Let me start by saying, I get it. I understand the confusion. The anger. The heartbreak.
Someone you thought was a good and kind person has revealed themselves to be… something different. Someone you love has exposed their support for or tolerance of bigotry, hatred, selfishness, narcissism, bullying, racism, sexism, abuse and violence through their support of Trump.
Maybe you found out directly. Or maybe you always had a hunch but were never quite sure. Regardless of the way you find out, the realization is, quite simply, devastating. Horrifying. Confusing. Embarrassing. Maddening. Demoralizing.
I know. I get it. Truly, I do. And sadly, so do plenty of other people.
So here’s the reality you’re – that we’re – currently facing: someone we love is supporting Trump.
So what the hell do we do about it?
Assuming you’ve tried to have productive conversations, tried to reason with them about all the awful things Trump has said and done, all the terror he has and is raining down on us, begged them even to be reasonable, they still aren’t changing their mind. They are voting for this monster.
So what do you do about it? How do you make sense of it? How do you cope?
Well, if you’re like me, you go through the stages of grief:
Denial: Surely they can’t really be voting for Trump. They’ll change their mind.
Anger: WTF are they thinking?! How could they? How can they look the other way while this monster bullies and lies while people are dying – DYING – by the thousands every day because of him?
Bargaining: Maybe if I wear enough Biden/Harris t-shirts and post enough articles to Facebook, they’ll change their mind. (Nope, they won’t.)
Depression: I will never get over this. Never.
Acceptance: This person is not who I thought they were.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
It is a complete and total mindfuck. And it’s exhausting.
So something has to give. We need to find some way to cope with the awareness that a friend or family member – maybe even someone we love – is not who we thought they were. I’ll be the first one to say that I do not have this all figured out, but I have found a few coping strategies that help:
1. Acknowledge the pain.
To all those people who say, “I would never let politics ruin relationships” or “you should respect others’ opinions,” well… this isn’t “just politics” and these aren’t differences of opinions, they are differences in values. It isn’t about Democrat vs. Republican or liberal versus conservative. It is about life and death. It is about democracy versus fascism. It is about hate versus kindness. So, yes, it is perfectly reasonable to feel devastated and horrified that someone you love – someone you had considered to be kind and reasonable and smart – is not the person you thought they were. Let yourself feel the anger and heartbreak. Let yourself grieve. Then take action.
2. Set healthy boundaries.
Let me be very clear, just because someone is family, they do not get a free pass to treat you like crap or mess with your emotional and mental wellbeing. “But they’re family” isn’t a reason to give someone total access to your life and jeopardize your wellbeing. What these boundaries look like are different for everyone. If you have an otherwise loving and healthy relationship, the boundaries might be as simple as not discussing politics with each other. For some people, it might mean a subtle shift, but you’re still able to maintain some kind of positive relationship. For others, if the relationship is toxic, it might be cutting them out completely. Believe me, it is not easy at all. It hurts bad when your MAGA-hat wearing cousin calls you all kinds of names on social media. But this is why the unfollow, unfriend, and block buttons were created. You do not need to subject yourself to bullies and toxic relationships just because someone is related to you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting to immediately stop talking to every Trump voter in your life. I firmly believe in our capacity to change and forgive. These boundaries don’t have to be permanent and they might evolve over time.
3. Surround yourself with people who do share your values.
Just as – or maybe even more – important as setting healthy boundaries, or maybe even cutting a toxic Trump supporter from your life completely, is making sure to surround yourself with people who are on the same page as you. This is not about living in an echo chamber – differences of opinion are still a good thing – but it is about emotional survival, and that requires shared values.
Surround yourself with people who uplift and sustain you. People who inspire and motivate you to be the best version of yourself you can be. People who understand that there is room for disagreement of opinions, but only if there is an agreement in values.
4. Do something.
You don’t need to feel helpless to fight the monster that is Trumpism, though I understand that feeling for sure. The only way I’ve found to combat the desperate feelings of woe is to do something. Phone bank. Volunteer to work the polls. Donate to the Biden/Harris campaign and the Democratic parties in swing states. Be vocal about your support for Joe Biden, and why there is no room for Trump in the future we want to build for our country.
I’ll be honest, 2020 has been a punch in the gut for so many reasons. Learning that someone you love is voting for Trump is brutal and heartbreaking. But remember: your heartbreak over this is also a sign that you care very deeply about building a better country and world. Now get out there and fight like hell to get that monster out of office.