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Cut Ties? Fight? Ignore? Navigating Relationships in the Trump Era

It was a normal Monday in the Trump Era when one lifelong friend tweeted:

“Nothing the left does is spontaneous for the ’cause’! They’re hateful cowards getting blood $$$ from a man who hates all from USA!”

I was annoyed by the “hateful cowards” remark, but this one made me chuckle an hour later:

Wait? Trump is going to save the American people? Seriously?

Then she tweeted this next. And I stopped laughing:

“The left has nothing to show BUT hypocrisy!!!! And… corruption, murder, hate, and misery… !!!”

MURDER. When did we murder anyone? Is she serious? MURDER?

And that’s when I walked away.

I had already tried the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. I tried to ignore the words, images and crazy conspiracies. I tried to see through the vocal hatred towards my “side”. Because nothing she said about “libtards” had anything to do with me. She would never say these things to my face.

Right?

This is just another day in the Trump Era. Where “friends” feel it’s okay to insult each other’s political views and share any wacky thought regardless of facts. Although partisan cat fights are nothing new, it does feel like we are living two very different realities. Where we can’t even agree that the KKK doesn’t have “very fine people” and the mainstream media aren’t our “enemies”.

And don’t think for a minute that “we” are innocent in the Trump Era. We’ve compiled our portion of insulting memes and aren’t immune making Trump look like an idiot.

We like our trending #ImpeachTrump and #BigotPresident hashtags. And we love us some Sean Spicer:

We know that politics makes for strange bedfellows, but the Trump factor makes it difficult to actually have relationships with the other side. Before the election, Time magazine’s Jill Filipovic advised:

“It may be a little extreme to divorce over a presidential candidate, assuming everything else in the marriage is good (although Trump fandom suggests that lots of things about your husband aren’t very good). But ending a dating relationship, where there presumably aren’t joint finances or shared property or kids? Girl, do it, and don’t look back.”

So when I asked local Indivisible groups how they handled the Trump supporters in their lives, I wasn’t surprised by how many people have struggled with friends and family who openly support Trump and his agenda. However, I was surprised at how complex the issue has become and how lost some feel because they don’t know how to handle these relationships.

Through the responses I received, it became clear that we’re dealing with a few different levels of challenging relationships: social media frenemies, friends from “the other side”, and our loving but dysfunctional families. We’ll dive into these groups and figure out when it’s time to walk away and the best way to discuss Trump with those we love.

Group 1: Social Media Frenemies

 

Don’t Keep Your Frenemies Close

It’s an easy choice to Unfriend and Unfollow our social media frenemies. They are not our real friends, we hardly see these people in real life, and an occasional quip on Facebook doesn’t make a real relationship. They are not the people who matter to you and it won’t make you lose any sleep to cut ties with these people

Here’s how a few Resisters handle their social media frenemies:

More often than not they provide the out themselves…If you are offended by who I support and what they stand for then unfriend me right now. Buh. Bye.”

“Some I have unfriended because their posts are so offensive, I don’t want to be associated with them. A few I have unfollowed because I just feel sorry for their ignorance.”

“I ditch them.”

The vast majority of Resisters in my very unscientific poll unfriend people who share offensive political posts. This is not a difficult decision to make and won’t keep you up at night.

Rule #1: Unfriend Trolls and Frenemies

Don’t waste time feeding the trolls. Unfriend or unfollow anyone that is abusive, makes you angry or stresses you out. It’s just not worth it.

Group #2: Friends on the Other Side

 

I’ve Got Friends in Low Places…

The second group is your friends and family on the “other side”. These are the people you want to keep in your life and it would hurt to break these relationships. Many people have struggled with this group simply because the majority of differences are policy, not morality. The trick with this group is figuring out how to discuss complex issues with people you care about and learning how to communicate without offending anyone.

Keeping the lines of communication open is essential for some folks who want to make real and lasting change. For them, part of their mission is sharing their beliefs in the hopes they may bring a few people into the fold. Here’s how a few members explain why they prefer dialogue over distance:

“I unfriended, until I realized I could do better by starting a conversation.”

“I believe that alienating them is a mistake. The paradigm needs to change. The fight we face is about AMERICA and needs to be directed toward AMERICA. Are you for AMERICA or against? What is good for AMERICA should be the argument.”

“I am a discusser. When I post something and a relative or friend wants to discuss I engage.”

“We need to find ways to understand each other and find solutions that work for everybody.”

But the way we communicate makes a huge difference. Suit Up Maine’s Kelli Whitlock Burton explains:

“I have, however, had some very good ‘discussions’ on my personal FB page with family and friends who voted for Trump. They have been, for the most part, respectful. I try to counter their pro-Trump arguments with facts, numbers, statistics that I can trace back to an actual source, not just a news account.

Many people, regardless of political affiliation, try to reason or debate with the other side. It’s actually a great way to communicate, where one side makes a point and the other counters with facts and an alternative analysis. It’s very academic.

Yet, things seem to be spiraling away from civility in these conversations. Kelli shares that “arguing about health care is a million times easier than arguing about white privilege and systemic racism.”  It’s when we get into serious, complex societal issues that many stumble into heated exchanges. Molly Patten explains her evolving views on communicating about race and politics:

“It’s a different question today than it was six months ago. Then, I was willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, trusting that they’d see that ugly truth as it reared its head over time.

Now, I can separate political issues and tell people I don’t object to the fact that they support Trump as much as I object to the fact that they DON’T object to neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups. It is possible to defend a vote for Trump, whether that be supporting your party’s nomination or voting against career politicians. But there is absolutely no defense for turning a blind eye to such blatant hatred.

So I have made comments like these, and then unfollow the people who can’t have a true discussion. That’s how I do it. I feel the need to give my ‘friend’ a chance to explain their posts/ position and then I am done.”

Rule #2: Discuss, But Never Fight

We actually like people from the “other side”. My best friend is one of the “others” and I love her. I wouldn’t want to live without her. Yet, most of us draw a line at some point. If someone doesn’t share your core values, you may want to consider whether the friendship should survive. We didn’t want to be friends with racists before Trump, and we don’t now. Nothing has changed.

Discuss the issues, but don’t fight. Walk away before you fight with your actual friends.

Group #3: Your Family

 

Where You Try to Put the “Fun” Back Into Dysfunctional

Someone gave this bumper sticker to my father and he put it on his truck:

Image result for trump that bitch bumper sticker

Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed and wouldn’t ride with him. But it’s my dad. My birther-believing, Hannity-loving dad is still my dad. Cutting ties with friends is heart-wrenching. Cutting ties with your family is almost unthinkable. Yet, we have Resisters who have stepped away from family members for the duration:

“If they are family, I love them for the relationship but will firmly and politely refute what they say, should they choose to say anything. It is way too late to ‘let it slide’ even if that means fewer jello salads in my lifetime…”

“I send my family love but bye bye. I can’t stand your logic.”

“I have unfriended old and new friends and cut off all ties with many of my relatives. I was patient but ultimately disgusted.”

On the other hand, many are willing to find ways to stay a family without damaging the relationship:

“Unfortunately hard to say goodbye to my daughter, a true blue Trump voter. We just have a pact. She knows where I stand but maybe not what I’m doing, and I don’t ask. It’s that or a repeat of the first 6 months of separation. I figure my kiddo will have an ‘ah ha’ moment someday soon. Like, oh yeah, my mother was right. He is an asshole. I await that moment of truth. It is bound to happen.”

“Lovely example of loving the person, not the problem.”

“I have decided that love is stronger than the belief in ignorance!”

“All I can do is love the friends and family I knew before this man divided us. Hopefully, we will all live to see peace and strength in diversity.”

Rule #3: Love, But Set Boundaries

Choosing to cut ties with your family is a stressful but ultimately personal choice. You’ll know what’s best for you. But if you want to keep your sanity and a loving relationship, set some boundaries.

Here’re a few ideas Resisters are using:

“We don’t talk politics in mixed company.”

“I ban all political discussion at the family picnic since it is harder to enforce civility rules in a big crowd.”

“Never say ‘I told you so”.

Basically, agree to disagree and never talk about it. Maybe not the best choice, but it will probably save the relationship.

Take Action: Learn How to Fight With Facts

In The Grown-Up’s Guide To Talking Politics With The Other Side, I share a story of how I can be best friends with a Republican and still talk politics. It’s actually quite simple because neither of us is trying to win any fight.

Here are our basic rules:

  1. Begin and end with respect
  2. Your goal is to learn
  3. Focus on data and facts, not generalized opinions
  4. No labels or name-calling allowed

This works for the vast majority of discussions, both online and off. But one Resister goes a little further and advises us to brush up on our debate skills. If you’re going to learn how to discuss any complex issue, this is a great place to start:

“Learn truth functional logic and reasoning. Stops em dead every time. If LePage, Howie Carr, Trump, Hannity, etc. were asked to provide back up to every false assertion and weak argument they make, they’d be out of business quick! Don’t let people get away with making unfounded assertions. Calling them on it and persisting weeds out wastes of time more effectively than Raid scatters roaches.

Most right wingers and many liberals lack the essential skills to convincingly advocate for their side. They often employ logical fallacies and weasel words to fool the gullible. Unfortunately, many Americans are not all that well educated and lack critical thinking skills. They fall for all kinds of scams and rip offs because of it. Logic and reasoning should be more important to our society than they currently are.

It is up to experts, trusted institutions and society to decide. If we let the Trumpistas decide that Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Bill Moyers, etc. are ‘fake news’ that is our own damn fault. Stand up for science and reason. Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Jefferson, Madison, Thomas Paine and others did. It is up to us.”

Here are a few resources to help us get started:

You Create Your Peace in the Trump Era

Honestly, this has been tough for me. I walked away from a life-long friend last week and I’m not sure if the relationship can be saved. That simply sucks and makes my heart hurt.

I’ve talked to so many people who have struggled with the people in their lives who support a person we see as a racist, sexist, egomaniac that isn’t fit for office. The person we heard call the KKK and white supremacists “very fine people” and drew a moral equivalency to our side.

And they see a savior.

I’ll mourn my lost friendship for a long time. But it’s certainly a consolation that I’ve met incredible people in this movement that understand what I’m going through. Because they’ve all been through it too. It’s amazing to connect with people from all over the country that have the same views and priorities you have. That’s empowering.

However, in the Trump Era, we have to deal with a diverse and broken nation. I don’t know how we move past this, but I do know that it’s up to each of us to create our own peace. Don’t speak out if you’re not comfortable. Never feed the trolls. Don’t engage if you want to keep the relationship solid. And know when to walk away to save your own sanity.

Or you can try pretending that 2016 never happened and ignore your dad’s MAGA hat (or never walk with him when he’s wearing it).

No, dad. Just, no.

 

 

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