I know people who voted for Donald Trump, but I admit I haven’t talked to them since the election. It’s easier for me to keep my distance rather than argue with them, or just not talk politics. To be honest, I have a hard time respecting most Trump voters. But last week my daughter came to the Island for the weekend, and told me she voted for Trump! This kind of coming out I was not prepared for. What do I do?
First of all, congratulations: You have raised an extremely independent child. And talk about brave! To come home to the bubbliest bubble in the bubbliest state and tell her own parents that she has done something she must surely know will freak them out. I’d put that on a par with coming out as a Nestlé fan in Hershey, Pa. This girl has a spine, and a mind of her own. I’m not saying it’s a wise mind, but it’s definitely hers, not yours.
In this era of helicopter parenting, you have achieved something quite unusual: a contrary child who still loves you enough to come home and visit. (She’s home visiting in February, so she must love you quite a lot.) Good on you.
I see this as a terrific opportunity — a huge, tremendous, terrific opportunity, really the best opportunity, believe me — to practice prejudice reduction. I am NOT suggesting you try to understand your daughter’s point of view. I am suggesting that you acknowledge what she did, and how you feel about what she did — and then get on with the business of being human together anyhow. Some day, Trump will no longer be president, but you will still be family.
Just like you’ll still be neighbors with other Trump supporters.
It’s easy to turn a cold shoulder to a neighbor who has done something you find incomprehensibly appalling. When it is your own kid, though, you have to come to terms with it. You are forced to face the fact that even the most morally alien choice is being made by a person to whom otherwise you feel a deep connection. You absolutely have to work through that, because that person is your best shot at getting grandkids. (Not that we’re entering a golden age for American schoolkids, but at least they’ll have you.)
My point is, once you’ve learned to re-engage with a Trump supporter when you have no choice in the matter … it will be easier to re-engage with other Trump supporters when you do have a choice. And you need to do that. Yes, really. You need to talk. You can argue — chances are you will argue — but there has to be human engagement. I know you don’t want to, but the quality of your life will be negatively impacted if you don’t speak to your fellow Vineyarders for FOUR YEARS (or until he gets impeached, but how ya feeling about Mike Pence this week?). If a divisive politician causes division in your personal life, that politician has won. Refuse him that victory.
So hug your daughter. Depending on the dynamics of your relationship, either try to talk about your different views, or avoid it strenuously — but don’t forget to talk about your health, and how work is going, and your favorite TV shows, and who’s cooking dinner, and all the little things apart from politics that might feel insignificant but are, in fact, the glue that holds you together. Once you’ve learned to do that, go forth and try to do that with the other Trump supporters in your life. Refusing to do so benefits absolutely nobody.
And when you’ve learned how to do that, please instruct me. I have no kids, so despite my best intentions, I’m still throwing a little shade.
That’s my take.