HEART OF STEELE
As with many families around the country, mine is divided along very clear political fault lines.
My sister and I stood on the left side of the equation, with my parents and brothers on the right. It wasn’t always that way; Mom and Dad used to joke they canceled out each other’s votes in many an election.
Over the years, our beliefs became much more entrenched, and that led to some uncomfortable conversations that more than once ruined a holiday or family dinner. One argument got so heated that I didn’t speak to one of my brothers for about six months.
My youngest brother and I started out as friends on Facebook. We aren’t any more, and I am certain that “unfriending” each other saved us.
A New York Times poll released in October revealed that almost one in five American voters has seen politics hurt a close relationship. Many of my friends have shared how political rifts with loved ones have led to limited or even no contact.
Somehow, politics has become very, very personal. Instead of discussing ideas, too many of us instantly judge people based on the candidates or the party they support. Agreeing to disagree seems to have become a thing of the past.
Maybe because my family has seen some big changes over the last two years–the COVID separation, my mother’s failing health, the loss of my sister to cancer–our small gatherings haven’t included much political discussion. And then on Thanksgiving Day, of all days, we stepped into that breach once again.
I don’t remember how it started, but I do remember how the conversation ended, with an agreement that local elections matter most, government closest to the people works best, and too few people get involved in local decision-making.
Finding common ground, I think, melted the resistance that comes with always having to be “right”, and we were able to just be together.
When you find yourself in the place of conflict with a loved one this holiday season, try looking for points on which you can agree, even if it’s only one small thing. It will soften your heart and, with a little luck, keep you both from ruining Christmas.