On Talking To Your Relatives & What We Can Do - 11/18/15

On the small things we can do during the holiday.

Thanksgiving approaches.

What is normally my favorite holiday now has a looming sense of doom over it and it seems to be that way for a lot of people. I got a number of folks asking for advice on Twitter about how to talk to relatives who voted for Trump when the inevitable subject of politics comes up ... The truth is, I'm not sure there's any "good" way to do it. And every family situation can be unique. The most I can do is offer what I what I'm going to say personally. To that, you probably know I'm a long-form thinker and I like to make big complete statements, even when communicating verbally. I tend to think in terms of the big "dramatic plea in the movie speech form." Even to the point that I have written stuff down and then just read it aloud before (it sounds dorky it has a weird effect of getting people to actually listen to you instead of just thinking of what they're going to say next). But in that idealized version, here's what I'm going to say:

"I don't want to have a discussion about politics. That's not even really what this is about. I just want to say something and then we can go back to being a family. And I'm not going to be angry. I'm not going to yell. I don't want to make any of you upset ... I just want you to understand that I'm scared. That this really hurts me and the people I know. The fact of the matter is that everyone I know is terrified right now. I don't know how much you you interact with the kinds of people who are going to be affected by this, but I do. Every single day. They make up my friends, colleagues, partners, my entire world, really. They make up me. And this terrifies all of us alike. It terrifies my gay friends, muslim friends, female friends, black friends, trans friends, friends who have been sexually assaulted, basically any friend who has had to fight tooth and nail just to get to where we are now. These are real people. They are not abstract. I can tell you their names. Their life stories. And I can tell you how many I've seen well up with tears in their eyes when thinking about this future. My friend's mother is an immigrant and she called her son, terrified for the first time in her entire life and he had nothing to say that could help. Same friend later got accosted by two Trump supporters at a bar. I talked to another friend who was literally scared just to walk down the street. I could go on and on. But know that these are incredibly strong people who have faced more than we'll ever know. No one is being hysterical or afraid for no reason. More importantly, you don't get to tell them not to be afraid of this. They're the ones who face this crap in ways we'll never have to see. And if they are afraid now, they are afraid for a reason. You may doubt how much the government be able to do with their power, but they have made promises to hurt my friends and I have no reason to believe they won't try. From banning my friends, to registering my friends, to using shock therapy on my friends. Those things are scary. And there are scary things in much more trivial ways. They will make it impossible for me to get healthcare. Yeah. I'm screwed now. But more than that, everyone is scared because this election has awoken something really dark. The worst parts of the country have always been there, but now they feel empowered. And they are coming after us. Want me to show you what people write to me? Want me to show you the emails and threats I get? Check it out. It's real. And it terrifies me. And the truth is I don't care why you voted for him, I don't care what you saw in him. Yeah, part of me wants to kick and scream and never talk to you again. But I'm too tired. And more importantly, I don't want to fight the people who are supposed to help protect me from the people I'm afraid of. That's really what all this is about. It shouldn't be like this, but here we are. I'm going to have to live in a world where I wake up terrified every day. You have impacted my life more than you can ever conceive... And if you don't understand that, if you can't understand why I'm scared, if you think I'm being unreasonable ... well ... I don't know what to say. I just really wish you could. Because it feels horrible. And I really wish this hadn't happened. That's the last I'll say of it. Pass the gravy."

So ... you probably won't get a chance to say all that. But the point of it should be simple and clear. You don't want to attack them. You don't want to get into an argument about why Trump is bad. You don't want to get in a tête-à-tête. You just want to make it clear that this is really scary. That this hurts. That it's having incredible consequences on your world and the people you love. The goal is for people to understand this not in the abstract, but in the personal. To have empathy. To just understand that you are deeply sad and afraid.  I don't know how I'm going to get through what I have to say without crying. I really don't. But in the end it comes down to that part I italicized.

I don't want to fight the people who are supposed to help protect me from the people I'm afraid of.

* * *

With all that, I want to keep the "what we can do" part of this upcoming week really simple and practical ... That would be the belief that no one should ever go hungry.

Please make a 25 dollar donation to Feeding America. It will go a long way.

And if your have time, please volunteer this week.

Let's get to work.