When Politics Divides Families

The polarization of American politics is not a new thing. A casual study of history reveals a number of eras where the ends of political views caused much grief. The rule of dinner-time conversation, “no politics, no religion” didn’t come from a vacuum. It came from much hurt. 

I also came from a time where the distance between parties was almost civil. Hot debates on the floor, but dinner dates that evening. A compromise was not an agreement with evil, it was just a slight shift of perspective. 

That cycle has passed. We are deep into another cycle where the sides are radical.

How much does politics reveal the inmost character, the thing that counts, the thing that your life stands for, the very core of your beliefs?

Let’s take the opinion that it is an imperfect perfect picture, but true enough that it is representative. What happens when the leaders of politics take a direction that can be seen by some into questionable areas?

More to the point, areas that have not been traditionally questionable, but over time have developed as questionable. 

Our country has been torn apart on the issue of slavery. A political view for some, a religious view for others, and an economic view for the lofty thinkers. How can a family stand with all the differences? There really is no room for compromise.

If the differences between political parties is just big government versus small government, or differing views of state’s rights, then the different views are not personal. 

When the difference is personal then associations are strained and even families are torn.

I don’t know that anything has been studied in Germany about families concerning the acceptance or rejection of the Nazi party, but I can imagine that there must have been some rending here or there. It wasn’t an issue of nationalism or the belief in the benefits of fascism.

Today, there is a great tide of shifting opinion on immigration and borders. Sound bites that have morphed into some sort of proof one way or the other. When I hear the same words repeated over and over it gives me pause. 

At one time it seemed simple. There was a border that defined a country. When other people envied the life of the people in that country, they gathered an army, invaded, and conquered. Or they lost. 

Today the invasion is without weapons, it is just people leaving something bad, and going to something hopeful and good. At one time it was the strength of American, the great melting pot. 

The countries of Europe have experienced something similar, except there has been significantly less melting. Whole sections of cities have changed under the influence of the immigrants. Local culture replaced by a foreign culture. And by the way, in many cases this was legal and even encouraged by the government. 

Two views come from this. 1. A broad, open border, acceptance of new citizens. 2. A narrow nationalist view of self-defense and protectionism. 

It then becomes an argument over fear and compassion. It’s the classic dilemma of the bomb shelter. You have planned for water/food/and shelter for your family to survive. But now in the crisis, do you open the doors for your neighbor? What does that say about you as a person?

In the sinking of a ship, do you continue to let drowning, innocent people into your lifeboat until it is no longer a lifeboat. Each person that you refuse to save has an impact. Your children may never see you in the same way.

We pass laws as a nation, yet through compassion we ignore some of those laws. Yes, there may be other agendas at work, most certainly if people can exploit they will exploit. But are we willing to lose a part of our humanity by ignoring a human need?

I remember reading a short story based upon the exploding population in China. This was back in the day of the Cold War when the menace of Communism was real. 

There was real fear when spy satellites confirmed a massive building plan of Chinese aircraft. It seemed as if every village in China had an plant building bombers. 

The US reaction was swift. We built interceptors, jets that would engage them mid-pacific, shoot them down into the ocean. We built missile systems to remotely blow them out of the sky. 

The Chinese kept building, it became obvious that the planes were not going to be able to return. All the fuel would be used to get over the United States. 

Fine, we said, we will still shoot down anything that crosses our line. 

The day came when thousands upon thousands of planes took off from mainland China and headed east towards the US continent. 

A few aircraft carriers near China sent their jets to engage and destroy. When the wreckage was investigated they didn’t find bombs or nerve gas. They found Chinese families packed into the planes, each with a simple parachute and a small bag of provisions. 

Approximately a billion of unarmed Chinese were invading the US without weapons, ready to parachute in to the Golden Country. 

With that event we were changed. We either became mass murders or we became Chinese.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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