I’ve been mulling over an issue I’ve had with my family for over a year now, and I still don’t know how to proceed. I have three sisters (one of whom is very similar to myself, ideologically, while the other two are in line with my parents) and my parents. In a specific context, my parents are wonderful people. They are kind, generous, and loving—but in a classic Christian conservative kind of way (e.g. they give to their church to help the poor, but don’t like that the government takes taxes to support social programs). Growing up, the rule was always “don’t talk about politics” for two reasons: 1) it was assumed that everyone was in agreement and 2) it was assumed that “it’s just politics” and therefore wasn’t very important. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve swung way to the left politically and have become about as liberal as it’s possible to be. This didn’t really come up with my family until 2016. My sister and I asked my parents not to vote for Trump, but they did. It devastated me—I thought my parents were good enough people to realize how terrible he was, but they’ve fallen for every thing Fox News tells them. I used to speak to my mom every week to catch up on family stuff; I’ve only spoken to them 3-4 times total since the election. I don’t know what to do. I dream (literally, I have had several dreams along these lines) of reconciling with them, of them understanding what hurt they’ve caused…but I don’t know how to get there from here. Going back to how it was (i.e. not discussing politics) is possible, but feels like a compromise of my values. Never speaking to them again is possible but hurts to contemplate. Any advice for a middle ground?
Heldraga the Unseen
Unfortunately, you are far from alone in this conundrum. A lot of people have been having to reckon with the toxic politics of people they love over the past year. The ideological divide in our country has probably never been wider or harder to ignore. For a long time, people were able to hide their conservative or liberal leanings behind the idea of “big government versus small government”—but this is no longer what our two main political parties stand for. The Republicans don’t want small government, they want (and are making blatant grabs for) all of the money, all of the power, and control over the choices of others based on their pseudo-religious, puritanical views of how people should live—which are based less on religion, and more on trying to keep old rich white men in control. This makes conversations about politics both easier and harder to have—on the one hand, it’s easier to make a case for good versus evil, but on the other hand, the arguments are so much more rooted in our core sense of selves that it’s impossible for them not to get emotional—and everyone loves to dismiss an emotional argument.
Have you had a conversation with your parents about whether they still support Trump? I feel like this might be a good place to start. I think it’s possible to frame your conversation with them around the things that he’s done that are antithetical to the cores of Christian beliefs, which might help them understand where you’re coming from. Potential script incoming:
“Hi Mom. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t been calling as much this year. I’m sorry about that. I’ve been really struggling to reconcile the wonderful people that I know you and Dad are with your support for our current president. So much of what he’s done over this past year has gone against the way you raised me—to be a kind, generous person who takes care of those who can’t take care of themselves. This administration has done so much harm already—breaking up families, taking healthcare away from children—that it hurts me to think that you would condone this. I wanted to talk to you to hear your thoughts on whether you still support him, and why you think it’s okay for him to treat people this way. I know this is an upsetting conversation to have—it’s really hard for me, too. I love you so much, but I’m scared for what will happen to our country if good people like you are willing to look the other way while our president leaves vulnerable people to die. Can you help me understand?”
I can’t guarantee that this conversation will lead to anything positive—you may end up with very affronted parents. It’s possible that they won’t talk to you for awhile. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll give them something to think about. I think that the people we love, who we know to be good people at their core, are the ones we need to try the hardest to sway in their beliefs if we ever want to swing our country back away from where it’s headed. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I’d rather try and fail than not try at all.
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