I’ve been thinking a lot about what family gatherings will look like after COVID because, pandemic aside, there have been some political clashes in my family that I’m not sure how we move past them.
A lot of people have told me, “You just make politics off limits and everyone agrees on that.” And this might work, but it also might not for a few reasons. First, I’m never the one who brings up politics so I can’t speak for other people. Also? In the past it’s not been “political” topics that turn into debates or arguments. For example, I was once bragging about this reading program at my kid’s school where you could go as a parent to read to any students who were struggling with reading and I had a family member push back on that and reply, “Well…but then you’re taking on the responsibilities that other parents should be taking for their own kids.”
I mean…there is SO MUCH loaded in that statement. (I could speak for hours about the many ways white middle class people disguise racism in statements like this.) AND SO MUCH I had to push back on and a LOT of it was not “political” in terms of who/what we vote for…but it sure did FEEL political as we “debated” whether or not kids who don’t get read too at home all have “slacker” parents.
So if everyone agrees “We do not discuss politics,” then what do I do in conversations like that one? Because it’s definitely in the line of what those who make those rules want to avoid, but how do I draw a line in those moments?
I guess if you really want to keep me from debating issues at a family gathering the rule should be: No talking about politics, religion, race, gender, sexuality, economics, military, education or…
Which brings me to the second problem I have with the “Politics are Off Limits” boundary and why it wouldn’t work in my family. Sometimes I really need my stance to be heard or else I’ll feel complicit. Once there was a conversation around people leaving their churches over anti-LGBTQ behavior and while most (maybe?) kinda supported that, someone said, “But I’m very much against abortion. That I’ll never change on.” And I said, “Well, I’m pro-choice but I don’t think we need to continue this conversation.”
That’s the best I can do because I am just incapable keeping my mouth shut for fear of my silence implying I’m complicit.
And I get that this is on me. But I feel like the only way I could agree with a “No Politics, Religion, Economics, Race, Poverty, War, Reproduction…etc” type of policy is if I got 5 minutes to stand in front of everyone first to give a: FOR THE REST OF TIME PLEASE KNOW THIS ABOUT ME speech.
I would say:
Hello. I’m Kim.
- I’m pro-choice and I think abortions are healthcare.
- I think everyone has a right to food, housing and medical care…regardless of their criminal past or poverty level. I don’t think we should drug test people before we house/feed/heal them.
- I think gender and sexuality exists on a spectrum and I don’t think anyone on that spectrum should get more rights than others on different parts of it.
- I believe climate change should be a top priority and we need the government to put regulations in place because the structures of capitalism mean that industries negatively impacting the environment will never value long-term climate goals over short-term monetary gains.
- I believe the criminal justice system in this country was birthed in anti-blackness and has been steeped in it for centuries.
- I believe in white privilege.
- I believe that black people have been held back under systems of oppression for so long that people hide their bigotry in conversations about crime rates and discipline problems and poverty.
- I believe policies that effect marginalized communities negatively can not be undone with neutral legislation. If the results have been racist or misogynist or ableist then counter-measures must include race/gender/ability.
- I believe Christians have been in power for too long in this country, so now anyone trying to undo the influence of religion in government is considered “against religious freedom.”
- I believe that as long as we have billionaires alongside people living in poverty, capitalism as we see it in this country is failing.
Because here’s the thing, it is still very important to me that everyone knows where I stand all the time. That’s why I put stickers on my car and politics in my social platform bios and post political memes and slideshows constantly. Maybe because I live in a red state and I come from a long line of Catholics and a lot of my family votes Republican, but I have learned that once people learn where I stand on these issues, they think less of me. AND THAT IS FINE! If I find out you think Transgender people are freaks or you don’t believe in white privilege, then I’m going to think less of you.
But that means that I’m constantly wanting to push those people away by throwing my politics in their face IMMEDIATELY, so I don’t have to be hurt later. It’s very tough to find out after you’ve bonded with someone that they don’t believe in systemic racism. I mean, I spend a lot of my time reading about the subject and calling my representatives about ending money bail and donating to organizations that work to fight police brutality. My “politics” involve a LOT Of big things in my life that take up a LOT of my heart and mind and so it’s hard to just look at it like a food choice: They don’t drink so I won’t serve wine.
So maybe “no politics” works for some people, but not for me. Which is why I’m considering a, “Kim stays home,” policy in the future instead.