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I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people's identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that's part of their identity. By definition they're partisan.Bruce Carlson, host of My History Can Beat Up Your Politics [iTunes], knows this. The historical lens glimmers as one of our last hopes for a way to talk about politics, a reasonable-izing agent, a technique that neutralizes the way politics can get so, well, political, and so he uses to look at current political questions. You might say that he either approaches history through politics or approaches politics through history — both seem true enough. Does the politics spice up the history, or does the history temper the politics? Does the history offer a way to understand the politics, or does the politics offer a way to understand the history? Does it matter?
Which topics engage people's identity depends on the people, not the topic. For example, a discussion about a battle that included citizens of one or more of the countries involved would probably degenerate into a political argument. But a discussion today about a battle that took place in the Bronze Age probably wouldn't. No one would know what side to be on.