DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a liberal college town in a more conservative state. So there’s a large mix, and I suppose you could call the overall atmosphere “moderate.” It’s hard to know where people stand on an issue unless they’re wearing a T-shirt or have a bumper sticker that announces it.
As I work in customer service, I interact with a lot of people, both as customers (obviously) and as new employees. One new employee, in her late teens or early 20s, saw a customer wearing a shirt with a religious message. She said something to me about it, seeming to think I would agree with her, though I said nothing. As we helped the customer, I told her that I liked her shirt. Later, the new girl seemed a bit irked with me and lectured me that she was agnostic -- explaining what that was, even though I already knew. I explained that I tend to adopt a “live and let live” attitude about other religions.
Should she have made the comment she did to me, not knowing what I believe? Am I wrong for thinking that certain topics, such as politics and religion, should be off-limits when one is unaware of another’s affiliations? I know that social media has made it easier for people to be more vocal about what they believe while hiding behind a screen, but I feel it is inappropriate to bring up the subjects unless one knows how those they are conversing with stand.
GENTLE READER: The old rule about not discussing politics and religion seemed so antiquated until recent years, didn’t it?
Miss Manners is hereby resurrecting it, and recommending that you ask your employees to observe it -- and that you adhere to it yourself, despite the admitted temptation offered by those whose clothing tries to provoke such conversations.