What should you do when someone you care about shares an opinion you feel is incompatible with your relationship?
It’s a question I’ve been pondering for months, dating back to November 2017 when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, which prompted a family friend to boast about the victory on Facebook. For better or for worse, I chose to end our relationship right there. I bid the Trump supporter a farewell in a terse Facebook message, and I unfriended them immediately.
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it” – Martin Luther King Jr.
I instantly felt better, but as much as the instant gratification was wonderful, I knew this was a policy that couldn’t be instated every time someone espoused an opinion I didn’t care for. While this logic is sound, it leads to a paradox of tolerance: in which one is intolerant of the intolerant. Logically, this is one hell of a paradox, and yet, when it comes to racism (or misogyny, homophobia, or any worldview that challenges the idea that all humans be treated equally), I remain steadfast that tolerance is far from the solution. If alt-right “leader” Richard Spencer’s public appearance taught us anything, it’s that it’s always OK (encouraged, frankly) to punch a nazi. The disincentive works. However what does one do when that Nazi turns out to be someone you love? Or, should love.
I leave this as an open question because I’m not sure I have a definitive answer. I simply know that something must be done, and that this is not an isolated incident. I was raised in a family in which conversation and debate are held paramount above other family interactions, so I lean towards direct discussion and confrontation, however this isn’t always the best option. Family relationship dynamics often dictate that confrontation is a deviation from social norms, however recent conversations I have had with certain family members have demanded attention, regardless of the supposed familial hierarchy.
“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Personally, I’ve chosen to address this rhetoric directly and in doing so have paid a social cost, however this was my own choice, as it is yours, dear reader. Your relationships (and how you nurture them) are up to you, and you will have to decide what you value most in these key moments, regardless of how they arise. While a family dinner might not be the best place to start a political debate, it’s foolish to believe there’s ever even a “good” place to do so. Family conflict will always be difficult, but it will always be better than silent indignation. Personally, I find it very difficult to “love” someone that fails to love a stranger in the same way they say they love me, therefore conflicts such as these are always worthwhile. I know there will be conflict, there will be mixed emotions, but ultimately I believe the discussion will be worth the trauma.