Friday, September 28, 2012


Civilly: With Respect and Affection 

A highly regarded person significant to me has acquired a perspective quite different from mine in recent years.  Throughout my lifetime this older person and I generally agreed on many aspects of life though a decade exists between our ages.     Often in such relationships there may be a period of time when the younger one looks up to the older one, regarding them as more experienced, knowledgeable and sophisticated in the world’s ways.   
The years pass but the age difference always spans the same number of years.  Both individuals experience and knowledge begins to evolve into a more equal state -- whether or not they each recognize this has occurred.  The older one in some relationships may not always accept such equality as fact.  A multitude of other personal variances in thought and activities will likely develop, but the emotional bond remains strong.   During the ensuing years natural aging processes that began at birth continue to exert their influences.  We are more aware of aging effects the older we become as has occurred in my relationship.

Life's later years may sometimes result in the older one beginning to experience sensory restrictions adversely affecting communication.   Visual and hearing loss, for example, can create complicating sensory difficulties.      Medical events occasionally result in some people also acquiring reasoning and/or judgment issues.  The combination of any or all of these effects can present all sorts of limitations -- some in ways that seem to unfairly challenge that person's logical thinking -- even altering their perception of the world around them.

For example, some individuals may have difficulty formulating quick concise responses to launch a timely verbal offense when disagreeing on issues.   The decreased speaking rate is obvious when we recall the precise articulating of an idea and rapidity with which the person was once able to react.  Slowed response, or delayed speech alone, does not necessarily mean a person is incapable of thinking clearly, only that the process may simply take longer.

Individuals experiencing this slowed reaction may become easily frustrated and angry partly because of this unwelcome change in ability.    Additionally, the act of thinking and communicating may be very tiring for them.  If various sensory communication difficulties are present also, sometimes individuals may blame the person with whom they’re talking as being the cause of any misunderstandings that may occur.    Generally, the desire to be engaged, to have our ideas and our opinions receive serious consideration -- simply to be heard -- is what they and we all value. 
The person in my life has derived great delight through the years being a devil’s advocate on many issues.  Such opposition has been assumed partially because that person wants to stimulate thinking and reasoning, but also has been prompted by actual disagreement on some matters.    Any sensory and/or mental functional complications become obstacles to such dynamic debate when these changes occur, whatever the cause. 
Given my personal feelings, I think my dear older one having to make such adaptations seems quite unjust.   Yet I know that these can be changes with which we all may need to cope at any age or stage of life.   They may be especially challenging as we become older.  
I know my communication challenge is to make necessary allowances for my dear ones limitations.  I realize, too, some people have to make far more complex adjustments.  Still, I must admit that my patience is sometimes stretched to its very limits during our conversations.    When we strongly disagree, I think my edging toward impatience is partly because I must restrain from using a full arsenal of rebuttal information -- facts with which I once could have countered inaccurate statements I’m expected to accept as truth.   But when the implication is repeatedly made that my opposing view can only be because I’m “simply ill informed,” my hackles do rise.  

That's when I've been surprised to feel sudden unbidden competitive impulses emerging.   I want to exploit my opponent’s obvious functional communication weaknesses to diminish that attitudinal superior point of view.    I strain to avoid seizing the discussion point from which to launch a grand verbal coup d’etat – a triumph I could easily accomplish, partly because of my opposition’s weakened physical, sensory and mental processing state.   My fervor wanes when I consider the unintended ricochet damage to my opponent’s already diminished ego from health and aging assaults.  So, I resist – where would be the victory in such circumstances?

This political season has presented especially difficult challenges as we have come to occupy profoundly opposite positions on how best to chart this nation’s future.   I usually manage to avoid much political discussion because so much of what my dear one presents to me seems to have derived from very limited sources of questionable credibility -- quite unlike our issue discussions many years ago.  My necessarily limited refuting facts are countered primarily by the accusatory assertion that I've been "brain-washed."   There is no possibility of altering either of our points of view in this circumstance.  
I remind myself that sometimes we just need to allow an individual to fully express themselves.    We must simply be a listener, affirming what is said as being heard without having to agree or disagree.    I readily do this in my work. as appropriate, and with select others.  Applying this approach when there has been a close personal relationship, especially with a spouse or family member, can introduce quite different human dynamics as I’ve observed.

So it is that the printed greeting on my dear ones personal message account has begun with one sentence, then other statements have been subsequently added (all specifically meant for me, I think):   
Those who do not learn from past mistakes are doomed to repeat them.  None are so blind as those who will not see.   Those who bury their head in the sand expose their rear end to predators. 

I totally agree with all these quotes, but my rebuttal paraphrase is this:   

None are so blind as those whose head is buried in the sand, exposing their rear ends to predators, while deluding themselves by loudly pronouncing that others cannot see.  They have not learned from past mistakes, so are doomed to repeat them.  
If circumstances were different, I’m sure we would have a rollicking good laugh in this word play game.    I would be awaiting a likely-to-be fascinating response from that dear person who has always been able to raise my ire when others could not. 

Years ago when we occasionally disagreed on a variety of what now would seem like mundane matters, my dear one uttered words I was hearing for the first time then.     I try to remember to inject them into our infrequent but necessarily brief dialogue, since they apply now in capital letters:  

So, it seems we do agree after all.  

I expect many of you are encountering political differences with family, friends and loved ones, especially this Presidential election year.    The challenge is to civilly cope, maintain or even nurture respect, love and affection with those for whom we care.  We do so despite the sometimes bitter discourse they may introduce from pundits and politicians who foster such to divide us, often deliberately.  I hope navigating these treacherous political waters is proving to be relatively smooth-going for you and am interested in your experiences. 

(Revised extensively from original publication titled "Political Differences" at Ronni Bennett's "The Elder Storytelling Place.")


  1. Thanks for the thoughtful piece, Joared. When I have arguments with myself, I try to allow for the fact that my mental and verbal facilities are not as sharp as they were 60 years ago. ; )
    Cop Car

    1. I'm glad to know that you're considerate with yourself. That may indicate that there's hope you will be with others, too. ;-)

  2. Politics and religion - 2 topics that always manage to arouse people's ire, even on my blog!

  3. Agree to disagree is the watchword in my family. MY husband, children and grandchildren all have different opinions which it would take me a series of blog posts to explain, and which we don't discuss via such a public forum. (They can't see what I write here.)

    My husband, age 83, is very supportive of Romney and Ryan, and although I liked Romney a great deal when he was governor of Massachusetts owing to his compassionate, integrity and fically responsible positions, I think right-wing Republicans have pushed him too far to the right on social issues. Ditto the Democrats who seem to have lost their bearings regarding the left-wing POV and their failure to realize that we must prioritize our goals and objectives and never confuse need with want. (I also disagree with their energy policy, i.,.e fracking), and their foreign policy or lack thereof.)

    Need is when you have truly needy folks who depend on the compassion of strangers. How they got into that state might be owing to thier own poor life choices (I have a few relatives that fit that description), but once they are down and out, it is cruel to not give them some assistance. Note I said some, enabling them to continue a destructive life style is not good for them or me.

    Want is a goody list that cannot possibly be fulfilled with limited $$. As Margaret Thatcher said, Socialism works fine until you run out of other people's money. I don't want to kill the Golden Goose.

    However, I do support gay rights to marriage (I have another relative who is very concerned about this issue). And, I support other social issues too, like a woman's right to choose, which some women in my a victim of rape...have used for abortion. However I don't want to pay for her right to choose. Of course there are always exceptions to any generalization. I do support funds for pregnant underage mothers...and helping them further their education and get a job.

    I am what used to be known as a Blue Dog Democrat..fiscally conservative and socially liberl. A dying breed whose members are fewer every year. (The last Blue Dog victim was Gabby Giffords.)

    In our family,

  4. I so hate confrontation. I can't even watch the debates.

  5. Dear Joared, mostly I refrain from talking politics with anyone--except those who are on the same page I am. The media has a lot to answer for in today's politic scene. It takes any misspoken word or action and blows it out of proportion. It makes mountains out of molehills. Unfortunately, most politicians do this also. I think that almost everyone in the public eye believes that the rest of us are imbeciles. Peace.

  6. We have a few relatives totally on the other side of the political fence from us. We keep the peace by just listening to their blather without comment. However, doing that makes us second-class participants in the relationship. Are we being cowardly by refraining from speaking our minds? Or, are we wise to follow that course?

    How much can ordinary humans be expected to put up with? I guess the answer is when a relationship becomes unbearable because of differences about important matters there's very little recourse other than to end the relationship.

  7. It takes a lot of patience to deal with some of my friends. And it's not just about political matters. But since I value them so much I put up with a lot of their sometimes quite rude behavior and remind myself that they have compensating attributes.
    I do wish that people who have vision and hearing problems would deal with them instead of going into denial about inevitable changes that come with age.