First a look of horror washes over their faces, then the struggle for words. Once the words come, they usually sound something like this: “Your mom voted for Trump? I’m so sorry!”
In the months preceding the election, I never once asked my mom who she was voting for, or breached the subject of politics at all for that matter. This was not accidental; I was avoiding the question because I didn’t want to know the answer, or rather, because I was pretty sure I already did.
I had learned a long time ago that talking to my mom about politics was never a good idea. And it wasn’t only because I disagreed with my mom about the issues at hand (I am very, very liberal; my mom, less so); it was that I didn’t like who I became when we had these discussions — angry, irrational, upset, even mean — not my best self. In an effort of self-care, and to preserve the connection I do have with my mom that I cherish, I suggested we give politics a rest.
But when it became obvious that my mom had in fact voted for Trump, and I began to not exactly accept her beliefs, but come to terms with the fact that she had them, I became hyper-aware of the judgmental attitudes surrounding me. My social media feeds buzzed with people pitying friends with less progressive upbringings or family members. They praised and thanked their own liberal family members and offered what might as well have been condolences for those they deemed less fortunate, with parents or siblings who weren’t liberal, who did vote for Trump. When I confessed to acquaintances that my mom voted for Trump, people expressed real sorrow, sympathy even.
I do not love that my mom voted for Trump, but that’s her choice, and it’s up to me, not my Facebook community at large, to decide how I want to deal with that.
Admittedly, if she were a bigot or a racist, this would be more of a struggle. But she isn’t, and she voted for Trump anyway, because, surprise, not everyone who voted for Trump is a terrible person or sees things one way. My mom voted for Trump, in part because she wanted that amorphous “something different” that so many people were seeking in this election, and she hoped that Trump could deliver. She also saw Hillary Clinton as “simply too familiar” of a candidate — an electoral phenomenon one of Refinery29’s own contributors talked about in her essay on what went wrong for the Democratic nominee. My mom disliked Hillary Clinton way before this election, for reasons I’ve yet to muster the courage to ask her about, and she wanted to vote for someone who…wasn’t her.
I hadn’t planned on breaking my no-politics rule with my mom — and doing so wasn’t easy — but after Trump was elected and I felt my world shatter, I became increasingly curious to know where my mom stood. It was only after reading this article that essentially suggests we hear where people with opposing views are coming from — and really listen — that I decided I would finally ask her.
I worked hard to get to this place of understanding; it was painful and took self-control, and I know there’s a lot more work to do ahead
The experience wasn’t perfect. I could only do it for so long before suggesting we move on to the new lipstick I’d bought for fear that things would take a turn for the worse. But I was proud of myself for trying, and for getting as far as I did — we both were.
I don't know if my job as a daughter, as a concerned citizen, as a journalist, and an activist is to help inform my mom about the things I think she might be missing out on, or if it’s my duty to simply accept that we’re on different sides of the political spectrum and to make peace with that. I’m guessing the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, and that figuring it out will be an ongoing process.
I know one thing for certain, though. I worked hard to get to this place of understanding; it was painful and took self-control, and I know there’s a lot more work to do ahead. But as we head into inauguration and these conversations move to the forefront again, rather than wish we were all the same, it feels important to recognize that we aren’t, and figure out how to deal with that moving forward — especially with the people we love.