Liberty Just in Case

A Dialogue for the September 12th World

The Value of Saying…Nothing

Posted by Mark on December 20, 2005

This is one of those days when every peice in OpinionJournal is worth reading. But the last one, the value of RealPolitick, is a keeper:

In the end, I realized, you can’t save every relationship that totters because of politics. The best you can do is ditch the friends who can’t see beyond left and right, and hang onto the ones who are prepared to stick with you no matter what.Consider another pal, one who hung in there even though he doesn’t see eye to eye with me in the least.

A voluble Deaniac, he sent me a string of notes during last year’s campaign asking pointed questions about the war effort and the president’s moral authority. If anything, he was an even more dangerous sparring partner than my former friend: He started every argument with disarming caveats about his own side, and when he went in for the kill he had much better facts at his command. I couldn’t dismiss what he said as a fever dream.

In one sense, it was everything I didn’t want in a friendship. For long, exhausting stretches all we talked about was politics, and I hardly ever held my own. But ideology never affected our friendship. He didn’t trust the right, but he trusted me–and he was genuinely curious to know how I squared my personal ethics with those of the supposedly compromised hawkish establishment.We didn’t convert each other, by any means, but I like to think we both ended up wiser for the experience–even if I’m still ducking some of his better questions.

Which brings me to one last big lesson from the past three years: Pick your fights. Don’t jump at every chance to defend your side in a debate. Wait for arguments that you can answer with elegance and good humor, and take the rest in stride.

Good rules. Important rules for the dinner table, and for the blogosphere.

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