My first business trip to the United States of America was in 2006 or 2007. I remember how excited I was when I was issued my first TN visa allowing me to work in the US, and the pride I felt standing before my audiences as a trainer representing a great brand. Over the course of the first few years of my work authorization I visited numerous American cities and states, and I remember even then the obvious divide between those on the left and those on the right.
I remember delivering a course in that first year in which, during one of the breaks, we (my students and I) had a political discussion. Despite our being on opposite sides of the debate, it was friendly and respectful. I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed hearing the positions from others who I may not have agreed with, but were still respectful and calm.
And then there was TechEd.
I do not remember what year it was that I first went to Microsoft TechEd, but I seem to recall that it was in Orlando. There was a group of Microsoft Certified Trainers sitting in the hot tub at the hotel after all the festivities were over one night, and I got into a very heated and animated and loud discussion with a group of people who were, shall we say, set in their ways and were not interested in hearing any position other than their own. At the end of the evening, a friend of mine took me aside and warned me that I was not making friends, and that I should tone it down. He was right.
It was not long thereafter that I made the decision to stop. I came up with the line that ‘I am a guest in this country, and while I am, I will keep my political opinions to myself.’ It took me a while to get used to it and completely stop discussing American politics while here… but I think I finally got there.
If you think that in the current climate that is easy, you are sorely mistaken.
I moved to the United States in December, 2018. I have lived here for nearly two years, and in that time I have done my best to keep my positions on many matters to myself. That is not limited to Republican versus Democrat, Trump vs. Biden, and so on and so on. There are so many political hot-button issues that people are absolutely fanatical about. Every week I am asked to sign a petition or make a donation or support this or denounce that. Mitch, please join this group on Facebook to show your support for this-or-that politician. Make sure you buy a t-shirt or get a bumper sticker or tattoo that shows you believe in this. Stand with us! It has not been a particularly easy couple of years in that respect.
Many of the positions I refuse to take are for or against something that I have strong feelings about, and it is hard to keep saying no… but I do. There are some that it is extremely in vogue to support or denounce, but I hold my tongue. Why? I am a guest in this country.
For the record, when people ask my opinion about Canada or Israel, two countries where I am a citizen and a voter, I am happy to share and discuss and debate… I have earned that right, and nobody can ever take it away from me.
In November, in forty-six days (according to the countdown timer on a friend’s blog that I follow) there will be an election in the US. We call it the Presidential Election, but really it is president, senators, congressmen, judges, and so much more. That means that for the next 46 days this country will be even more political and politically divided than usual… and with the current issues, including but not limited to the pandemic, the vitriol will be as bad as ever, and likely much worse. I am not looking forward to that.
I live in Westlake Village, Ventura County, California. This town, and from what I understand the county, is strongly right-wing. I do not know how true that is, but the friends that hang out with are. We sit in the park and smoke our cigars, and when they talk about their politics (more often than you would think) I sit back and listen. The fact that I do not voice my opinions does not mean that I am not informed, and that I do not want to hear other peoples’. Most of them think that because I refuse to engage (often on topics they discuss trying to goad me into it) I must have a strong opinion the other way. That is sometimes the case, but not as often as they think.
The truth is that over the years and with age I have become something of an anomaly. I am a political moderate, and do not identify with either left or right wing… at least, not across the spectrum. There are some opinions I hold that are somewhat leftist… and others that are somewhat rightist. Some of those opinions come out in how I speak, especially when someone asks me about Canada or Israel. My position on health care, for example, is clear. I will discuss the benefits of the Canadian system, but I will not say what they should do in the USA to change it.
Being a political moderate has its challenges. At any given point I am going to anger people on one extreme or the other, so it makes sense to not speak my mind anyways. And yes, when we look at the United States, more and more we are talking about two extremes. There does not seem to be a moderate movement here. You are either far this or far that, and if someone is against your position they must be either a communist or a fascist, and if they do not support your organization they must be a racist or a homophobe or a whatever. I am none of those things. I am just me, a moderate centrist in a sea of extremists, trying to stay in my lane and not piss too many people off.
I know there are people who love elections. Whether it is because of the juice, or the conflict, or the energy, or the potential for change or to stay the same, whatever it is there are those who love it. I don’t mind it so much in Canada, where I have voted in every election since I was old enough. Here, while this craziness is going on, while everyone is putting bumper stickers on their cars, lawn signs in their front yard, flying flags and wearing hats and getting VOTE FOR MY GUY tattooed on their foreheads, I am just going to try to weather the storm. In 53 days (it definitely does not stop the day after the election, so let’s call it a week) things will start to calm down again… and we non-political moderates will be able to come out from our hiding places.
G-d Bless EVERYONE!