I am seriously dreading this year’s holiday visits with my extended family, many of whom inexplicably voted for, and continue to support, Donald Trump. Safe to say I’m not looking forward to some of the conversations with our family’s Trumpnuts that I know are coming my way. Any tips on how I might stop myself from going ballistic when any of my relatives start bloviating about how awesome the Orange One is?
Hoping to avoid actual jail time
Trumpnuts! How have I not heard that before?
But the point is, you’re talking about a family get-together, not an emergency summit at the UN. Sure, it’ll hurt to smile and nod while members of your family offer up opinions so rawly stupid you’ll be unable to understand how anyone holding them can still be capable of speech. But do it anyways. And mean it, too.
Because, look: Nobody but you gets to decide your state of mind, during a family get-together or at any other time. If you let your peace of mind — your equilibrium, your kindness, your generosity of spirit — be compromised by your simply having to interact with family members who support Trump, then Trump has won twice. His first win was control over the White House; his second was control over you.
Don’t let that happen. If you think you’re better than Trump — more moral, more just, more compassionate, more sane — then be better than Trump. If what you loathe about Trump is that he stays low, then you stay high. That was a good advice when Michelle O. gave it during the campaign, and it’s words to live by today.
Let your relatives talk about how great Trump is. So what? No fresh new horrors are going to be unleashed upon the world because your Uncle Fred loves the way Trump shoots from the hip, or whatever. If that’s how the man feels, then let him feel that way.
Because here’s the thing about your Uncle Fred: He wants the exact same thing that you, and I, and every other person who’s ever lived wants more than anything else in the world.
He wants to be loved. That’s all. Just loved.
So show him some love. I’m sure that’s something you can handle doing for a couple of hours. Offer to get ol’ Uncle Fred another piece of pie, or to top off his coffee cup. Just because you think he’s a cretin doesn’t mean you have to let him make you one, too.
And if he seems intent on your agreeing with his opinions on Trump, then tell him that you’re open to that possibility.
And then, rather than trying to avoid the whole subject, sincerely ask Fred what exactly it is about Trump that he likes so much. Respond respectfully to his answers; ask him genuine and thoughtful follow-up questions.
And then listen, listen, listen to what he says. Because even if you believe Tim to be a misogynistic, homophobic xenophobe, you’ll learn one of two things: that’s he’s actually not, or how he manages to hide from himself how terrible it is that he is. Either way, you’ll learn something real. There are few things in life as fascinating as how people manage to justify to themselves the things they do and say which are manifestly unjustifiable. You couldn’t get a card-holding member of the KKK to admit he’s a racist if you offered him a hundred dollars to say it. Astounding!
Bottom line: It’s the holidays. Never forget that family get-togethers over the holidays are bigger than any single such gathering. They’re about the long haul. They’re about tradition. They’re about generational continuity.
Mostly they’re about the children who attend them, and giving those children the experience of belonging to a genetic tribe, of knowing they have a place in the world. It’s about building memories for them that might help fortify them through tough times later in their lives .
Don’t let the children at your family gathering see their adult relatives attacking one another. Let them see you hugging your Uncle Fred, and telling him that, despite your differences, you love him just the same.