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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Just say no to pairing politics with beer

Pairing beer with politics is an American tradition older than the nation itself. Elements of the American revolution were planned and prepared for in pubs across the North East, some of which are still open for business to this day. In a recent article on beer and American history, found in the pages of the July issue of Beer Advocate, a few examples are given.

"On a Philadelphia night in late June, sitting in a tap room as the air fizzed with flies and was thick with the adolescent summer heat, three men pored over the day's work. That night, amidst "the temptations of pipes and bowls, cards and dice, beer and rum" at the Indian Queen Tavern, a new form of government was born, in the words of historian Charles Mee.

The three Constitutional Convention delegates in the tap room on June 30, 1787 - Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and John Rutledge and James Madison of Virginia - came together in the same tavern where Thomas Jefferson wrote a draft of the Declaration of Independence. They left with the idea for the republican model of government."

There's two examples of constructive political discussion carried out over a few beers. Critical building blocks of the very foundation of the USA were achieved, in part, within taverns. In some cases, beer and taverns were used, not to foster intellectual pursuits, but to get folks riled up, and to incite some less than civil behavior.

"The Boston Tea Party, on Dec. 16 1773, took place after Samuel Adams and John Hancock met with the Sons of Liberty in Boston's Green Dragon Tavern "to conspire and incite," writes Smith. The wealthy Hancock had donated barrels of beer, and the Sons consumed plenty of it before offering the infamous cargo to the Atlantic"

While the Boston Tea Party is a key event in the American revolution, all too often, I've been a part of discussions of a political nature that have turned a bit boisterous and certainly less intellectual than should be expected. I'm happy to report, however, that I never once illegally entered a ship dressed as a Native American, not have I ever dumped crates of tea into Boston Harbor. Well, there was that one time...

My point is, discussing politics with friends and family over a few beers can easily turn into something less than civilized. Sadly, I know this first hand.

Some background on me
I've always had strong political opinions, but I really embraced following politics as a hobby around the time of the 2000 Presidential election. The events of September 11, 2001 only amplified my interest in politics. My military career is largely affected by national politics, so one could say I have a personal stake in what happens in Washington. I think its a good thing to be interested in and informed about politics. The trick is not to let it consume you. For a time, it did consume me. It was nearly all I thought and talked about. I even started a web site to discuss politics and blogged about all sorts of related topics every day, regularly engaging in blog warfare with those that had different opinions than I. What a complete waste of time.

Whoa is me...

I'll just get this out in the open, I'm a conservative, but I do not belong to any political party. As a conservative living in a very liberal state, I'm also a minority of sorts. My view points are mocked and looked down upon by most of the folks that live around me. Even my traditional Christian values are ridiculed at times, interesting that I'm mocked by folks that claim to believe in diversity and tolerance.

Some of my friends may even think of me as a close minded mislead kool-aid drinker. This creates a feeling of being under siege, surrounded and disrespected. Not fun, not fun at all. Add beer into the mix, and it can get down right ugly. I can remember a few conversations that nearly came to blows a few years ago. How stupid...

At some point, I got tired of defending my political views, of trying to convince my friends that Jon Stewart may be funny, but he's not an actual unbiased news source. So, I gave up, and decided to make every attempt to avoid political topics in my social life, particularly at the bar.

An epiphany... Why can't we all just get along?
The fact of the matter is, I like my friends despite our political differences. I respect the fact that folks can agree to disagree, and that having a very different view point doesn't necessarily make you or your candidate an evil, unpatriotic, idiot who is hell bent on destroying our country. The sad thing is, I'm not so sure all of the folks around me have come to that same conclusion.

I now find myself biting my tongue when I hear childish, personal attacks on candidates and regular people that share my values. I'll tell you though, it IS difficult sometimes. I find those urges to "fight back" often simmering just below the surface. For some reason, it really REALLY irritates me when folks develop political view points based on a Daily Show gag and a few blog posts they found on Fark.com. That being said, Jon Stewart is pretty damn funny, and Fark is a great site.

In the interest of 'fair and balanced' blogging...
Now don't get me wrong, I have a couple of conservative friends that swing a little too far to the right for my taste. I think it may be a reaction to their environment, but none the less, they're just as guilty for coming up with snap opinions based on blogs and questionable media sources. And they're all too quick to use personal attacks on those that hold different views.

Where am I going with all of this?
Why am I talking politics on a beer blog? I really hate it when partisan politics get in the way of good friends enjoying good conversation over a few good beers. As this political season heats up I ask that if you can't be civil and fair when discussing politics, if you can't avoid the cheap shots, regardless of how you lean politically, then lets respectfully agree to disagree. Now please keep it to yourself and hand me a beer. I'm sure there's something much more interesting we can discuss...


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