Family, Friends and Politics

Phantom Ship   Crater Lake National Park

Phantom Island – Crater Lake National Park

For the most part I have avoided blogging about politics. I don’t really even like to talk about politics unless I am sure the person I am talking to is on the same page as I am or at least open to the give and take. Which is not surprising given the fact that I am not good with conflict. I like people for the whole of who they are, and so my love for my family and friends doesn’t depend on sharing a voting record. I recognize that not everyone, given the same set of information, will come to the same conclusions, understandable given that we all have unique backgrounds and experiences. Unfortunately, some friends and family are known to hold so closely to these political conclusions that they are part of their persona, something that is an integral part of how they see themselves and the world around them. Some don’t want to be challenged, yet they feel compelled to challenge or even disparage the beliefs of others. These days with the advent of on-line social networks, fake or biased news, and talk radio there are numerous outlets for this compulsion, often with the advantage of anonymity allowing for more outlandish and hurtful claims. Sometimes this happens openly and can lead to rifts in relationships that may never heal completely.

This most recent American election cycle has been arguably brutal. And it shows no sign of letting up even with President-elect Trump due to be sworn in just overt a week’s time. There are countless daily reminders that a huge gap has developed between those who see Donald Trump as the answer to the problems that Americans face in an increasingly globalized world and those who feel his nationalist/isolationist beliefs are a threat to advances in equality, diversity and inclusion realized during the Obama administration. There are other disagreements too numerous to mention that will need to be mollified if the country is to heal. With all this as background, I have tried very hard to ignore the hateful, untrue and sometimes just annoying Facebook postings by close family and friends during this tumultuous transition. Yesterday afternoon, after a long morning of helping to coordinate a Women of the World luncheon on a bitterly cold day, I finally snapped and took to my keyboard to disagree with a relatively innocuous posting by my brother-in-law. It was a shared photo meme of an old outhouse with the caption “Welcome to the Obama Presidential Library” to which he had added his own comment, “Just a true representation of his legacy.” I replied simply that I did not find it amusing, just disrespectful and mean-spirited. That opened the floodgates.

Almost as soon as I had posted my brief reply, he was penning a reply of his own. He said he was sorry that I didn’t see the damage Obama had done to our country and how he disrespected the office of President. The reply to my initial comment quickly evolved into the kind of us vs. them rhetoric that has become all too common during the election season and into the transition of power. I tried a respectful reply addressing each point he had proffered. I probably should have known by the tenor of his response that he was far too entrenched in his opposition to be moved by my reasoning. I just felt I could not let the exaggerations, disparagement, half-truths and lies go unchallenged. He made one final post in response to my remarks. In it he expressed his frustration over employment, health care and immigration issues that have personally impacted his family. It was then that I began to understand the core reasons for his animus. He suggested that perhaps family shouldn’t discuss politics. And maybe he’s right to a point. I generally prefer to avoid conflict, I am always willing to have a frank conversation as long as all parties are respectful of each other’s opinions and listen to understand rather than to listen just enough to frame your response. Still, with the heated political environment we are currently experiencing, I think I’ll just go back to scrolling past the provocative postings without comment.

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