Allison Task is a career and life coach in Montclair who hosts the WMTR radio show “Find My Thrive.” her website is allisontask.com.
From Allison: This week I chose to focus on a single reader question. It was thoughtfully written and required an in-kind response, especially with today’s political climate and the leanings of our town. Next column, we’ll return to the popular trifecta of sex, marriage and difficult neighbors.
How do you recommend I deal with friends and family who voted for Trump? After the election I tried to understand why someone might have voted for “change” but can’t for the life of me understand how anyone could still support someone who is so obviously unfit to hold the office of president, and seems keen on degrading America’s standing in the world.
Some of my closest friends and family members — my uncle, my father-in-law most notably — have always been more conservative than me, which is fine. I like to hear differing opinions and to challenge my own thinking. In the past, we had some interesting, intelligent debates about various policies, the role of government in our lives, and politics in general. But what’s going on now is an entirely different beast (literally) and there isn’t much to debate, at least not on an intellectual level.
I tried to engage some of them before Charlottesville to see if they were having buyer’s remorse and now I’m afraid to hear the answer.
What do you advise? Am I better off avoiding these people? Avoiding talking politics? It’s great to live in Montclair among (mostly) like-minded people but to paraphrase Shimon Peres, you don’t make peace with your political allies.
Thank you so much for asking the question that is on so many Montclair minds, especially with holidays approaching.
Play with me a bit; can we shift the focus to you? Let’s put your friends and relations, and even the president to the side for a moment. To paraphrase your words, you say that you “can’t understand how anyone can support our current president, who is unfit, and degrading our country’s global status.”
And in the past, you mention that you’ve engaged with your loved ones on the topic of politics, enjoying an intellectual debate on policy and the role of government. You engaged some of these folks throughout the Trump presidency, but after Charlottesville, you’re afraid, and contemplating a strategy of avoidance.
So here’s the question: What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of finding out that your friends and family are racist? Hateful? That they agree with Trump, and are hiding a white robe in their closet?
If your worst fears are true, once you learn it you can never un-know it. Avoidance has long been a strategy for folks living with challenges they don’t want to or don’t know how to address; it postpones the inevitable and can give you peace (for the moment).
“If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact — not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.”— Shimon Peres
To quote your pal Peres, are you afraid of the fact?
If you ask the question and you realize you’re allied in your perspectives that may be comforting. If you are faced with the reality that they have different values from you, and these are key values of yours, then what? First, there is the feeling of un-ease, disappointment, sadness and anger. There is grief over a longstanding relationship that may have reached a critical impasse.
And then what are you left to do? Whether they’re with you or against you, what action are you taking to support your own values? In the past, you’ve debated with these folks. If you are past the point of debate, have you moved toward the time of action?
I’ll see your Peres and raise you a Weisel:
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” — Elie Wiesel
So if avoidance is neutrality, how can you take a side instead? Prior to Charlottesville, you may have debated, but to what end? What is your responsibility, as a citizen of this country, with deeply held beliefs about our president, and the damage he is doing to your fellow citizens, and to the world at large?
Can you raise your voice instead of silence it? There are options right here in Montclair. You may want to look into an active local group, New Jersey 11th For Change, which has a strong organizing core on Facebook. You may want to support another Montclair local, Congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill. For more on this, visit her website: mikiesherrill.com.
Perhaps you’re not ready to directly address your friends and relatives, but instead can double, triple and quadruple your efforts to act upon your own morals and beliefs. At this point, you may better serve yourself by acting what’s on your mind instead of speaking it.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” —Mahatma Gandhi