Home Columns The Political is Personal – US Families and Friends Divided by Politics

The Political is Personal – US Families and Friends Divided by Politics

by Yucatan Times
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Looking at the map of the US shaded in red or blue by election results, it seems clearer than ever that the country is divided, but these schisms do not just take place across state borders, also much more invisibly, and damagingly, within families across the dinner table, in the car to work and school, often at every moment of the waking day. 

Any anger or hurt within these contexts is unlikely to go away with the passing of the election, instead it is likely to be amplified as sons and daughters, mothers and fathers rage with betrayal against perceived external injustices and – way worse – perceive representatives of that very betrayal in their own family. 

Emma Ulrich, a student at the University of Oregon, has experienced the political differences within her family, especially immediate family members like her younger brother. Although she and her parents lean liberally, her brother has begun to show his support for conservative candidates. “I think his thoughts are purely based off his peers and the people he’s surrounding himself with,” says Ulrich. “I don’t think he necessarily is doing a lot of research, he’s doing more of what his friends are telling him and what he’s hearing and going with that. ‘Cause I know if his friends thought differently (politically), he would probably be thinking the same as them.”

Often the gap in belief systems is generational. As many younger voters can attest, the difference between young voter’s political beliefs vs. their parents or grandparents’ political beliefs have been more divided than ever before in the U.S.

Bill Kowalski voted red again this year, and feels like the relationship with his daughter, Irene, who voted blue, is beyond repair. “She doesn’t live in the real world,” he says, “I may not personally like the way Trump goes about his business, but the economics of the left don’t add up for me, they never have.”

Irene, for her part, cannot see how her father is continually swayed by false messaging and dog whistle politics: “He’s not being obtuse – it would be easier to take if he was – he genuinely believes in me-first politics, but where does that get us? To here, that’s where, and here is not a cool place unless you are a white anglo with money.”

For these rifts within families, the impact can vary from ignorance of the issue to a complete halt of any communication. Irene Kowalski left home in the summer, when she returns occasionally now it’s to see her mother and visits are brief for fear of getting stuck in the same arguments. 

Ulrich continues to explain the divisions in her family: “I can say like when I found out how my brother was voting, he tried to continue the conversation and I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to hear your side of this. I don’t want to hear you explain.’ But we’ve haven’t talked about it since and I’m choosing to just ignore it.” 

Standard post-election language focuses on coming together, on healing and moving on, but with the incumbent still raging against perceived injustices, coming together this time is perhaps going to be harder than ever. Wounding happens in an instant, as the saying goes, but healing takes years. 


For Times Media Mexico
Elena Golubovich in Ohio

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