Oh bubeleh, I feel you. My entire family, other than me and my spouse, voted for Trump. And they mostly live in one of the purportedly “blue wall” states that unexpectedly went for Trump, so those votes mattered. A lot.
The first thing I did – a week later, so they would realize this was a considered decision, not a hasty emotional response – was to cancel our trip to see them for Thanksgiving. And then I proceeded to not talk to any of them for nearly two months. Some of you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? My family’s like church – Christmas and Easter, yo.” Not me. Since leaving for college more than 25 years ago, I’ve talked to my mother on the phone just about every week, and they have mostly not been short conversations.
This election, in other words, ripped a huge hole in my support system.
I didn’t just spend that time fuming, though. I mean, I totally DID fume, but I was also racking my brain to figure out how to talk to them about this. Should I approach the conversation from “look at all the blatantly unconstitutional stuff he’s proposed!”? Or would a “he tacitly – and sometimes explicitly – condones white supremacists!” approach be more effective? Maybe I should attack his faux pro-life bona fides (that’s a big one for my people)?
Ultimately, I realized that all those were pointless. I don’t have a time machine. I can’t go back to October and try harder to convince them to vote for anyone – ANYONE – other than Trump (they were NEVER going to go for Hillary, but I thought a write-in for Ben Carson or Ted Cruz might have been on the table). That horse is long gone, and the barn burned to the ground.
It became clear I’d need to take a different tack.
On Christmas Day, I finally broke my silence with a call that started: “We’ve known for a long time that we have very different political views, and the way we’ve always dealt with that is, in the interests of family harmony, we do not talk about politics. We are going to have to talk about this year’s presidential election at some point. But this is not the day for it. How have you been?”
During the holiday break, I had an epiphany about what to do.
“I don’t think George W. Bush was a good president. We can get into why if you genuinely want to know, but that’s beside the point. I was not willing to go to jail to stop him. I am willing to go to jail to try to stop Trump. There’s no point in arguing about it, but again, if you genuinely want to know why, I’m happy to tell you. If and when that day comes, you will have to decide what your response will be. My point is this: your feelings about politics, politicians, and policy are no longer a factor in my decision making.”
How did it go?
I don’t know – we haven’t had that second conversation yet, mostly because I think we need to have it in person. If not, I figure my dad will just slam down the phone (well, OK, one doesn’t slam down smart phones, but you get my point), and that’s a lot harder to get away with in person.
What they need to understand, and what I hope you can use in your dealings with your own troglodyte intimates, is that actions have consequences.
See, that’s the thing. “Political correctness” has become a major right wing bugaboo in the past several years. What they really mean, of course, is that they’re upset they can no longer tell racist and sexist jokes or use racist and sexist terms without repercussions. One key point they’re missing, though, as Hecate has already pointed out, is that they’ve been living in the safe spaces we on the left have created for them by trying to “understand them” and be compassionate and empathetic about their beliefs, situations, lives, and experiences – in short, by our being too polite to call them out on their bullshit.
And that’s what that last part of my planned remarks to my family is all about.
A brief anecdote: I finished grad school over 20 years ago, with a degree in something terribly impractical, and few job prospects. One of the positions I applied for was entry-level at the ACLU. I had a good interview, and told my mother about it. She flipped out at the possibility that I would work for that evil, godless organization. Rather than challenging her, I dropped out of the interview process. I’ve had a pretty nice career these last two decades, and I think I’ve managed to do some good in the world, but every once in a while, I think about what might have been.
For years, I’ve kept silent on a metric ton of ridiculous bullshit that’s come out of their mouths in the interest of keeping the peace. I’ve not made moves in my life and work that I though might be too upsetting for them.
Well, to quote Robin Morgan, “good-bye to all of that.”
Because the next right thing to do might be to run for office as a pro-choice Democratic woman, or work on a pro-choice Democratic woman’s campaign. Or get involved in local government in the extremely blue city where I live. Or to take a job at Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. Or to become a street activist and get arrested protesting our new fascist overlords. And if it hurts their fee-fees, I no longer care.
Image found here.
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