[Huffington Post.com] Five Tips for Effectively Debating Politics at Your Next Party, Wedding, Funeral, Workplace Function and/or Family Holiday Gathering
As has been the case since roughly February 2015, it’s an election year. But not just any election year! This is the most important election in the history of the country [since 2012, anyway], and the stakes will never be higher [until 2020]. It’s a showdown between the candidate who singlehandedly can save the country and the candidate who will lead us to levels of ruin not seen since [insert name of the last President you didn’t vote for] was in office, and everybody is talking about it.
Here’s the awkward realization that hits you after outlining a so-far mediocre story based on initially unremarkable people: You’re devoting two forms of storytelling — words and, eventually, expressive pictures — to people who are, chief above all, plain.
And then you have a brief moment where you consider changing the characters to animals or aliens or robots before realizing that anything other than plain people undermines the essence this so-far plain story that might, with a lot of work, be funny one day.
I’m not one to name-drop, because people who drop names never do not sound ridiculous when doing so. But I can’t run down this post without running past Roger Ebert, who, when I met him some 15ish years ago as a college newspaper opinion page columnist, dispensed the best and simplest advice about writing I ever received:
Don’t stare at a blank page. Write something down. And don’t read what you just wrote.
I forget where it was or what the occasion was, but I remember what I was looking at when the name eventually came to me. I was early, the folks I was meeting for food were not, and I was seated near a table of friends who were having a perfectly docile conversation about nothing I can remember — perhaps work, perhaps their food, perhaps the possibility of the NHL lockout ruining whatever small chance the Blackhawks had of winning a second Stanley Cup this decade before their window of opportunity closed.
All I remember is what happened when someone decided to steer the conversation toward the looming 2012 election, the mood around which by then had grown unbearably toxic despite how nostalgic we might be for it when looking at what lies ahead in 2016.