Kristia Leyendecker has been navigating a series of opposing views of her two siblings and other loved ones since 2016, when Donald Trump’s election put a sharp, painful point on their political divisions as she drifted away from today’s Republican Party and they have not.
Then came the pandemic, the chaotic 2020 election and more conflict over masks and vaccinations. Yet she hung there to keep relationships intact. That all changed in February 2021 during the devastating freezing point in the Dallas area where they all live, she with her husband and two of their three children. Leyendecker’s middle child started a gender transition, and Leyendecker’s brother, his wife and her sister broke off contact with her family. Their mother was caught in the middle.
“I was devastated. If you had told me 10 years ago, even five years ago, that I would be estranged from my family now, I would have told you you are lying. We were a very close family. We all holidays done together I have been through all the stages of sadness several times already, “says 49-year-old Leyendecker, a high school teacher.
Since then, there have been no family picnics or group vacations. There were no mass gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas. On the way to summer, nothing has changed.
For families broken along red house-blue house lines, summer’s list of reunions, trips and weddings forms another exhausting round of tension in a time of heavy fatigue. Pandemic restrictions have melted away, but gun control, the fight for reproductive rights, the January 6 uprising, which is to blame for rising inflation, and a range of other issues continue.
Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers, co-presenters of the popular Pantsuit Politics podcast, hosted small group discussions with listeners about family, friendships, church, community, work and partners as they unveiled their second book, “Now What? How to Forward to move when we are divided (over basically everything). ”
What they heard is relatively consistent.
“Everyone is still very hurt by some of the downfall in their relationships over COVID,” says Stewart Holland. “People are still heartbroken over some friendships that have broken up, partnerships that are now strained, family relationships that have been estranged. As people start to get back together, that pain is right on the surface, over the last fight or the last disagreement or the last explosion. ”
She calls this moment in a country that is still very polarized as a “bingo card of political conflict for certain families at the moment.”
Reda Hicks, 41, was born and raised in Odessa, the epicenter of the West Texas oil industry. Her family is big, conservative and deeply gospel. She is the eldest of four siblings and the senior of 24 first cousins. Her move to Austin for college was an eye opener. Her move to ultra-progressive Berkeley, California, for law school was an even bigger one.
She has been in Houston since 2005 and has watched friction between friends and family from her two very different worlds diverge on her social media feeds, encouraged by the distance the internet offers.
“There was a horrible caricature on both sides of that spectrum. Like, ‘I’m going to talk to you like you’re the caricature in my mind of a hippie,’ or ‘I’m going to talk to you like you’re the caricature in my mind. of a rough neck, ‘which means you’re an idiot anyway and you have no idea what you’re talking about, “says Hicks, a business consultant and the mother of two young children.
“It all feels so personal now.”
Immigration and border security are popping up regularly. So too abortion and access to health care for women. Religion, especially the separation of church and state, is a third hot button. And there is gun reform in light of the recent mass school shooting in Uvalde at home in Texas and other massacres. She has family members – including her retired military and conservative husband – who own and carry guns.
In offline life, Hicks’ family interactions can be tense, but remain civil, with regular gatherings that include a recent group weekend at her second home in the Pineywoods of East Texas.
She has never considered a transition to no contact with conservative loved ones. With a brother living just across the street, it will be difficult to fix it. As a couple, Hicks and her husband made a conscious decision to openly discuss their opposing views in the presence of their children, ages 11 and 5.
It is a kind of humiliation, which makes room for them to agree to disagree. “And we differ a lot. But our ground rules are not a name to mention. If something gets extra hot, we take a time-out.”
No real ground rules are set when it comes to the rest of their families, except for a change of subject when things seem to be heading for a boiling point.
Daryl Van Tongeren, an associate professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, is out with a new book on the silent power of self-control, “Humble: Free Yourself from the Traps of a Narcissistic World.” In his eyes, the Hickses are right, though cultural humility is a big question for some divided families.
“Cultural humility is when we realize that our cultural perspective is not superior, and we show curiosity to learn from others, by seeing the multitude of divergent approaches as a strength,” says Van Tongeren. “This humility does not come at the expense of the struggle for the oppressed, nor does it require people to shy away from upholding their personal values. But how we deal with people with whom we do not agree matters.”
Van Tongeren is an optimist. “Humility,” he says, “has the potential to change our relationships, our communities and nations. It helps to bridge rifts, and it centers the humanity of each of us. And that’s what we currently desperately need.”
In the humility camp he is not alone. Thomas Plante, who teaches psychology at California’s Santa Clara University, a liberal Jesuit school, insists the same.
“Having a heated conversation during a picnic or over a barbecue is not going to change anyone’s mind. As a rule, it only creates tension and hurt feelings,” says Plante.
Carla Bevins, an assistant education professor in communication at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper Business School, focuses on interpersonal communication, etiquette and conflict management. The wells of emotional reserves dropped even lower at the beginning of summer’s proximity, she says, compared to the stressful family times of, say, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We are so exhausted,” she says. “And so often we frame our own reaction before we really first hear what the other person is trying to say. It has to be about finding that commonality. Ask yourself, how much energy do I have in a day? And remember, there is always the option to just not go. ”
This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.