BONNERS FERRY, IDAHO
Trump has torn our family apart. One side are former Republicans since he took office. The other side are angry Trump supporters that feel as though they’re “owed something.” Though some relatives remain cordial, others will be dining alone, neither welcomed nor invited to the family table. It’s a very sad state of affairs. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years.
Since the 2016 election, my husband, two daughters and I no longer travel to Michigan to celebrate Christmas with my large Republican family, most of whom live there. Our daughters are nonwhite immigrants. My parents’ votes for Trump tore through me like a bullet. Even though I grew up in Michigan, knowing that more than half the people in my home state cast a vote in support of divisiveness and bitter hate toward people like my children has left me unable to even contemplate a visit there.
Our holidays are now spent at our own home or in Austin with my husband’s family of Democrats. It is devastating, and I can’t really even characterize what we do as “celebrating” the holidays. Just getting through them and convincingly pretending to be happy for my beautiful kiddos is really the most I hope for now.
Thankfully, my holiday plans have not changed, and my family is more united than ever. The Republican members of my family have left the party because they are horrified by the direction the GOP has taken. Actually, the party left them. Many are conservative Christians, but they are also educated, thinking, compassionate people. Now, we are all united in opposing racism, lies and environmental devastation. Trump has united my family more than he will ever know.
We went from minimal contact with the Wyoming side of the family to intentionally none. We are fairly liberal and haven’t gotten on with the GOP side of the family for many years. During the Clinton, Bush and Obama years, we would shout at one other over dinner but never with much teeth; I think I was the only one who took any of it seriously. Now, the politics are too toxic. There’s no middle ground anymore.
Harder still is dealing with the outright bigotry and racism. Both my sister and I have married people of color; she has refused to have anything to do with this branch of the family for many years. How am I supposed to square myself with someone who doesn’t view me or my family members as human? But eh, it’s not a big loss. We may never see this side of the family again, and honestly, I’m not crying over it.
I am progressive, as are both of my sisters and some of my cousins. All of our husbands, as well. My parents and my brothers, not so much. My aunts and uncles are almost exclusively Republicans. But we love each other deeply, so we all grit our teeth and promise ourselves we will behave. Most of us avoid any mention of politics at all; when someone ignores the unspoken rule, everyone else just kind of drifts out of the room.
It seems a reasonable and healthy response, but it has left me feeling kind of empty and disconnected. The truth is, my respect for all of my Republican relatives has withered. I love them, but I cannot pretend that they haven’t given up any semblance of morality or discernment. And so we “family” on; it just feels a little more hollow.
Last year was a little easier as this administration was newer, but now that we’ve slogged through another year and I’ve realized people’s leanings and feelings, I’ve learned: no politics at the table. No talk of the economy or jobs. No talk of empathy for those less fortunate. I’m told it’s because I will end up in tears. I will, but I think the tears are more from frustration about what we have lost as a nation.
This president has been successful in driving a wedge between families, between neighbors, between those with differing approaches. I’ll give him that. What he cannot take, though, is my love of my friends and family, and my belief in the ideals of this nation. And, though it has dimmed, I maintain hope for the future. The pendulum will swing back, right? That’s something to be thankful for, no?
We wanted to visit our daughter, and knowing there was a different prevailing view in her house, we asked for no political talk. The response was, “No, we can’t promise that.”
We did not get to see our grandchildren.
My parents stopped speaking to us (myself and their two oldest grandchildren) the day Trump was elected because we voted for Hillary. We were forbidden to darken their door unless we apologized for our “disrespect.” They missed their oldest granddaughter’s college graduation and, of course, holidays and birthdays. The first Thanksgiving, we went to a friend’s for dinner. Last year we traveled.
I’m not sure what we’ll do this year. Our hearts aren’t in it. My children are sad and confused. I’m angry and confused. I’m not sure what makes you choose someone like Trump over your children and grandchildren and foregoing all the family and life events, especially when you’re over 75 and in poor health. I’m not quite sure how a family “comes back” from that.
They have not changed one bit. Our family and friends are mature human beings capable of treating one other — even those with whom we may disagree — with civility and respect. The holidays are for fellowship, peace and joy, regardless of political affiliation. Anyone who cannot tolerate diversity of opinion and healthy debate, or who berates someone for something as minor as political beliefs, is not welcome at our table.
It has always been that way, and it shall remain so. Those who are so self-absorbed as to think that the actions of individual elected officials will radically alter their daily lives should reconsider the focus they place on said officials, as it takes away from the true focus of the season.