Special Election Edition: Political Tensions in the Family

Before coming to Colgate, I never gave much thought to politics. I was not old enough to vote, so I felt mostly a sense of detachment from the American political system. There were topics that I vaguely understood – and thought about arguing with family members about – but my limited knowledge of gun control or healthcare left me fairly quiet.

However, during my soon-to-be four years of education at Colgate, I have learned more about my own perspective and opinions and have formed a fairly liberal stance on political issues. As an educational studies and environmental studies concentrator (or a socialist, as my Republican roommate lovingly calls me), I frequently read about the systemic inequalities and environmental injustices that exist in our nation, leading me to be a proponent of more liberally-focused policies. These ideas, however, conflict with those of many

family members.

Being at home over break, at a time in which the atmosphere of the nation seems to be more politically-charged than ever before, I became increasingly aware of my differences in opinion. I watched the second presidential debate with my family; sitting on the couch, I found myself rolling my eyes at Trump’s antics and the tension between the two candidates. I thought that nobody could possibly take the man standing on the stage seriously. I now realize that this is not necessarily a shared sentiment among all people that I know and love.

This has left me with one difficult question to contemplate: how do you balance speaking about your own political beliefs while still maintaining a sense of respect for those whom you love but think differently from?

I was recently confronted with this dilemma a few weeks ago, following the release of the recording of Trump’s vulgar conversation with Billy Bush. My grandpa is firmly rooted in his belief that Trump can do little wrong and that Hillary is a highly corrupt individual who is certainly not fit for president. He frequently posts his political views on Facebook, which I like to save pictures of and send to my friends and parents for a light-hearted laugh. However, his post dismissing Trump’s comments by pointing out Bill Clinton’s supposed acts of indecency made me angrier than usual.

I toyed with the idea of posting a response, proceeding to write up a long post in the notes on my computer about how dismissing the language that Trump used as “locker room talk” allows for rape culture to go unquestioned. I wanted to echo the sentiment of many others that this language is not okay and to question the role of a leader like Trump in a world where his grandchildren – both female and male – are growing up. Before posting, I asked my parents what I should do. “Write it down on a piece of paper and throw it away,” my mom responded. My dad – often the contrarian in the family who likes to bring up controversial topics at Thanksgiving dinner to get everyone riled up – told me to “just go for it.” I smirked and said that I would, but in the end I chickened out.

While I ultimately decided not to respond to my grandpa and his comments on Facebook, I have thought about this a lot recently. Would I have posted my opinion if it had been someone else? I have a deep respect for my grandpa, and I think that the thought of angering him made me sad more than anything else. 

I decided to let it go – at least, not bring it up on a public forum like

Facebook. For now, I’ll keep my comments to myself, but there’s no promise I will be able to hold them in for much longer. After all, who knows what Trump will do tomorrow that will drive me to respond.