I sent an email to my dad this morning.
It was my first post-2016 election twitch. It started like this:
I’m truly sad today, but not totally surprised.
I’m not surprised about the election results. We are a nation of speech and spin and bumper stickers. We’re not so great at listening or taking the time to dig deep into a story. But we are a we.
I went on to write:
You asked that I not talk politics with you because you want to protect our beautiful relationship. I will continue to respect that request except to make these requests.
I’m writing to request avoiding politics in conversation be something that works both ways and all around the room as we approach the family gatherings. I have been bullied at your table before over politics by family members, and I have to confess I feel a bit of dread about Thanksgiving.
After I sent the message, I felt a little bad about including the bully bit. It’s true, but it wasn’t his fault. Dad was only there for one, maybe two, instances, and in no way did he condone the behavior. The twitch probably had its way with me because . . . well, it’s been a tough year on just about every level that “tough” could hit a nerve and prompt a twitch.
The thing is, during the eight years when we finally had a president I voted for and loved, I didn’t gloat, I didn’t belittle, and I certainly didn’t bully the ones who didn’t vote for and love him. If I’m honest (as my son often says), that meant we mostly didn’t talk about politics in my extended family.
The email continues:
I have one additional request or maybe not a request, but a reminder: As you gather in like-minded groups to congratulate each other, please do it for the right reasons. If the conversation turns to belittling “those dems” and “those liberals,” remember that your daughter and three of your grandchildren are thoughtful, civic-minded dems and liberals. Over the years, I often reminded anyone belittling conservatives and right-wing politics that members of that group are not by default bigots or hateful, and that I know, love, and respect many conservative, right wing people.
Yeah. Not completely sure how well I thought this out. It sounded more accusatory than I intended. Which is one of the oceans of reasons we shouldn’t send emails or letters mid emotional direst or post-political twitch. Not only can the recipient hang on to them indefinitely, you might not feel the need to express that very same thought the next day.
As I confessed, the email to my dad was my first post-election twitch. I think perhaps I included this sentiment because I feel betrayed, not necessarily by dad but in general, since I make it a practice to avoid gratuitous bashing of the other side. I wasn’t done there, though.
My request/reminder continued with this final note:
I expect there will be mountains of hateful comments from both sides as we move forward. As a liberal, I expect to find myself in many conversations condemning the conservative Christians, who have lost a lot of credibility in the “values” arena because “their” candidate this election did not line up with their claimed family, social, or religious values. During those conversations, I will not thoughtlessly belittle your group, but rather I will do my best to lift the conversation to a higher, loving level. I will be the voice reminding others of the dangers of lumping half a nation in a group and condemning them. I will be the mind that explores reasons why we found ourselves in an election where most voters were voting against someone. I will do my best to listen with empathy to all sides. I hope you will do the same.
I have issues with mindlessly categorizing groups of people in general. But mostly I have issues with my email to my dad. This last paragraph was totally about control. What was I thinking? I don’t have control over what others say, think, or do. This last part hit low: I was guilting my dad (trying to at least) into a behavior I wanted. What’s more, I was explaining (bragging?) about how I behave. This is behavior that I should set as a goal and an example for myself, not as a shaming look-at-me or be-like-me message.
So this is my apology post to my dad.
I twitched and hit send. I’m sorry I didn’t twitch and delete for many reasons. First of all, you have always had my back. Second, I’m grown and can defend myself. Finally, I know you already treasure good people on the “other side.” You didn’t need me to remind you.
This year one of my favorite quotes has found voice at my church on several occasions. As we approach the season of family gatherings, I find this quote —now more than ever— pertinent, necessary, and comforting:
I hope you know that our disagreements have always been in love. You paraphrased me in your note to me, and I’ll quote myself back:
I love you big. Only big.
Love, not fear, will get us through.
© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved, 2016
I think your “twitch” is compassionate, loving and firm…I think you did an amazing job. I’m twitching myself and already lost one friend (that I know of) over my blog post today. Sigh.
Thanks Kim. I would add necessary. We all need to allow each other to process, and sometimes emote.
Brave, honest, lovely and necessary. We cannot pass on hate and racism to our children. I applaud you for all that you are doing. Your children and my children and grandchildren are making a necessary difference. We cannot stay silent because a generation that did not have the ability to see and learn and put aside racism wants to go backwards.
Nicely said. It is so difficult, as an adult, to disagree with a parent. But you were respectful and still managed to defend yourself. Be proud!
Thanks, Laura. We have a long history of quietly disagreeing, but even in mostly silence, lovingly.
An open conversation. Always. I am in the same shaky boat. Myself and my family are liberals in a conservative landscape. It’s painful. And requires patience and tact.
On both sides.
Conversation is a lost art in our country. We need to relearn how to disagree in conversation without feeling so uncomfortable that we stop listening to each other or cluster in groups where there is little or no disagreement.
My extended family is the same way. You have more courage than me. I’m skipping the extended family Thanksgiving this year because I just can’t stomach it anymore. I have an upcoming surgery that I can use as an excuse to stay home and enjoy my own family.
I totally get that. It’s a blessing to have a “safe place.”