COLUMN: An uncomfortable change in tone

I’m disappointed with the sneering, condescending attitude I’m noticing

Political comments I’ve heard from a couple of friends over the past couple of weeks have left me puzzled and concerned.

People I have known for many years are now speaking out about national and international issues, and their comments follow strong partisan lines.

These people are deeply concerned with significant problems they see – problems they believe could be fixed by the right leader or party. And they don’t mince words when they praise one leader or party or when they condemn another.

It’s a significant shift, since until recently, neither one seemed to have strong political views.

My issue isn’t with their politics or partisan affiliations. Instead, I’m disappointed with the sneering, condescending attitude I’m noticing.

They’re not the first people to take on a critical tone when talking politics, and they won’t be the last. I’ve witnessed it time and again, in conversations, online discussions and even in some of the letters to the editor which come across my desk.

But this is different.

Until a couple of years ago, neither of these people had a harsh word to say about anyone or anything.

Today, there’s a mocking tone when they refer to those who disagree with them.

We still talk, but it isn’t the same. Over the past year or two, conversations have become strained. I’d rather avoid the hot-button topics, but this is becoming more and more difficult.

How did this change happen?

From what I can tell, it has a lot to do with the influence of people around them.

Each one has trusted friends or close acquaintances who are outspoken and who hold radical, uncompromising political views.

These positions may have once seemed incredible, but the shock value has long since worn off. Extreme views are now seen as reasonable or moderate.

It has been said that people are much like their closest friends. They tend to have similar levels of education, reach similar levels in their careers, hold similar political, social or religious views and live similar lifestyles.

And over time, the voices and messages one hears most frequently will become part of one’s own voice and message.

A tolerant, caring person usually has friends who emulate the same characteristics.

Likewise, when one is surrounded by people with extreme views or by brash people, such attitudes and behaviours can develop.

That’s why it’s important to consider one’s friends. They will have a strong influence.

It’s also a good idea to have some contact with those who hold to different views and opinions.

Not everyone sees the world in the same way. We don’t all agree — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

There’s a lot to be learned from those with different opinions.

Each week, in the pages of the Summerland Review, we run letters to the editor where writers express strong views on a variety of topics. And this year, we have run pieces from guest columnists on our editorial page at the paper.

The purpose of these letters and columns is to present a variety of voices and views.

Not everyone will agree with every item we run in the paper, but it is worthwhile to consider a variety of positions.

There is value in hearing differing views and reading a variety of opinions.

And there is value in discussing these differences, in a polite, respectful manner.

As for my friends and their political diatribes, I hope their tone will change soon. I miss our earlier discussions.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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