I recently made a significant and terrifying life change; at the ripe age of 29, I decided to move back in with my parents. I have not lived with my parents since I graduated high school at 18, so to say that this has been a change of lifestyle is putting it lightly. I currently have a fabulous relationship with them, and it's important to me to keep our relationship a positive one. Unfortunately, I chose this life change smack in the middle of the most politically charged time in our country. Even more unfortunate: my parents are big Trump supporters. So here I am, a fully formed adult, used to living on my own in my beloved liberal San Francisco, now living in my parents' basement in a suburb outside of Denver. It's going to be fine, right?
Three days after the ball dropped on 2017, I packed all of my things and flew to Denver with my adorable mini wiener dog Gertrude in tow. My intentions were to take a few months and decide what my next move would be. Things started off smoothly. I was able to avoid politics as long as I also avoided all television and social media, which I was determined to do. As the inauguration grew closer, it was soon impossible to avoid the terrifying reality of a Trump presidency.
I have never been particularly political, but I, like many others, was deeply distraught, disgusted, and terrified when the reality-television-star-turned-politician Donald "The Donald" Trump was named the next president. (Side note: there should be some sort of law that automatically disqualifies you from holding political power if you have a nickname that starts with "The.")
In my previous life in San Francisco, I found comfort in the fact that everyone I spoke to agreed that fundamentally, The Donald was sexist, racist, chauvinistic, and not at all presidential. I would say the majority of humans I encountered in San Francisco, including my friends and colleagues, shared my anxieties regarding the 45th president elect. We would speak about our plans to move to Mexico or Canada or Australia, and I would be comforted knowing I was not a crazy person imagining things; this man was awful.
I have never considered myself a Democrat or Republican or affiliated with any particular religion, but I could not remain Switzerland in the case of Donald Trump.
I acknowledge that this thinking was a contributing factor to the growing divisiveness of the country. But the thing was, I considered myself a patient, open-minded person when it came to hearing opposing views on hot-button topics like religion or politics. I have never considered myself a Democrat or Republican or affiliated with any particular religion, but I could not remain Switzerland in the case of Donald Trump.
I was perplexed and distraught that my parents — my college-educated, open-minded, bohemian mother and father to three daughters — could ever support a man who has disrespected and criticized women the way that he has. And that is not taking into account the countless other groups of humans he has treated unfairly. I tried to avoid the topic as long as possible; whether this is cowardly or smart is debatable, but if politics were something you avoided with family before Trump, then you definitely avoid it now.
Once I landed in Denver, I knew I could no longer go back to my liberal and like-minded San Francisco family. I had no escape from the truth that was Trump's America. Gulp.
I think it's human nature to try to put people, especially when it comes to politics, in a pretty little box. For instance, I happen to be a yoga instructor, a former San Francisco resident, and a feminist, so I am considered liberal. This is true. It fits. However, my mother is an artist, a mother of six kids, and a hippie at heart and has always considered herself a staunch Republican. I always knew my parents were more conservative than I was but never in a million years thought they'd be Trump supporters.
When I found out my mother voted for Trump (my dad is staying mum about how he voted), I asked why. She said that although he is not the best option, he will make changes for the better to our country and fix my beloved Barack Obama's mistakes. That was her general reasoning; he will fix everything. I kept my thoughts and frustrations to myself for as long as I could. My mouth was glued shut, tongue practically bleeding from metaphorically biting it, until the weekend of the inauguration and the Women's March.
My parents had invited me to go skiing with them in the mountains, an all-expenses-paid business trip. I immediately jumped at the chance; being unemployed and broke, I would have said yes to pretty much any free vacation. I regretted my acceptance when I realized that we would be away for Saturday's Women's March, which I so desperately wanted to attend. It was too late, I had already committed, and I did not want to fuel the fire with an explanation: "I need to go march against the man you are so thrilled is our president."
On the snowy four-hour drive up the mountain, there was no avoiding the topic; my phone was blowing up with friends texting about their plans for the Women's March and sharing words of encouragement to each other. My Facebook feed was filled with people expressing disbelief, fear, and sadness. And then there was Michelle Obama's face during the inauguration; it was like she was stuck in a nightmare trying to hold back a panic attack. I felt Michelle Obama was all of us that day. And by all of us, I mean everyone except for my parents (and the other millions of Trump supporters), whom I happened to be stuck in a car with for hours.
I was flabbergasted that the bar we had now set for the most powerful job in the world is that one of his children turned out well.
My mom asked me several times, "What's wrong?," "Why are you sighing so much?," "Why are you crying?" She was completely oblivious to what everyone in my world was feeling. "I am just sad, Mom," I said. "Why?" she asked me genuinely. I took a deep breath and finally told her that I was completely and utterly terrified that our new president was going to ruin our country and possibly much of our lives. She chuckled and told me I was being dramatic. I took another deep breath and tried my best not to be defensive, and I asked her how she could support such a horrible misogynistic man. "Oh Alex, look at his daughter Ivanka (not the one he abandoned and didn't raise, what's-her-name Tiffany), she adores her dad, and she is so poised and successful. He must be a good man to have a daughter like that." She smiled at me with earnestness. I was flabbergasted that the bar we had now set for the most powerful job in the world is that one of his children turned out well. (That's also debatable.)
After the floodgates opened, we spent the next three hours of the drive arguing back and forth. I was 99 percent sure that my mom and I had been living on different planets. In her reality, Barack Obama had contempt for the United States and had purposefully "ruined" it for the last eight years while Trump (although not her first choice — "he isn't perfect," she said) was here to save us all from Obama's poor decisions. "He just wasn't tough enough," she would say about Obama. "He made executive orders for things the country didn't want. That isn't right." Little to nothing she was talking about made sense to me, and she felt the same way about what I was saying to her.
In my America, I could not have been more proud that my first presidential vote was cast for Barack Obama, someone I considered kind, powerful, and well-spoken and who held the same values as I do. Under his presidency, gay marriage was legalized, he created a health care system for everyone, and he desperately tried to strengthen gun laws — and he did it all while showing that a powerful man is only made better with an equally powerful woman by his side.
We are now several weeks into Trump's administration, and I am more horrified than I thought possible by what he has done so far as president. Despite my best efforts, I have gotten into several screaming matches with my mother regarding his horrific travel ban and abortion stance. I still leave every argument with a feeling of complete confusion, and we often start screaming at each other for being misinformed. Unfortunately, alternative facts are now taken as truth, and truth is losing its meaning altogether. I am sure of one fact: I do not live in the same America as my parents, even though I live in the same house.
Miracles can happen, though, because I was able to have one political conversation with my parents since Trump was elected that did not erupt into shouts and me feeling frustration and disbelief. We were sitting in the dining room, red wine in hand (this I believe was a very important step in the road to constructive conversation), when my dad, who has yet to get involved in our heated debates, stealthily brought up the subject. He told us it made him sad to see us fight and that we seem to be arguing with each other to no end since neither of us is willing to listen to the other's opinions or "facts." I pointed out that "facts" no longer hold truth the way that they used to, and he agreed. We discussed various issues and listened to one another for a couple of hours; my mom would lose her temper every once in a while, and my dad would kindly mention that we were just talking, and she would calm down.
It's funny how politics can bring out such emotion in people who are otherwise not easily heated. I actually think one positive side effect of our political unrest right now is that most Americans of all ages are starting to care. People who had previously taken our country's democracy for granted are taking notice and getting involved. If everyone could have someone like my dad around to keep the peace and the conversation going in a positive direction, we would be in much better shape. When we finally finished our long conversation, my butt sore from sitting on the hard chair and my head a bit cloudy from all of the varying opinions and beliefs, I did felt a tiny bit of release of the frustration that I had been keeping bottled up.
We had successfully had a political debate, and no one was upset or hurt! That was something of a victory for our family. I am still as liberal as they come, and my mother is still as conservative as you can get, and my dad is still somewhere in the middle. But I have hope that maybe all over the country, families, friends, and co-workers can come together and, if anything, just leave with the understanding that we are all humans, all doing the best we can with the information we are given, and maybe some of the anger will loosen just a little. And take it from me: red wine can help with that, too.