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Friends, Politics, and How to Have Those Difficult Conversations

Seeing as I am a Political Science major, you would be correct in the assumption that I really enjoy talking about politics, especially American politics. I find American politics to be so interesting because as an American, the decisions that are being made by our government really do impact our lives. There are so many different perspectives which can be often intriguing yet frightening at the same time. As children, we were always taught to avoid politics, especially at family gatherings. Personally coming from a family who has a range of perspectives on politics, unless you want to leave the room frustrated or fighting with someone, you don’t bring up politics. It’s honestly sad that this is normal for me and so many others. Why can’t we have a civil conversation about important topics without ending the conversation in a fight?


At Notre Dame, my friends and I always like to talk about how we are in a bubble and it seems as if the outside world doesn’t exist because we are so consumed with school. However, as we are getting closer and closer to the presidential election, I feel like the topic of politics is still generally avoided. Especially during my freshman year, people were so hesitant to bring up anything in relation to politics in America. 


Why is this? Why are people not talking about politics, especially during a time when it seems like everything is on the line? As much as I would like to, I don't tend to talk about politics with my friends because I don't want their political views to change my perspective of what I think about them as a person, and more importantly, I don't want to lose them as a friend. Now, if this were any other election I don’t think the possibility of losing a friend because of a political view would be this high. However, we are living during a time when “cancel culture” is popular and things such as basic human rights and wearing a mask have become politicized. I feel that this is when the silence needs to stop and politics needs to be discussed, despite the potential high risk of losing friends. Whether we like it or not, our political view reveals a lot about who we are as a person and the values that we hold.


College is a time to expand our views and have these conversations in order to better understand opposing opinions and better develop our views. Yet even HERE at Notre Dame, a place where we are told to expand our views and dive deep into conversations about the world, the topic of politics is generally avoided. As Father Jenkins likes to tell us, "these are unprecedented times." With one of the most contentious elections in our lifetime coming up coinciding with a global pandemic and civil rights movement, let’s start a conversation. For many of us, this election will be the first presidential election we vote in, and we need to talk about it.


So the ultimate question is, how? How do we have these conversations that are imperative to our growth as a society, while also being cognizant of our personal relationship and not taking offense to beliefs which oppose our own? Honestly, I don't have an answer and I really wish I did. As we’ve seen on the news today, our own politicians seem to have trouble talking about politics in a civil manner, but I do think it is possible as long as we are willing to have a conversation, find common ground, and stay calm.  

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In order to have these conversations, both sides need to be willing to have a conversation. You need to understand that you will most likely not change their mind. It is unrealistic that you will and it defeats the whole purpose of the conversation, which is to better understand the other side. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who isn't really listening to them and is rather just telling them why they are wrong. Have an open mind and listen to what they are saying.


As difficult as it may seem during a time when our country seems so polarized, it is beneficial to find common ground with someone with opposing views. Regardless of our political views, we all have something in common -- we want to make our country better. The United States is unlike any other country because its people have such an undying love for it, and although at times it seems that there is so much wrong with the country and we are so far from perfect, we all have hope things will get better, and we will triumph over the evil, whether it be COVID or racial injustice. We aspire for more, for better and that is something we can all unite behind.


Throughout all this, we need to stay calm. This one is probably the most difficult, yet the most important. When talking about politics with friends you need to stay calm, especially when someone says something that you don't agree with. This is so difficult because we are not just talking about something unimportant like who should have won the Bachelor, but the fate of our nation. You don’t necessarily need to respect their opinion, but understand that they are entitled to that opinion, as you are yours. 


At the end of the day whether you decide to have a conversation about the upcoming election or not, there is one thing I want you all to take away and that is you need to vote in November. If the past six months have taught us anything, it is that our government matters and really does impact our lives. Set aside 10 minutes a day educating yourself about the candidates, so that you can cast an educated vote. It is not only your civic duty to vote, but a privilege for you to get to decide who you want to control the fate of the nation. Stay safe, wear a mask, and VOTE! [bf_image id="qdxh19-cwqos8-b2obco"]

Isabelle Grassel

Notre Dame '23

Hi, my name is Isabelle Grassel. I am from West Sacramento, Calfornia, majoring in political science with a supplementary major in Spanish and a minor in business economics. I love drinking coffee, running, and hanging out with my friends.
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