When I was young, there were members of my family (and other folk) who were extraordinarily sensitive on some matters - disagreeing with them caused them to explode, sometimes even mere mention of a topic was enough to get them fuming. I remember being told to simply avoid such topics, or to "humour so-and-so". I've always had a hard time doing so, nor, probably about twenty years after first hearing that, do I think it's something I'm willing to keep trying at. I realise that it's often impolitic, but when I get the feeling that someone's "broken" in some way, some part of me wants to bring it out, expose it, maybe based on the theory that these things, exposed enough, are forced to be exposed to enough retrospection that the issues get fixed. This may be unrealistic, or it may be quite realistic -- I'm not sure. At the same time, this urge is tempered by my preference for polite (or at least civil) discussion of issues - I have this notion that civilised people should be able to discuss things that are deeply of import to both of them, making no progress in the discussion and having diametrically opposed views, without resorting to personal attacks or getting all emotional. This also may be unrealistic, although it's an ideal that I hold. Finally, I believe that taking firm (possibly mutable, but only rarely changed in practice) stands on issues is an important thing to do. I find it aggrevating when I talk with people whose opinions always reflect the last person they talk to, or who always and only draw inspiration from a single other person (e.g. family, a close friend, etc). This also may be unrealistic.
By unrealistic, I don't mean that noone could reach the state of these things, but that in practice, few people have done so, probably because few people share the values I have that lead them to these notions of good character. This is a lesson from Nietzsche - I don't like the Overman, but he is remarkably different in aim and essense from many other ideals of being - it's easy to lose sight of exactly how different these notions of the good are when one listens to people zooming in on similarities in different cultures in order to "sell them" as part of multiculturalism. I don't think that those who hold ideals such as the three above can ever hope to be popular in American culture (at least) -- to do that, one would have to never take (or at least express) stands that might offend anyone (except groups of people one can discount entirely, like some flavours of christians do for atheists, some liberals do for conservatives, etc), be willing to back off when one does take a stand that offends someone, and tout the "party line"/values native to whatever broad social group(s)/classes one is part of... or simply be very quiet and not talk about contentious subjects. I think all this leads to an amplification effect - people only rarely hear opinions different than their group's status quo.
For the curious, this is partly but not entirely relating to an interesting LJ conversation that happened recently.