you’re any more wonderful but the people on the other side of the spectrum will definitely think you’re a cretin. There’s no upside. Want to know my political beliefs? Just imagine that they match whatever yours are. There: Now we’re friends! As opposed to the alternative, which is thinking that I’m Satan, if Satan could hate America just a little bit more.
It wasn’t always like this. Back in a more innocent age (early 2016), I went skiing with some friends whose views, in general, oppose mine. But when we took one of those online “Who should you vote for?” quizzes—I know, we like to party—we discovered that none of us were really too far apart on most major issues. It seemed like a revelation to discover that most of us are in the middle. We agree on some stuff from over here, and other stuff from over there. But that’s not how you’re allowed to think anymore. You’ve got to pick a team and slavishly defend that team on every single issue, even ones you don’t deeply believe, because otherwise you’re a traitor. The issues don’t matter. The team is what matters.
Thus it is truly pointless to espouse your political views. You think you’re going to persuade a Colts fan that the Patriots have some good ideas? You think you can convince me that former Yankees right fielder Paul O’Neill wasn’t a golem summoned from the depths of hell to torment New Englanders at the turn of the millennium? Of course not. And that’s why I ignore politics in this column: I need all the readers I can get. Even those of you who are total idiots! And by total idiots, you know who I mean. The people who believe the other stuff.
As a writer, this is a logical policy. The multinational corporate leviathan known as Ezrariffic Productions seeks the broadest possible market, so I embrace the mouth-breathers and the commies, the hillbillies and the citybillies, morons and dweebs alike. What most of you fail to realize is that everyone could benefit from adopting this strategy. Because unless you’re a professional pundit, you’ve got nothing to gain by spouting off your political viewpoints, either in person or on social media.
To cite just one example, I know a couple guys who vaguely know each other but are friends on Facebook. One of those guys was in a position to throw some work to the other. But the potential beneficiary of said gig regards his Facebook page as the perfect venue for political screeds, which are 180 degrees from the views held by the boss man. If the employer is a Pats fan, do you think he’ll be real excited to hire the guy wearing the David Tyree jersey? No, he will not.
Not so long ago, neither of those guys would have any idea what the other one thought about, say, North Korea or Colin Kaepernick. You wouldn’t even know what your closest family members thought about any of that until they got drunk at Thanksgiving. And even then, at some point there was an uncomfortable silence so awkward that it lasted till the next fall, when you picked up the thread on why Aunt Claire’s opinion on Planned Parenthood is so ironic. Now, thanks to smartphones and share-everything social mores, you know way too much about everyone—especially their politics. I’ve got to admit, it’s pretty convenient to skip straight to hating people without even having to talk to them.
I’m not at all above this instantly judgmental behavior, which is why I’m so wary of it being turned on me. For instance, I have some neighbors at an intersection who had their lawn festooned with political signs last year. Before those signs went up, I was typically considerate when accelerating away from the stop sign. Now the signs are long gone, but I still do a spite-burnout in front of their house just about every day. Screw ’em. They could be nice people who rescue sick animals, volunteer at the homeless shelter and tithe 20 percent of their income to the Jimmy Fund. But I just assume they’re terrible human beings. It’s the easy thing to do. And that’s why I don’t put up signs or slap bumper stickers on my car. Besides, who cares what I think?
Oh, you do? Well, I’m flattered. So I’ll tell you. But quietly. I mean, I totally agree with your side, but I have a feeling we’re surrounded by idiots.