Family/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Family, politics and burning bridges

The year is 2020 and, once again, it looks to be another divisive year in politics. As in 2016, Britain has undergone a massive shift which will decide its destiny for decades. Come November, the US will once again have the chance to elect someone who isn’t Donald Trump. Numerous countries from Brazil to Eastern Europe to India face the rise of right-wing parties while climate change isn’t being tackled nearly enough. So, how do we lowly beings on the ground deal with this, especially since the issues at present can divide a family?

When I was in America over Christmas, this was always at the back of my mind. I have Republican relatives who are fine with Trump and regard healthcare as a socialist grim reaper at the end of their beds. One thing I was often reminded by my more diplomatic family members was to choose my battles. Some members of family will never be able to see the light, even if it hurts your future. My elderly relatives have watched Fox News for years where Trump is a saviour from God. Politics is kept out of conversation, and when they host us, we avoid the topics.

Some bridges will burn at the slightest hint of disagreement, but others will be upheld

In general, I’ve always been taught that when under the roof of another, don’t provoke their leanings, because it’s discourteous. Yes, politics is an uncomfortably vital part of our lives that is having an endlessly pervasive effect, but a person’s home is their home. Stirring division, even if you have a good reason for your views, is simply not going to go down well. Always be mindful of where you stay and think about whether you’re being helpful or generally provocative.

Other members of my family – the younger, those with kids or the kids themselves – proved more open to discussion, though it was important to remember how much emphasis was placed on tone rather than the words in play. Righteous anger was easily laughed down. If you have to talk to someone about politics, try to emphasise how it makes you feel, how it makes you afraid for those around you. Ideological broad strokes are often easy to side-line, even if they’re life and death, but the personal, what affects someone at their core is more potent. In some cases, nothing will work. Some bridges will burn at the slightest hint of disagreement, but others will be upheld. After this trip I’m more distant than ever with some family members but closer with others, remembering that some people change and grow, and others are set in stone.

Remember that the other person is a human being

A key thing is to know when it’s time to cut someone out of your life, which is never easy but can sometimes be necessary. People can be politically toxic as well as personally, and if what they do affects you, they may not be worth holding on. Family is important but it’s not necessarily worth everything when those people can fundamentally disagree and vote to take down your liberties for the sake of ideological point-scoring.

The key is to remember that the other person is a human being, coming at an issue from their own perspective with their own fears, values and things they want to hold onto. It’s important to note if they’re doing what they’re doing, or saying what they will may come from ignorance, deliberate provocation or genuine malice. Some people enjoy being controversial, they enjoy arguing with people for the sake of it. They’re not worth fighting.

This year is going to be hard for many, but at the end of the day, it’s important that to remember that family is often something we make, something we work to preserve, and you’re never alone. Someone, even if they’re not as close in blood or bond as you’d like will be on your side, and we’ll all need them through the days to come.

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