The holiday get-togethers are approaching, and our extended family celebrates at our house. They are our political polar opposites. There’s no bridging the gap because there’s no discussion. Everyone’s cordial but acutely aware that conversational landmines need to be circumvented when we get together. It reminds me of “try not to think of an elephant.” Not easy is it? We talk but nothing is on the table that is outside our own personal spheres of experience and of course, dinner.
It’s uncomfortable being on guard. We’re all consciously sticking to safe topics like recent books we’ve read and how the kids are doing and avoiding politics.
I want to love them unconditionally but it’s difficult to feel that when aware of their views. So I love them from an emotional distance. These fundamental, ideological differences create impenetrable barriers for me. Everyone’s aware of the fences but nobody attempts climbing or cutting through.
If our family can’t have a meaningful, civil, respectful discussion about the state of our nation, how is it reasonable to expect that from our legislators? Oh. Right. That isn’t possible these days, is it?
The evenings could develop into nights of listening and respecting, reaching over the fence. Maybe if we all agreed that ultimately there are no right answers, there are as many shades of grey as there are people. Then maybe, possibly, if we listen respectfully and non-reactively, we’d see that nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong. There are just opinions and beliefs on both sides and some in between. No reason to demonize or belittle or feel threatened. But this isn’t likely with the news media fueling a polarized world, stirring negative emotions and pulling us further apart on every substantive issue.
Are my choices not to host family events or accept cocktail party talk? I’d like to take down the fences to reach common ground but the fences are tall and thick and it feels like I’m the only one looking for wire cutters. Maybe small talk is the only way forward for now. Maybe it’s more important to remember that holidays have deeper meaning aside from the politics of the day and keep that as the focus.
Bridging the gap,