“So, Uncle Frank, did you vote for Trump?”
“No seriously, did you? And if so, why?”
Yeah, I know, you don’t want to do that. Who wants to have uncomfortable conversations about politics over family meals? My therapist and I joked that there would be an unusual amount of cancellations for family dinner this year. She encouraged me that maybe my trip back and forth across the Pennsylvania turnpike would be easier than I expected.
Look, the odds are good that, if you’re white, you are related to someone who voted for the Supreme Leader-elect. You can bury your head in the sand about it. You can deny that it happened. You can ignore it. But you know what? I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t. In fact, I would take it as a bit of a personal insult if you just let it slide.
See, here’s the thing, one of the reasons the polls were off before the election is that a lot of people who voted for the Supreme Leader simply didn’t own up to it. That’s what you do when you’re doing something that you’re ashamed of. Now, I’m not saying that if you voted for Trump you should be ashamed… wait… that’s exactly what I’m saying. Many people were rightfully embarrassed that they “had” to vote for that man. They voted from party loyalty, some hot button single-issue, for supreme court justices, what have you, but they did it in the shadows. They threw smokescreens and used misdirection.
“Uncle Frank, who are you voting for?”
“Look over there! An otter is riding a giraffe!”
“Where? Uncle Frank? Where did you go?”
I worry that a lot of my friends won’t push their relatives because they want to be polite. They want to play nice for an evening. They want to watch football and listen to Aunt Shirley talk about her swollen ankles. That’s cool.
That’s also privilege.
See, for many of us, the realities that are slowly emerging with the Supreme Leader’s new regime are making clear what we suspected. He’s surrounding himself with white supremacists, homophobes, and climate change deniers who want to cut taxes for the very rich and remove the social safety net for the most vulnerable. And the media is beginning to give him a pass, as if his administration is just the typical changing of the guard. To act like this is business as usual is to betray the fact that your safety is not at risk. You can hide behind the veneer of respectability and pretend that millions aren’t living in fear. That must be nice.
Marginalized people are wearing down. We’re tired of having the conversations with the majority population. Our mental health is at risk. Our physical health is at risk. Turning on the news is triggering. Going on social media is triggering. The world doesn’t feel good right now. And the worst part of it is the feeling of hopelessness that comes from the fact that we can’t operate in the circles where those who don’t understand our fear exist.
This is a challenge to my majority friends: risk the awkward conversation. Risk the discomfort. Risk the hurt feelings. Risk the disapproving glare. Risk it for the sake of the marginalized who don’t have your Uncle Frank’s ear. Risk it for those of us who won’t be invited to Aunt Shirley’s book club. Risk it for your cousin who is afraid of coming out of the closet. Have the conversations about how your minority friends, your Muslim friends, and your LGBT friends are scared, literally scared. Stick your neck out for us, just a little…