Dear Conservative Relatives: I Think We Feel the Exact Same Way

Dear Conservative Relatives:

I know we don’t talk about it much, but I hope you know I do think about your reactions when I post my “liberal” thoughts and ideas and memes. I can feel your disapproval and anxiety shimmering through the air at me. Even if you don’t mean for me to feel it—of course I do. I grew up watching you talk about people like me. I worry about you worrying about me.

I think, for instance, about whether your hearts sunk, reading my note this week to my LGBTQ friends that thanked them for being themselves.
“There are two genders,” I can imagine you saying. I imagine you play out scenarios in your minds—whether I’ve turned my back on God altogether, or just the Bible. Whether I have a grip on reality anymore. Whether too much pot-smoking with my weirdo Northern liberal friends has turned me into an impressionistic ivory-tower childishly naive egghead.
(No. I’ve never smoked pot.)

“Didn’t we teach her better than that?” I imagine you asking each other.
“Doesn’t she know what we believe?”
“Who told her these outrageous things?”
Maybe you pray for me.
Maybe you’ve blocked me.
Maybe you’ve given me up for lost.

Here’s the thing though: I feel that same utter lack of comprehension sometimes when I hear your political views; and never so much as this week when I’ve seen you defending Donald Trump.

I thought you were the people who taught me the word character. That even our most secret behavior matters because it forms who we are; because who we are when no one’s watching is who we will be when people are depending on us. And now you try to separate the office of the President from the person of the man who holds it.

I remember your outrage and vitriol demanding that Bill Clinton be convicted for his lying and womanizing ways. But the man you now support has done nothing but lie since he first stepped onto a political stage. And most recently he has demonstrated that the first thing he would likely do as President is find an intern who would give him a blowjob in the Oval Office. That is the ultimate power move, isn’t it? And Trump is all about power.

Sometimes I worry about using language you might think was vulgar in my writing. But when you let “locker room talk” like grab her by the pussy slide past your ears, I realize that propriety isn’t the most important thing to you.

You’ve told me before that the most important things to you are truth, family, and the love of God. Which of these things does Trump stand for?

You encouraged me to get an education, and my education has taught me a lot of truths. It has forced me, for instance, to understand that when the world is changing as fast as it is now, things are sometimes too complicated to operate under the principles of common sense. That’s why I can’t just base my vote on a “pro-life” position. To prevent abortion, we have to care for the lives of mothers and children, not just fetuses.

You taught me to prioritize family in life and in politics. And the more people I’ve met, the more I see we have to gain from honoring families that don’t look like ours. I don’t think the people who have praised and fought for these families are deluded at all. They are growing genuine, self-giving love between couples and making miraculous homes for children who need them. Their “agenda” is to be safe, to be respected, to be in most ways unremarkable. And in the process of achieving it, they are demonstrating creative and powerful and grace-filled love.

You taught me that the love of God conquers all. You taught me that compassion was the trait one should be proudest of in this life. You happily took the precious quarters I gave you as a child for the other children who needed help overseas. But today you call “naive” and “dangerous” those who want our country to provide safe haven for refugees.
People who have lost their families, their livelihoods, their homes, their towns, their churches, their neighbors and friends are asking the world for nothing more than not to spend the rest of their lives in tents. But you support a candidate who would prefer that our country cower behind its wide ocean, incredible military, and extreme prosperity rather than trust in God’s command to extend welcome to the stranger.

Don’t you know what we believe?
Who told you these outrageous things?

I wish that we could keep politics impersonal, but I can’t help taking it personally. The thing is, I defended our ideals for so long. I do understand that my stance on the issues above is not the only platform based on the values of truth, family, and compassion. I’ve spent days of my life, long after I no longer thought of myself as particularly Conservative, demanding respect for people who don’t fall into step with the liberal elite. We all have a lot of the same goals, I said, but different ideas about how to get there. People aren’t required to pursue change for its own sake. It’s lazy, lazy thinking to pretend that your political enemy is an amoral troglodyte; so I don’t sit and listen to redneck jokes, trailer park jokes, or Religious Right jokes. I’ve fought much more for your positions than for mine among my weirdo Northern liberal friends. Because I know you. Because I love you.

I’ve been on both sides, and I know that people on both sides can arrive at hard-fought, careful and prayerful, opposing positions. I know that casting all Conservatives as fear-driven, susceptible to hate-mongering, and respectful of nothing but money is unproductive and downright false. I tell people I know plenty of Conservatives who instead live principled and courageous lives, care deeply about protecting minorities, and practice extreme financial generosity.

But I can’t bring myself to believe that those people are voting for Trump.

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