My Uncle Voted to Kill Me
My uncle voted to kill me.
In November of 2016 my uncle cast a vote to kill me. He was a California resident, so fortunately his vote in the end did not directly impact the presidential election. But the fact that he willfully voted this way, to kill his eldest nephew, is something that can never be erased.
My uncle is not a malicious man. In fact, he is extremely personable. Despite the fact that he is unmarried, he is a very loving person who is embraced by family and friends alike. He has a strong Christian faith and frequently posts inspiring videos and articles on social media. He has been gainfully employed by a major defense contractor for over 25 years and he has survived multiple job cuts due to how invaluable he has become at his workplace. He is a dedicated son who frequently uses his vacation time to visit his parents, who are now in their nineties. And he always remembers family birthdays and his the first to call any of us and wish us well on our special day.
Despite all this, my uncle is a Republican through and through. His parents were small business owners and he inherited his politics from them. He gets his news from Fox and because of this, his politics are misguided at best and intentionally malicious at worst. He never trusted Barack Obama. He thinks the ACA is the biggest disaster in history. He constantly complains about high gas prices not understanding how and why they fluctuate the way that they do. And he willfully voted for Donald Trump despite his history and told all of us to “give him a chance” once he took over the Oval Office.
We all have someone like this in our extended family. Someone whose politics we simply do not agree with. But since the election of 2016, those relationships have taken on a whole new meaning. It was one thing to disagree on politics but when Donald Trump came onto the scene the disagreements were no longer about politics but about humanity. Yes, Trump shared some traditional Republican values: he claimed to be pro-life, he was for tax cuts for the wealthy, he was against excessive government regulation, and he wanted to drain the swamp of Washington insiders. But he did all this while being Trump. That is, he was vile, racist, hateful, and misogynistic. Never before did we have a major party candidate admitting to sexual assault, wanting to imprison women who underwent an abortion, calling Latinos rapists, insulting both POWs and Gold Star families, and threatening to jail his political opponents. Never before had a candidate brought so many hateful views against so much of the population.
But for my uncle and nearly 63 million like him, none of those were deal breakers. Their vote went to the man with an (R) next to his name. They didn’t lose sleep over their vote. They never thought about the immigrant family down their street or the DACA recipient in school. They never thought about the refugees fleeing violence, desperately trying to reach our border. They never thought about the local mosque and the Muslim community there. They never thought about the tens of thousands of soldiers overseas who would now be placed into harm’s way by the least-prepared commander-in-chief in our nation’s history. They never thought about the LGBT community whose gains toward equality would come to a crashing halt. They never thought about women making their own health care decisions based on what is right for themselves and their families. They never thought about those waiting in line for seven, eight hours to cast a vote because they were people of color in a swing state whose Secretary of State didn’t want them voting in the first place. And they certainly never thought about the 20 million of us who relied on the ACA for our very own health care.
Growing up, I often heard that a person’s vote is his or her own choice. I respected that credo and so to did my suburban community. Politics simply wasn’t discussed over the dinner table. I never knew my friends’ parents’ politics. I never knew my teachers’ politics. I never attended the local school or town committee meetings. In fact, I graduated high school without having ever taken a basic fundamental government course. When I was 16-years-old, the only thing I got out of the 2000 presidential election is the phrase “hanging chads” which I found humorous because my cousin’s name was Chad. I went off to college and didn’t vote in 2004 because I didn’t even know what an absentee ballot was. I know that I was not unique in my experience. For many of us, politics was simply out of sight and out of mind until we left home for greener pastures.
But now family politics cannot be avoided. The topic seeps through at family dinners and barbecues. Trump supporters feel empowered to share their views and non-Trump supporters can no longer remain silent. Friendships too, have suffered. Lifelong friendships have ceased because the chasm of politics is simply too wide to close. Friends have been blocked or muted on social media. Even online dating has changed with someone’s politics now becoming a deal-breaker for many of those who use online dating platforms. We’ve entered this new world where politics is not only not avoided at the dinner table, but often times it is the central topic at meals. It is in this new world where we must navigate family relationships as delicately as we can.
At the end of the day, each person must decide how he or she deals with this new political reality. We simply cannot pass judgment on those who choose to shut out family members because of their support for Donald Trump. Many people were deeply hurt knowing that somebody in their own immediately family thought of them as a lesser human being, unworthy of equal rights. At the same time, we also cannot pass judgment on those who honor Michelle Obama’s mantra of “when they go low, we go high.” There are those among us who simply cannot shut out longtime family members who support Donald Trump. They will continue to love them, despite the differences in political ideology. The decision one makes is personal and we cannot allow ourselves to fall into either camp thinking that this is how it must be done. We are experiencing unprecedented times and we must allow ourselves the opportunity to best cope with the circumstances, free of judgment and free to decide what is best for ourselves and our families.
For me, I still love my uncle. His vote hurt me, there is no question about it. But I also realize he, along with nearly 63 million Americans got duped by a conman. Do I wish he had seen through this charlatan like I did? Of course. But the fact is, he made his choice and I made mine. While I continue to work to organize those against Donald Trump, my uncle continues to support him. That’s just how it is. We may never be as close as we were before the 2016 election but I still will continue to support him and he will continue to support me and our family. That’s the dynamic we have come to understand in 2019: we simply agree to disagree. My uncle is one Trump voter who is simply locked in at this point. It’s a choice he has made and no amount of facts or logic can change his mind. The next time I see him, we will embrace each other and share a beer overlooking the lake for our annual family reunion.
And neither of us will ruin the moment by talking about our politics.
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