Thank you, Prudie!

October 26, 2006 at 1:04 pm (Social and Politics)

I always run into this problem when I’m in the UK!
From Dear Prudence: Advice on manners and morals.

Dear Prudence,
I am a twentysomething American musician living in Europe. Part of my job is meeting new people—musicians with whom I play, sponsors, and the audience after a concert. I’ve been here about a year, and I repeatedly run into the same situation. I’ll meet a group of people, we’ll chat about two minutes, and someone will make some comment about how my president should be killed (really!) and seems to want to know how much I agree. I don’t bring up politics before this happens. Regardless of my political views, I find it offensive to have anyone bring up the subject of how someone else should be killed. I’m still not sure what the best response is to this statement. I don’t want to share my politics with a complete stranger, and I don’t want to do anything to further any American stereotypes they already have. However, I want to convey how this statement is inappropriate and makes me uncomfortable.

—Speechless in Europe

Dear Speechless,
If “Nice weather we’re having” has been replaced with “It’s about time someone shot your president” as small talk in Europe, don’t worry about giving Americans a bad name if you convey your abhorrence. But because this comes up in the course of your work, it’s understandable that you want to turn the remarks aside without getting into a political debate. You could reply directly: “No, I wouldn’t like to see any president assassinated.” You could change the subject: “Hmm … So, I hope you enjoyed the concert.” You could point out the logical consequence of their desire: “You must be a Dick Cheney fan, because he would become the next president.” One discouraging feature of today’s political discourse is the assumption that if you and someone else share particular characteristics (a love of music), then you certainly must be like-minded on all things (the desirability of killing the president). If your polite attempts to end the assassination discussion are met with more fervent efforts to draw you in, then say what you said so well in your letter: “I’m uncomfortable discussing how someone should be killed. Let’s not talk about politics.”

—Prudie

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