A highlight from my experience this break: “You know what they say . . . if you’re young and not a liberal, you have no heart; if you’re old and not a conservative, you have no brain.”
I’m sure many of you have experienced similar levels of condescension recently, especially considering the fact that Winter Break was, for many, the first time we have seen our families since the election.
Being liberal at Brown? No big deal. I mean, it’s Brown. Being liberal at home, however . . .
As college students, we are subject to the critical eyes of our elders. If they disagree with beliefs we hold, said beliefs are often conflated with blind idealism, or ignorance, or some other malady that the passage of time will invariably heal. They assume liberalism is a phase, some new trendy thing we’re into because we’re in college now and all the kids say it’s cool.
I understand how relatives might develop this perspective. It’s not like most people are willing/able to get into long discussions about politics with their parents when they are still living with them full-time and therefore entirely subject to parental control. Even if you did make an effort to broach such topics with them, it’s not likely they would take you seriously – if anything, you would just annoy them.
To them, you’re still just a kid; consequently, any views you espouse that are unrelated to theirs are inextricably related to your “naïveté”. They have a very difficult time comprehending that you are capable of making rational decisions; to them, your world is a world of daisies and rose-colored glasses, a world that is “ugh, oh so PC”.
This is why your Aunt So-and-So scoffs when you comment it was sexist to say that women were just attending the Women’s March downtown because the stores were “right there”, and they just “wanted an excuse to go shopping”.
And why some of your relatives criticize you for “being butthurt” (a gross phrase, honestly) about them making racist/sexist jokes. If you don’t laugh, you have “no sense of humor”.
At the core of these dismissive responses is the fact that our age demographic is not taken seriously. We have passed from childhood, and from blind acquiescence with the teachings of our parents, into the beginnings of our adulthood. To our conservative elders, the ones who “have brains”, our youth is evidence of our inability to think critically; in their eyes, if we fail to let go of our liberalism past a certain age, we are fools.
Oftentimes, it seems that the differences between my relatives and I are insurmountable – and, again: why try to settle your differences when you can avoid potential arguments by continuing to avoid taboo topics?
But I realize I was wrong to think that way.
While many people are rather intransigent about their political views, family members are (generally) more accepting of each other than they are of strangers. When I deem it wise, I think it is best to speak to my relatives about our conflicting views, rather than continue to steadfastly avoid certain topics.
Yes, I feel like looking into the camera like I’m on The Office sometimes, and yes it does strain my patience. However, I would rather articulate my beliefs and have an opportunity to demonstrate their substance than say nothing when relatives scoff at me simply because it’s easier.
And look at it this way: If this election season has taught me anything, it is that disagreements should be addressed and discussed productively, rather than avoided.
They don’t disappear just because you’re not talking about them, after all.