Have You Had a Family Relationship Damaged or Destroyed by Political Tensions in the Trump Era? We Want to Hear Your Story

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Have You Had a Family Relationship Damaged or Destroyed by Political Tensions in the Trump Era? We Want to Hear Your Story

Paste is compiling stories of family relationships that have been hurt in some way by the rise of Donald Trump. If you’re interested in having your story included in a compilation that will run later this month, we’d love to hear from you. Send an email to Stories@pastemagazine.com with “family” in the subject line.

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We’re almost two years into the Trump era, as measured by his victory on election night in 2016, and we’re also on the verge of the holiday season—which, for many of us, involves the dread of co-existing with family members of a different political persuasion.

That dynamic has become a cliche at this point, but as I can attest, the reality of it is anything but rote. It’s stressful, painful, and it casts a shadow over what should be a joyous experience. In relating my own experience—a mild one, compared to others I’ve heard—I’m writing anonymously in an attempt to avoid further tensions that would arise from a public call-out.

There are five family members I can’t wait to see when I go home for Thanksgiving, but when I think about that trip now, my thoughts are consumed with the sixth—a brother who became an enormous Trump acolyte during the Republican primary, and has only gotten worse since. Today, he wears a MAGA hat every day and routinely spouts or echoes far-right rhetoric on social media and in real life, and though our relationship was not perfect before Trump came to political prominence, it has deteriorated to the point that I no longer talk to him.

For me, the implications of being a Trump supporter have become more severe with time. It’s one thing to have voted for him, but it’s quite another to still support him today, after we’ve seen horrifying actions like the child-parent separations at the border. I’m expressing my opinion only here, but according to my values, endorsing or even tolerating that kind of cruelty is disqualifying in a person. I have no desire to be in the physical orbit of that mentality, and I’m privileged enough to live a life surrounded by like-minded people. But while we can control our environments to some extent—I can choose not to be friends with Trump supporters, and I’d certainly never be romantically involved with one—everything is far more difficult when it comes to the family we didn’t choose. Old sympathies come into play, and obligations, and even our wounded love. Metaphorically, at least, we are prisoners.

After months of ignoring my brother’s phone calls and texts, I received a missed call from him two weeks ago along with a simple text asking me to call back. I had a moment of weakness—was I being too harsh? Was he suffering as a result of my cold shoulder, and did I owe it to our familial bond to put politics aside and speak with him? Was I the cruel one? Guilt overwhelmed me, and I texted him back saying that I’d call him that night. He responded with a good time, and moments later he sent a selfie of himself in a MAGA hat. It was a provocation, albeit it one with deniability (“I wear it every day!”), and all my coldness flooded back. I realized that I had been right to cut him off, and that there was no reason to continue this relationship. The next day was his birthday, and at some point that night he sent me a photo of a dead deer. The day after, I received another text lecturing me about not calling him on his birthday. “Dude,” I wrote back, “as long as you want to throw this maga shit at me we’ve got nothing to talk about. You’re on your own with that.”

Long screeds followed about what a terrible brother I am, all of which I’ve ignored. I had previously discovered how easy it was, how convenient, how calming, to just cut off ties altogether, and this incident reminded me why I’d gone silent in the first place. I chastised myself for my weak moment, and vowed not to make the mistake of sympathy again.

But good lord, there are going to be miserable hours during the holidays.

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You can read two other stories from Paste staff below, but we want to hear your stories. How has the rise of Donald Trump damaged or destroyed your family relationships? If your answer is yes, and you’d like your story included in a round-up to be posted sometime in the next two weeks, send us an email at Stories@pastemagazine.com. Put the words “Trump” or “family” in the subject line. These stories can absolutely be anonymous—as you’ll see, all three of the stories compiled here omit their authors’ names. We understand the need for anonymity.

What follows are two more stories from Paste staffers.

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I always knew my dad was a Republican, but until 2016, I didn’t know how far right he was willing to go. I didn’t know much about politics when my dad voted for Bush, McCain and Romney, but at the time, it felt normal and within the bounds of understanding, even though I vehemently disagreed. When I got to college, I became more informed about politics and around the same time, Trump began running for president. Although my dad preferred someone more moderate in the primaries, what disappointed me was that he didn’t hesitate for a second to vote for Trump. It baffled me that all of his siblings and both his parents were immigrants, but he agreed with the anti-immigrant rhetoric. If that wasn’t already bad enough, the fact that the Access Hollywood tape came out and it didn’t even faze my dad is what hurt me the most. As a young woman, I felt like my dad was actively making it more difficult for women to seek justice from abusers and equality in all aspects of life. When my dad came home with a MAGA hat one day, I waited several months until I could throw it away without him noticing. Even though he probably would never wear it in public, I didn’t want anyone to come across it and associate it with our family. Nowadays, we still talk every once in a while, but knowing that my dad will likely vote for Trump again, I can’t help but feel like my dad is actively making life harder and more divisive for me and other Americans, especially women, minorities and future generations. And not a day goes by that that doesn’t kill me inside.

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I don’t know for sure if my parents voted for Trump. I don’t know for sure which presidents they’ve voted for in any election of their adult lives, although I suspect they’ve probably leaned Republican through many of those years.

I’m not ashamed to admit that the reason I don’t possess this information is that I ultimately don’t really want it. Politics were never something my parents discussed with their children, growing up. I got my first impressions of politicians and political parties from TV news, or from broad, SNL satire. In terms of our own personal politics, my parents never questioned their children on how we cast our votes. It was always implied to be something you simply did for yourself.

Does it irk me, to think that my parents may have likely voted for Trump? Yes, it does, although it’s tempered by the knowledge that I know why they would have voted that way. They wouldn’t have voted for Trump out of any kind of #MAGA fervor. They don’t vote in ways motivated by xenophobia, or racism, or LGBTQ rights. Frankly, I’m not sure there’s a single social issue my parents care about in any measurable way. What they care about is taking care of their kids. Working every single day in careers they didn’t always enjoy, they managed to put four children through college. My siblings and I emerged unscathed, free from debt after attending the institutions of our choice. Meanwhile, my parents ended up with a second mortgage. So yes—their voting priorities do likely revolve around which candidate is going to help them put a little extra in the bank, or which candidate promises those fat “middle class” tax cuts. Perhaps that puts them in bed with a madman, but at least it’s among the more defensible reasons that exist for casting a vote for Trump.

As for me, I’ll continue not asking and continue not knowing. This is one case where I’ll simply always prioritize the ability to spend time with family over the terrible potential burden of knowledge.

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Thanks for reading, and again, please send your own stories to Stories@pastemagazine.com.

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