My extended family was getting together to celebrate my aunt’s 87 birthday. It was a big deal to have this sole- remaining matriarch still here leading our family in love and togetherness. We were meeting at Jumbo China Buffet for lunch, my aunt’s choice, which offers a huge variety of food for a variety of tastes. As far as my family goes, however, I don’t see huge variety in beliefs and principals. Half Italian, half Polish, they are an outspoken bunch but love usually trumps indifference.
We were positioned in a private room with three or four rows of long banquet tables and my cousins and their children, as well as some of my siblings, were scattered about. In the middle of draping ginger slices across my rolled sushi, I was surprised to hear my male cousin yell from across the room, “Hey Cindy, if you had to vote tomorrow, who would you vote for?”
Are you kidding, I think to myself. He wants to have a political shouting conversation here and now during this birthday lunch celebration. Everyone in our extended family knows that everyone in my immediate family is a staunch Democrat. Believing in equality across the board, we are soon welcoming an African American into our family, my geographer/anthropologist daughter’s life work is climate change and its devastating results, a son-in-law is working on his PhD in Buddhism, and the whole family works on social change. Who we would not vote for is pretty crystal clear. This felt very uncharacteristic of this particular cousin who is historically known for being the sweetest, kindest, most considerate male. What is happening here? Was I being bullied?
“Not Trump,” I replied.
“But the economy is so good!” my cousin yelled.
“Of course, if you roll back environmental regulations,” I commented.
He made another remark or two and I replied, “I am not having this conversation here.” This did not feel good. Everyone knew Todd and I were outnumbered. It felt unkind.
Then his children and another cousin looked at me and did fist pumps shouting, “Go Trump” with smirks on their faces.
“Why not?” my brother continued. “We should be able to talk about politics and hear each other’s sides.” I looked at my 87- year old aunt happily peeling steamed shrimp by my side. This potentially-volatile subject would not be her choice of conversation. It wasn’t the place or time. It wouldn’t be fair to her, plus, I was not up for it. In all honesty, I am never up for it when it comes to my family.
My brother and his wife proceeded to tell me about the wonderful conversation they just had with a pro-choice man at the recent pro-life rally they just attended in DC. They did not know that my immediate family had just traveled to DC to march in the Women’s March a few weeks earlier, to support women around America and the world. What a juxtaposition of beliefs, in this same family. I did not engage. I just felt sad. How could good people be so polarized?
My cousin came up to me after we sang to my aunt and began to say our good-byes and heartfelt apologized multiple times, telling me that he loved me and he wanted to keep the peace. I appreciated his attempt to redeem himself but it still felt bad.
Todd and I talked in the car on the ride home. “Is it really mostly about money?” we questioned. That’s all we hear from the other side, “The economy is doing so well.”
Never mind that we are now working to poison our environment, sell off our country’s most beautiful wild places and develop them, allow foreigners and anyone who is not of the white race not just feel marginalized but fearful, the same people who protest for the right to own any type of gun, including assault weapons and believe in less government control, believe that a government should interfere with the personal beliefs of women and tell her what she can and can’t do with her body, and while the rest of the world looks at us with increasing distrust and disgust. Then there’s the unborn babies, more important than the children who are already here struggling for a leg up out of poverty and beyond drug addicted parents, who may have been brought into the world via rape and sexual assault. I just don’t understand. And when did unkindness become ok and disrespect and inconsideration towards someone else’s beliefs become acceptable? How can I expect my cousins and their children to behave any differently than the leader of our country?
Excuse my French, but fuck the economy. I’m on the side of kindness and mutual respect. How about if we just come to an agreement that the best president of the United States should be the one who inspires us to be better people. Let’s just start there and let that guide us in making our decision on who would be the best leader. As far as the current administration goes, I’m not seeing a lot of that. If unkindness and disrespect can reach all the way down into my beloved family, how hard it is to feel hopeful.
In respect towards my family, I apologize for any hurt I may have caused you by writing this blog, but as author Ann Lamont said, “If people wanted us to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Posted in: Uncategorized