In case you have been living under a rock, it’s an election year. As to be expected, things are crazy. Especially if you have different, opposing viewpoints from your parents, loved ones, and family members.
Things are so crazy, in fact, that my dad and I had a re-conciliatory moment recently when we both laughed out loud throughout various moments of the RNC (Republican National Convention). When Trump hardly acknowledged his VP candidate; as Colorado delegates walked out of the room; and when reporters remained obsessed over the Trump family – we found this all to be rather, I don’t know, hilarious.
This struck me as pleasant surprise. You see, my dad is an unapologetic Republican.
I am not.
From the time I was a young girl, sitting in the back of his truck during traffic, I would hear Paul Harvey‘s famous segments called “The Rest of the Story” in between “thought-leader” radio-talk such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Indeed, Republican rhetoric was a part of my upbringing.
Grandma threw her curve balls as we grew up, however, when we would spend the night at her house each Wednesday. Unlike dad, her newscasts were usually NPR related programming. Interestingly, progressive talk radio had little national exposure in my childhood (read: the 90’s). It wasn’t until later in the 2000’s that “Air America” and shows like it really held any potency.
Political news updates in her car were interspersed also with frequent commentaries on how Reagan had changed her politics from leaning “right” to the heavily liberal part of the spectrum. Without a doubt, if grandma was still here, she would be giving a big “thumbs up” to Hillary Clinton.
Jokingly, I remember her once commenting on her three Republican-voting sons, “I’m not really sure what I did wrong..”
This election has felt different than any of the other elections I can remember thus far in my life (2012 (Obama), 2008 (Obama), 2004 (Bush), 2000 (Bush), 1996 (Clinton), 1992 (Clinton)). The Bush election of 2000 conjures images of deflated Florida ballets; Bush’s second run kept me up all night – I had wanted him to win. Badly. Obama’s election in 2008 reminds me of the screaming, crying crowds of Hendrix College in our school ballroom shouting “Yes We Can! Yes We Can!”. The 2012 election was welcoming simple; I heard campaign updates on BBC Radio while in my small Rwandan village.
Elections seem to really just take on a life of their own.
Perhaps, as my dad and I sat together, in a country poised for economic development, racked with violence, advancements in social policy, foreign entanglements, and a need for a massive overhaul in education, tax, and gun issues, we both needed a moment of reprieve.
Politically, we don’t agree on much, but we did manage to have relatively reasonable civic discourse because we are able to recognize the validity of our viewpoints and ideas.This doesn’t always happen – I’m sensitive, he’s stubborn. But on this day, it was okay.
It’s helpful, I’m learning, when conversing with a person with a varying viewpoint, to have a mutual recognition of knowledge resources. My dad has been a high school educator for nearly 30 years – he knows his stuff. Alternatively, I am well-read, active in the civic community, and have been intentionally engaged with American policy during my young adult years (this is the benefit of being an American Studies major, I suppose).
Between the both of us, we have been blessed in our education, and this can greatly affect the political efficacy of a person – good or bad.
It’s also critical to respect the arrival points of an individual’s politics.These are heavy, meaty issues. Between the nuances of economic policy and the pursuit of individual rights and liberties, politics is personal. Belief alone doesn’t necessarily make something right (i.e. I think Chipolte is better than Q’doba – does that mean it’s a better company? Maybe. Maybe not.) but belief does imply a need for respect. Frankly, when it comes to your parents, it can be hard to do, particularly if you are stepping outside of their constructs and viewpoints. But do it. Please do it. Engaging in a diverse political conversation enacts what really does make this country great: diversity. Listen. You might learn something. You could teach something too.
Finally, ask questions. Not with a smart-ass, pompous attitude, but in a genuine desire to understand the construction of a person’s ideology. Honestly, it’s insanely interesting, and it shows that you care.
Asking questions necessitates listening which involves respect which invites knowledge.
Politics, I don’t think has to tear us a part. We can remain vigilant to the relationship itself. Love, I think, should and ought to come before our political views. Ultimately, it’s healthy, helpful, and encouraging that we have the opportunity – especially with our parents and elders – to engage in a dialogue about the frameworks of our society.
Veer away from the sensationalized articles promoted by the media. Grab a drink, sit, and chat. Maybe it won’t be so bad as you think.
Because, I promise, if dad can laugh at the Republican National Convention, anything can happen.