Two years ago I ‘lost’ a friend I had had for 50 years over an issue that involved politics, i.e., over differing views about how each of us saw an issue that one of us felt deeply passionate about. It was a painful loss then and remains a painful loss.
Now, the split that has emerged in the country from the presidential election is one that I see and hear spilling into friendships and into families. I personally don’t want to repeat the experience I had two years ago, and similarly, I am deeply concerned about the conflicts I see emerging on both a national level and personal and family levels.
I don’t have any answers about how we might respond to these current differences nor how we might prevent these conflicts from splitting friends and splitting families.
Do we simply ignore them and pretend they don’t exist?
Do we try to put our disagreement(s) aside and carry on with our friendships and families by simply agreeing to disagree?
Do we retreat into our own worlds, our own ‘bubbles’ and just spend time with those with whom we are in agreement?
Do we try to talk with those who see and believe so differently from how we see and experience the world?
As I said above, I do not have an answer or answers to these questions, and I am disturbed both for our country and for myself, my friends, and my family about these differences and how they are affecting us.
What I want to know is whether there are options for how we can approach these splits, these differences, and these issues that divide us.
I am opening MillersTime, in the Comment section, to any thoughts, views, feelings, insights, ideas that readers might have about this issue and these questions.
As usual, I ask that any comments be respectful, and I am also willing to have any comments posted with just a first name, initials, your full name, anonymously, or however you might feel most comfortable.
Most of all I am asking that you respond and join in a conversation that hopefully will be useful and productive.
Consider checking back to this particular post over the next few weeks to see what others may have written, thought, suggested.
And thanks, in advance, to all who take the time to comment.
Kathy Kiely said:
The failure of both party establishments to address the issue identified in this interview, with one of our contributors at Bill Moyers.com led us to where we are. The only question in my mind is whether it too late to save our democracy: http://news.wgbh.org/2016/03/11/politics-government/listen-trump-sanders-and-rise-populism
Liz Frost said:
What surprises me the most is the inability for the differences in opinion to be heard between friends and family. I am immediately called a liar. Voices raised – were did you get your wrong information!! Voiced raised the family members and friends begin to sound like the incomplete sentences of the campaign speeches .
joseph chamberlin said:
Thanks for the opportunity to grapple with, participate in, this most difficult of conversations.
Disappointed on Wednesday my initial comment was, “We always get what we deserve.”
I am a mediator. Key to the process is respect for both, all sides. Each has a position they believe is correct. While I listen I encourage the others to listen to the others stressing they may hear some things they have heard before but may also hear something new.
Too often people accuse mediation of trying to find the lowest common denominator. Too often winning is the primary focus.
I often use Appreciative Inquiry(AI).
AI looks for the what is good in each of the positions. What are common values? I often ask what people would like to see a year from now…what do you hope for the future? Then what will it take to realize the hope(s).
Emotions are often the biggest obstacle. I am mad! I am disappointed! Ok. Now what?Time is critical. Silence is often required. I regularly ask parties to sit quietly. What is it that is holding you where you are.
I do believe we will get through this. Belief is a must. Another word for belief is faith, faith that what is happening is a result of all of our actions and lack of action. So, what am I going to now that I failed to do. If you see something, do something! First, think about what you might do and the consequences of the action
Sean, THE BROTHER said:
Many random thoughts about this important topic – personally and as a society.
As a community, we have lost the ability “to agree to disagree” -as adults – Rather, as Liz mentioned, the tempers flare, the voices get
louder and ‘names’ are called.
We have made “the Other” as an evil person. We disagree about politics or religion with another, Therefore, he is simply evil—-She voted for Trump,….she is not only evil, she is also stupid and uneducated. ALL OF US: We don’t listen….we don’t ‘hear’…we don’t ‘feel’…we don’t ‘see’ the pain…OF THE OTHER.
As a society, we don’t take the time to ‘agree to disagree’ and move on in friendship, respect,
Look how we have treated our President for the last 8 years? We have made him Muslim, non-American, a socialist, and for some, “he’s a commie”, dumb, disgraceful, an insult to the USA…..He is EVIL.
This is all very sad…I have no idea HOW we got here but I hope — as a Society — we can start to look at how we treat “the Other”….we can’t continue down this path and think we are leaving “a democracy” our kids and grand-
Regarding my family, I have 8 sisters — Irish Catholic, first generation Americans — all healthy and very loud and opinionated…each sees life differently, each survived personal joys and life’s tragedies, each has strong moral and political views, AND several (5) would call themselves “conservative” and republican (and they have been fervent “sisters for Trump”)…
One calls herself ‘non political’ but “hate Hilary”….2 of my sisters are strong democrats and joyfully voted for Hilary….the only Brother
(Still living) was, and still is, a liberal democrat.
We all meet and see each other often….we party-hardy, and THEY sing and dance, we love to have fun because “the best of times is now”…enjoy and ‘live’ the moment, this is all we have!
So, you might ask, how do we as a family handle THE OTHER among us? How do we talk politics (or religion, for that matter!)????
Well, after painful ‘discussions’ and through the years, we have decided to “Agree to disagree”.
Simple as that! Laugh, Dance, talk about the kids, the relatives, the friends, the aches and pains of life, etc etc etc
BUT, when we are together, NO POLITICS,
Is this THE answer to Ricks questions? No,
I don’t think so….I feel it’s a shame we can’t talk About these important issues…but,
Too many ‘sibling stuff’ gets in the way….
Let’s just try to enjoy each other NOW —
This is the Family decision….and it seems to work.
FOOTNOTE: The ” Five Trumpers Sisters” will be coming to one of my sisters house in Florida
During the inauguration week in January to celebrate together.
NO, I will not be joining them!
Steve Rafferty said:
Some time ago, I read an essay in which the author lamented that our civic discourse had changed. He wrote that, in the past, following some event, we would interpret the event through our individual ideological lenses and have a discussion. If this discussion didn’t produce agreement it might, at least, advance understanding. Now, he said that, following some event, we can’t even agree on what happened. We live in separate realities.
The phenomenon, of course, is fueled by the growth and proliferation of partisan news outlets. To exacerbate the issue, news has become just another commodity, cheaply produced and widely consumed. Because the responsibility to be informative has evaporated (and with it the notion of truth as a virtue), said news outlets operate only to please their consumers.
I know the purpose of this exercise is to explore ways to find common ground but, to my dismay, I have no sense of how the divide can be bridged. As we gather with friends and family for holidays and outings we can only avoid subjects that might provoke confrontation. This is mildly helpful in the short run but not helpful at all in the long run.
I suppose the only positive thing I can suggest is that we avoid being contemptuous of those whose reality is distinct from ours. The divergence of their facts and my facts is only partially their (or my) fault.
Thank you, Richard for opening the dialogue. I am struck by your comment at the beginning..the loss of a friend. I think to my own friendships and know at times I have permitted my ego to interfere with my friendship. Knowing you though, I doubt that was the case in your separation.
But, I am reminded that we live in divided worlds. We tend to live with, socialize with people whose thinking is similar to our own. I am fortunate in one respect. I lived in WDC where I was consumed by politics and power. But, I now live in Maine where down the road from me lives a farmer whose deeply felt “Christian” values so often conflict with my own beliefs. But, I know him to be a good, decent man. I have sat in his kitchen, by his wood burning stove and appreciated his connection to his land..a land his ancestors have owned for hundreds of years. I sit on a local school board with a Republica state legislator who believes that the media, especially my friends Gwen Ifill and Mark Shields are biased in their reporting and comments. And though I know he is wrong in his characterization of these good people, I still admire his commitment to our community.
In New Orleans, where we spend the winters I am surrounded by two very different worlds. One largely white and privileged who look at Washington and Northeners with some good natured disdain. On the other hand I volunteer with folks in a very diverse community committed to helping kids of promise from disenfranchised communities succeed.
What does this all mean? I have concluded that we all care and share many of the same values. A love of family and appreciation of life and of our natural resources. We differ often on how we think we can make the world better. But, I find I am only wrong when I dismiss someone whose opinions differ from my own, as persons who are uneducated, or parochial or simply misinformed.
I am hopeful for our future. I encourage your readers to go into our schools, observe the discourse among kids no matter what age you witness and know that hope is eternal. Avoid the bitterness and cynicism of dispair that can so easily consume us.
As I write this, the sun is shinning on our lake here in Maine. The loons have moved to the salt water as winter approaches. Only the oak leaves cling to their branches. Acorns fall like rain portending a harsh winter, says my farmer neighbor.
We will see. But I know spring will be here again in six months, and we will return to the lake we love and rejoice in another season of growth and promise.
My condolences for the loss of your friend…
Land Wayland said:
Warning: Apropos cliches ahead: My brother and I are of opposite sides of the political coin and both of us can present persuasive (to ourselves) arguments why our position on any issue is sound and reasonable but we have great difficulty having an open discourse about the current political situation.
When one of us tires of the futility of presenting logical, fact-filled prognostications that are met by semi-logical, fact-free wild guesses, we both look at each other, laugh, and we stop. Family and friendship always trump our egos and using a murky crystal ball or intoxicated ouija board to try to see what lies ahead Besides we know that if one of us is right and the world comes crashing in, we will need each other to face the fiasco together.
We know that we are discussing the future, more specifically our hopes and fears for the future and not our plans for the future, and we know that there is very, very little we can do about that. We agree that we have both had our say and made our case and then, out of respect for the other and to avoid the land mines of frustration, hyperbole or insult, we start to talk about the really important things in life like our grandchildren, or baseball, or the SuperMoon that will rise for the next two nights.
Politics is like religion in that it comes to us when we are young and once we are true believers, there are very few radical conversions to a dramatically different faith. It isn’t the basic belief about whether these areas are real or important that is being discussed; the confluict really comes down to trying to read the road map and decide what mode of transportation and what roads to use to get there, There are so many ways to get to Rome and so little is known about the routes.
Out current tempest is truly only warm water in the tea pot and it has not begun to approach a boil. This does not mean that the water must not be watched; hopefully this is a potr that will never boil if it is watched.
Our country has gone thru far, far, far worse political head-banging. We haven’t had days of bloody riots. We didnt have challenges to a death duel. We aren’t in a deep recession that has left 25% (and 50% in some areas) of our workers unemployed for four years. We aren’t at the end of a futile decades-long debate about what to do about the monumental human-rights issue of slavery.
This campaign was more like a authentic”reality show” that we all viscerally enjoyed being involved in. In some ways, it is all like a cable TV show and we are nervous because we don’t know what the next episode will bring and we have no effective way to influence the script.
If it had not been for the media’s 24-hour distortion of both sides, using every modern technique they could use to persuade their viewers and listeners and readers, this campaign would have far less contentious than the election of or AL or TR or FDR.
Yes, we are in a crises. The reason Trump was chosen is that he recognized that a majority of the people of this entire nation were scared and fed-up with being ignored and disgusted with the arrogance of people far, far away and he decided to try to ride the political tiger. He has been successful thus far but the tiger is now fully awake and anggry and he is going have real trouble getting off.
But politics is about number 7 on my list of important things in life. Not irrelevant but certainly not worth blowing the top off of my blood presure machine. And not so important that it becomes the filter through which my daily life is seen.
When it comes to dealing with family or friends, I try to remember that these relationships are much more valuable than so many other things and I know that they feel the same way. I hope that we can agree to civilly disagree until one of us doesn’t want to do it any more then we can change the subject. Politics isn’t that important unless one of us is a micro-manager or autocrat.
Conservatives have had to deal with this question for years now. We have had to live with numerous things we disagreed with as well as things we agree with. Although we get called many names, most of us are caring, educated and inclusive. We do not march, destroy or try to convert others.
To me my friends and family are the joy of my life. I try to be respectful of their opinions and try hard not to make comments that make them feel put down. When you love your friend, family and yourself, it is not hard to handle differences of opinions unless those differences truly hurt others.
Jim Kilby said:
Maybe we should try and understand, there is a difference between what we tolerate, and what we agree with. There was something about it not being the forces of darkness but the apathy of the children of the light. Read something a long time ago, about what you learn in kindergarten. When you go out into the world, hold hands and take care of each other. Maybe in another 100 years, we will be grown up enough to do that.
Religion and politics….discuss at your own peril. I am anonymous here precisely because I don’t want to be de-friended…..
This is such a rich comments thread, and I am appreciative. And yet I continue to find myself utterly disheartened, worried, and sad. I think Jim Kilby’s comment about what we tolerate and what we agree with touches on my deepest worry and point of grief.
Trump ran on a platform pretty much devoid of substance but full of judgment and bigotry. Even if his supporters don’t consider themselves racist/sexist/bigoted, their vote tacitly approved all the venom spewed against Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, women, etc, etc, etc. We are going nowhere good if we race back in time to further division. What have so many Americans -especially women and people of color- worked so hard for, died for, if only to see things taken away? I have so many friends of color who are terrified right now, hurt beyond belief, and rightfully furious. There is no room for white privilege anymore, and yet that is what Trump stood for and wishes us to return to. Bannon, a notable white nationalist, anti-semite, and domestic abuser, was just named Chief Strategist. What message does this send to us as a country? Trump, who grabs women by their genitals because he can, we elected President. What message does this send us, especially our women? As a woman, i am horrified and repulsed and scared.
The difficulty I have with staunch religious conservatives working to influence government is that their policy wishes take away the rights of many for the beliefs of few. I recognize that if you believe your religion does not condone gay marriage, for example, you probably don’t support it. You are welcome to do that. But instead of legislating against it so that anyone who believes differently is unable to live the full life you’re privileged too, can you not simply say, “I don’t agree but I won’t take your rights away to make myself feel good”?
I grew up in a Louisiana town with a Baptist church that sent out conversion caravans. We were pressured to convert. They were given pizza parties after converting certain numbers. They preached against abstinence but had the highest teen pregnancy rate in our town. I never could square the hypocrisy of being Christian with being so judgmental and not behaving in accordance with teachings.
We must divorce religion from politics.
It strikes me as terribly hypocritical that many of the very people who bought into the ridiculous birther claims against Obama, who publicly stated that they hoped he failed and was a one-term president, are now asking everyone who didn’t vote for Trump to come together. Republicans obstructed pretty much every single thing Obama wished to do but blame him for an ineffective presidency. What he did get through, they plan to immediately repeal. How can anyone say that refusing to hear Merrick Garland’s nomination was anything but obstructionist?
The media is complicit in all this for so many reasons. I think good newspapers did a pretty good job, but the major TV networks and the internet were horrible foes to democracy. When we stop agreeing that facts are important and when it becomes hard to find them, we are in deep trouble.
Trump was at the bottom of my list of republicans, but I voted for him anyway….”anyone but Hilary”….and the best thing was said by, I believe, Salena Zito: “His voters took him seriously, but not literally, while his opponents took him literally but not seriously”.
My instinct is to go point by point through your post in disagreement (believe me, I can…..), but I would be making the exact mistake Hillary made……I’d be saying “You’re wrong…..” Dale Carnegie rule number one, “never say you’re wrong”……and that is how we end up in trouble with friends and family….
Trump basically used the classic sales technique……”Feel, felt, found”…..
People NOT on the coasts or in Fairfax and Loudon counties…..are upset at the cronyism of the establishment……..Trump’s approach, “I know how you feel, I feel the same way, and I found we can make america great again by draining the swamp”. Silly, I know……but the people generally feel that way, and HIllary’s message was, “you’re wrong to feel that way”…since to a certain extent, she had to defend Obama……….best way to lose a sale is to say “you’re wrong….”
Therefore, I am intrigued by Joseph Chamberlain’s post……if you, Emily and I were related, as any of us should….reach out to Joseph for some Appreciative Inquiry!
Jim Kilby said:
OK. I guess it’s time, as the kids say, to get “real” about Donald Trump. He is a carnival barker selling snake oil. He woke up the day after the election and said holy s**t, what do I do now. He did what anyone in his position would do. He hired a bunch of rich white guys, because they know how to do things, to cover his ass. Then he hired his children, to watch his back.
He doesn’t care about Muslims, because they didn’t vote for him. He doesn’t care about black people, because not enough of them voted for him. He doesn’t care about illegal immigrants, because they can’t vote. A lot of women voted for him, but they probably shouldn’t have.
I feel bad for all the blue collar people, who drank the kool aid , and believe their jobs will come back. It’s tough to see your way of life disappear. All the factories close. The stores close. The restaurants close. The kids all leave. Nothing left of your way of life. I have been broke before. I know how it feels.
The jobs where you put the left front tire on each chevy coming down the line, will never come back. They better learn a construction trade, and move to where there are jobs, or learn to finish concrete, for Donald’s new roads. Get their kids to learn tech jobs.
Only a quarter of the people voted for him. Maybe the 50% of the people who didn’t vote, and shame on them, and the other quarter of the people who voted against him, will keep trying to have their voices heard.
Things will get bad and then they will get worse. Then people of good will, have to stand up and say, enough. We want things to be different and then they will be.
Jim Kilby said:
Oh yeah. I see the Post finally printed something important to all of us, on the front page, above the fold. The Redskins won.
Ellen Miller said:
Here’s a perhaps helpful guide from the NYTimes, starting with some ground rules:
Do it over a meal or drink. (Dine by Skype if the distance requires it.) Don’t jump right into politics — just catch up first.
Offer the benefit of the doubt. Assume the other person has generally good intentions. Almost everyone does.
Don’t let imperfect word choices tank the conversation.
Forget policy debates for now.
Just listen to the answers to your questions. Your turn is next.
Talk again soon. Promise.
Read the rest:
Jim Kilby said:
There are only two subjects worth deep discussion, politics and religion. The problem
with discussing them is, most people only see one side. They can’t be objective.
Donald Trump isn’t a bad person, but he isn’t a good one either.
What people should learn, in their travels, is to not expect so much, of each other.
Give each other a little slack.
Ellen Miller said:
Here’s another excellent piece on this topic — a bipartisan guide on the challenge — from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/11/condescend-to-your-relatives-a-handy-bipartisan-guide/508406/?utm_source=feed
Hmm. Got here by googling what to do about this situation.
I made the decision to approach my family with the attitude of “hey, both candidates were really terrible. I understand that we all might have considered the two and chosen which we personally thought was the lesser evil.” I thought this was a good way to build common ground.
But no. The commenter above is correct. The problem is that we are living in separate realities now. They are not Republicans who voted for Trump because they dislike Hillary. They are enthusiastic Trump voters who defend every crazy thing he says and does. My family has the Breitbart app installed on their phones. They check it constantly and tell one another wild stories about what is going on. The conspiracy theories they believe about the Clintons are crazy. I’m not even a Clinton supporter (though I voted for her because I think she is lesser evil), but I can’t believe some of the wild things they believe. They are not in reality. I asked them why they voted for Trump, and I’m perfectly willing to meet them half way with discussion of what to do about things. Like, if you are worried about taxes or war with Russia or Obamacare, I’m willing to say “yes those are huge problems” and talk about the different approaches that different sides suggest. But they are not interested in that. They are hysterical and angry. They have started to say racist things. Anything I say already falls into some weird constructed reality that they have learned from the same news sources and radio shows. They are brainwashed. They all use the same talking points. There is nothing substantive to discuss. Moreover, they know that we are on the opposite side of all their beliefs. I work in an environmental field and they are climate change deniers. My husband is an immigrant from a Muslim country. So they seem to have made assumptions in their minds about everything we could thing or say and they are angry all the time.
They are not poor people. We were sitting in a small town in a fairly expensive house with a swimming pool in the backyard and new cars in the driveway. They are all fat, and we had loads of food (Thanksgiving) on the table. We were discussing surgery for one of their dogs and they started to say how expensive it was and someone else brought up dog health insurance which led immediately to a discussion of how Obamacare has destroyed the medical system. It happens that fast. So OK, then my uncle says that he voted for Trump because he wants to throw a brick through the window of the establishment and he hopes Trump will bring on the revolution and everyone agreed. These cushy spoiled Americans sitting in their a/c macmansion with a pool in the backyard and a kitchen overflowing with food are talking about REVOLUTION. None of them have ever been out of the country. They have no idea what they are talking about. This hell-bent stance to burn it all down- what the heck is going on? They have no idea what it’s like to live in a place without a functioning infrastructure and civil services and safety nets- why are they so eager to destroy those things? It’s brainwashing. And it happened fast. 10 years ago, I knew they were becoming more and more conservative, and throughout the Obama years it has gotten worse, but this…
I just looked at them and realized I don’t want anything to do with my family anymore. I will continue to be polite and visit much less frequently. But there is no way to walk away from this election and holiday season and pretend that anything will ever be the same again. It’s so sad.
EM….I might suggest that you shouldn’t paint with a broad brush. I absolutely voted for Trump as the lesser evil. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/442538/why-left-wingers-cut-ties-trump-voters
I read eagerly the post and the comments, because this is a situation with which I am familiar, unfortunately. Close friends of mine for over 30 years detest Obama, were enthusiastic “birthers” (still are); they equally detest Michelle Obama and hate Hillary even more. They embraced Trump enthusiastically and financially (although their first choice was Cruz!). These are people of wealth, sophistication, commitment to their religion and their family. They have been very philanthropic and endured a terrible tragedy with devotion and dignity.
But to me, their choices undermine the many admirable things about them. We socialized with them a great deal well before the election, even though we all admitted that we should agree to disagree, but since Trump was nominated and we have resisted their [absurd] arguments, we have backed away–not entirely but significantly.
I’m not sure how to continue with these people who were as close to us as family because we don’t feel the same now. We try, we see them, but it’s not the same. And I think they feel the same way about us; in any case, they still attempt to proselytize us by sharing email “facts”, letters to the editor, and other rants. I have given up trying to convince them of things after I cited the New York Times and asked my friend to read an article there and she responded, “I never read the New York Times!”
I have no ideas about closing the gap between us. Frankly, they are as convinced that their beliefs are the only ones that matter as we are about our beliefs. One of the contributors here said that we choose to be with people who share our values and beliefs, and I agree with that. But I still am reluctant to give up a friendship of years of caring.
Here is your opportunity to be the bigger person.
“I never read the New York Times!”<<<— You say it like it's a bad thing. One lesson this election taught us, we can agree on: Wikileaks proved that the NYT is not to be trusted as a news source, but as a PR firm for the DNC.