Cast your thoughts back to the middle of the 20th century. Yes, I know many of you can do so – you were born in that era and, though childhood memories may be a bit fuzzy. Lots of us are old guys who grew up in a Minnesota that was much more rural and young and Christian and white. We pretty much agreed on most things. That made it relatively easy to manage our politics, but even back then we knew our best bet was to keep our traps shut about that topic during Thanksgiving dinner.
In fact, when I got interested in electronics during high school, the more or less default advice on being a good ham radio operator was to never broach any of three deadly subjects on the air: sex, religion, and politics.
That was good advice then and it’s good advice now. In fact, it’s even more so in 2020, when our new Minnesota is so diverse and our political landscape is so polarized. We come to ham radio because we share a common interest in one or more of its many facets – circuit building, antennas, public service, contesting, DX, hidden transmitter hunting, space communications, digital modes, CW, DMR, SOTA, portable operation, special events, teaching and volunteering, and so many more. Most of us leverage those topics by making them part of our on the air activities.
No one is suggesting that talking about non-ham related activities is a bad thing. In fact, it’s fun to connect with others who share your interest in other hobbies or topic areas like history, science, aviation, firearms, or stamp collecting.
But much of life is about being practical. Making good choices. Thinking about consequences.
So yes, we can talk about the toxic three: sex, religion, and politics. The question is whether we should, because going there is like stepping into a minefield. You may get through unscathed, but like as not someone is going away unhappy. Back in mid-20th century Minnesota, we were more alike than different, and the mines were further apart. Today, we are way more diverse – different in our ethnicity, age, religious background, and yes, politics. That makes for a minefield with a lot more mines.
Don’t assume that the op you are talking with on the air shares your beliefs on these toxic three. You may be surprised that even those in your own demographic think differently on one or more of them. Furthermore, the damage can filter outward from such conversations and be bad for Amateur Radio in general. I have lost count of the remarks about “old dudes on 75 m” that I have seen on social media platforms frequented by younger folks. Guys going on about their politics and religion are a MASSIVE turn-off to young people who might be interested in ham radio.
Are we in it for fun, friendship, public service, and learning? Yes!
Are we in it for arguments and proselytising? Not me. Let’s make better choices on the air. Please.