The home front

My parents are good people. They are honest, they work hard, they are generous. My dad makes friends everywhere he goes. My mom went to college late in life to become a teacher specifically so that she could help underprivileged black students. And both of them voted for Trump.

I had a hard conversation with my mom about this yesterday. It started because of a conversation with my sister, where I got the mistaken impression that my dad had become a belligerent Trump supporter and was constantly bugging my mom about it. In retrospect, that would be an unrealistically big change — but who knows? Trump seems to have brought out the worst in a lot of people, and even though my dad is a good man I don’t think he’s utterly invulnerable to that kind of appeal. The fact that it wasn’t true was a net gain on my dad’s side, but a loss on my mom’s, because I had assumed she would at least abstain (a vote for Hillary was too much to ask). But it wasn’t true: they both voted for Trump, as a lesser evil.

What was disturbing to me was her inability to even hear why I would find Trump especially problematic. It was as though it was just another election. She had an answer for everything. I said that part of why I was worried was that The Girlfriend had been sobbing on Wednesday morning; she said some people may well have been crying if Hillary won. I said Trump was a creepy sexual predator; she said Hillary was pathetic for putting up with her creepy sexual predator husband. I said I didn’t want to ask The Girlfriend to come into an environment where people might be gloating about a Trump win; she was well aware of how Democrats felt about this and knew to keep her mouth shut. Is there any greater intrinsic justification for how Democrats feel? Is their fear and shame more significant than her frustration with her Democratic colleagues who made her feel shut down in political debate? The answer to both questions seemed to be no. Everyone has their opinion and has a right to it.

It’s a familiar sophistry that deflects every objection, leaving nothing but an arbitrary choice of the side that makes you feel most comfortable. It was like I was trying to convince someone on moral and intellectual grounds why they should be a White Sox fan rather than a Cubs fan. What was most disturbing, though, was the dawning realization that the sophistry was partly designed to let her cope with me and my potentially abhorrent views.

If I decided to cut them off, or even skip Christmas this year while the wound was fresh, it would not be a teachable moment, any more than the time that my dad’s favorite talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, casually slandered me to a national audience. My dad offered to call in, assuming that he could explain that my comment was all just a joke and Rush of all people should be sympathetic with someone getting in trouble for an ill-considered joke. And anyway, harrassment campaigns happen on the left, too.

No, if I chose to break contact over this, I fear it would be evidence that I was totally lost. Even that most extreme gesture would not be able to cut through the armor of misinformation and innuendo and false equivalency that they have built up. And while this is my personal problem, it’s not only my personal problem.

5 thoughts on “The home front

  1. Very well said

    I know my parents are republicans but I also know they were disgusted with the sexist rhetoric (I guess the racist rhetoric they could tolerate). I’m terrified to ask them who they voted for. Not that it matters in the numbers, we are in California… but knowing that perhaps they voted for him in the end might cause me to wonder what really happened to them. I might not be able to keep cordial ties if (its more a question of when) all the climate legislation is undone.

    However my uncles, aunts, cousins and the rest of that side all voted for him. Christmas is going to be hard…

  2. Thank you for being willing to speak about this reality. I am somewhat hopeful now that he has won that we can begin to speak with Trump supporters we are connected with about his racism, sexism, Islamophobic leanings and more outside the election binary. Just as criticism of Obama has transcended comparison with Romney or McCain maybe there is still enough respect of the presidential office among Trump supporters to hear criticisms.
    A bit pie-in-the-sky perhaps! I wish they would have had to respond to my nine year old son who was crying in our bed on Wednesday morning asking how people could vote for someone who insulted so many people.

  3. I think we are trained for a long time to see the two parties as basically equivalent and the idea that one of them is fundamentally unfit to govern is more or less unthinkable in American politics. This is partly just a problem that you have two factions that roughly half the population vote for. so it’s unavoidable that when you say one party is going to destroy the country is not electable is awful your casting aspirations on roughly half the population. In the abstract this is always going to sound unhinged how could all these people be incapable of discerning right and wrong, not figuring that out. Most people just have a limited role view and are in fact incapable of getting over the garbage parts of their own culture and upbringing, this is presumably true for Democrats to it’s just the people who are culturally liberal and about Democrats they live in little areas vote for our side so we don’t notice it. Neither party really runs on policies that will help the broad Mass of people so if it was easy to figure out that one’s leaders were lying to them presumably both parties would look really different.

  4. Ugh sorry I basically have to use voice transcription then edit, I messed up. I mean “people who vote democrat because they live in culturely democratic areas”. Not “about democrats they live in little areas”. Sorry issues make it very difficult to use phone keyboards.

  5. Try having a conversation in which the answer to every objection to Trump is “God told me this isn’t true.” God told my mom that Trump’s accusers were lying, that he’s changed and no longer engages in “locker room talk,” and that he’s a a Cyrus, a pagan king who will deliver God’s people.

    Actually, on reflection, that might actually be *better*, because at least “God says so” can function as a pretty definitive reason.

Comments are closed.