I attended a bridal shower over the weekend and caught up with some people I hadn’t seen in a long time. A lot of talk was about our families and a few of my conversations included sharing that my father had died of COVID three years ago.

While talking about not being able to see him at the end or say goodbye, one person remarked that it was a travesty we were forced to follow those rules of staying away. I met her observation with silence. She repeated it. Again, I didn’t respond.

Because of course I understood and still understand why those rules were put in place during a global pandemic. I didn’t take them as a personal affront, but a crucial safety measure at a harrowing time for everyone.

The point is, we keep being told to avoid talking politics because it’s impolite. And that we shouldn’t let politics affect our longstanding relationships.

OK, that’s a well-intentioned and noble idea. But when is the last time you tried to do this without running into an issue?

In this instance at the bridal shower, I chose silence. It was a celebratory, social event. I was a guest. No way was I going to meet that statement with my real opinion in that context. And this person wasn’t being at all confrontational. I am certain she travels in circles where this opinion isn’t controversial, but a given.

This is how entrenched we’ve become in our belief systems. This is often the point where people like to point out that I, too, am entrenched; thanks for the heads up, but I am well aware of that.

Social media interactions where threads of dialogue intentionally invite political discourse can go from prickly to hot so quickly. But have you seen what happens on a lot of non-political social media pages or posts?

I belong to a Facebook page that welcomes posts showing pictures of what you see from your window. On a daily basis, I’m thrilled to see beautiful landscapes with mountains or bodies of water or fields of flowers from all over the world. Some days, the beauty lies in the simplicity of a backyard the resident has made into a haven.

But I’ve seen the overwhelmingly peaceful vibe on that page go off the rails several times. Posts of the sea from Israel, for example. One from a Trump property. Another because a pride flag was on display. Nastiness ensued.

On another page I follow from a beach community, a resident was understandably concerned that random strangers had parked in front of his/her home and set up a grill and a table right there on the street. While most on the thread were supportive in their concern, it went sour because someone decided “freeloaders” must be “libtards” – always nice to know the right-wing media message has penetrated. He encouraged voting for Trump to eliminate this problem, adding how much the new felon loves our vets (patently, provably false, by the way), which had nothing to do with anything.

That’s another one where I chose silence, because honestly, where do you go with that? No point introducing facts into that distorted equation.

I wish you luck in navigating the discourse, wherever your beliefs lie. Landmines are everywhere.

[Editorial Note: This is my ninth installment in a series I began in order to give my writing some flow after being in a healing phase from knee surgeries for a year (2023-24).]

[This post was originally published on Facebook on June 3, 2024.]