I've never been a so-called "political" person, and that's because I never had to be. I grew up with white privilege in a (formerly) conservative city in Southern California where talking about politics was something old white men did at the country club after a round of golf. Economic policies benefited the mostly white, middle-class neighbourhoods around me and the conservative ideologies aligned with much of my town's religious beliefs. Things were good as far as I knew, and because I lived in a bubble where the government's policies directly served me and those around me, what was there to complain about? It took me years until I realised how many of the policies and politicians in the U.S. were (and still are) racist, sexist, homophobic, outdated, and even dangerous.
America was founded on the need for power — whether that be over the land the pilgrims once colonized or women's bodies today — and that fact is hard to dispute, especially when you look at who has been in control of the country for the past four years. When Donald Trump took office, no one knew exactly what to expect. A (now very much in debt) businessman and TV personality running the most powerful country in the world didn't exactly add up, but hey, what did I know? As someone who didn't vote in the 2016 election (and very much regretted it), I knew it was time to get involved and educate myself as much as I could. In fact, it was long overdue. It became harder and harder to turn a blind eye to the horrifying comments the President made about women, race, and sexuality (among other things), and seeing those who continually stood by his side was bewildering to me.
America was founded on the need for power — whether that be over the land the pilgrims once colonized or women's bodies today — and that fact is hard to dispute, especially when you look at who has been in control of the country for the past four years.
As a once self-proclaimed "not political person," things began to change as the coronavirus (COVID-19) swept across the country. Before the pandemic, I was friends with Trump supporters and tried to keep the peace, but I quickly realised that couldn't be the case anymore. I noticed myself becoming angered when people talked about supporting Trump, I could feel myself wanting to scream when people acted like wearing a mask was political, and I couldn't understand or justify how some people twisted peaceful Black Lives Matter protests into riots and threats. Along with these feelings came major adjustments to some of my closest relationships — some for the better and some for the worse.
As the election loomed closer, I searched for ways to navigate relationships with some of my closest friends and family members. In fear of being biased, I exposed myself to different viewpoints on both sides of the aisle, looked into both candidate's proposed policies and ideals, immersed myself in news reportings from outlets ranging from CNN to Fox, and forced myself to have an open mind under all circumstances. I talked with others about their views on the candidates, why they supported the one they did, and where they saw the country going under them. I listened, I asked questions, and I learned.
As the election loomed closer, I searched for a way to navigate relationships with my friends and family members
My relationships with my Democratic friends were strengthened by the conversations and the willingness we had to learn from each other. I was able to gain an understanding from their experiences and see why they leaned toward Biden and how they saw him fixing the brokenness of our country. It was enlightening to see which policies voters of different demographics backed and how those policies would directly affect them if put in place. My friends and I could talk freely and openly and share our feelings on certain issues without judgement. We grew together through our new insights and were able to connect on a deeper level even if we still had differing ideologies. Our willingness to learn, ability to change our minds, and openness to listen made our relationships so much stronger.
But unfortunately, that wasn't the case for every connection. Having different views during such a divided time can be hard to look past. Discussions with some friends became arguments, and seeing both sides was often hazy at best. When acquaintances or friends mirrored the President's view of the coronavirus being a so-called "hoax," continually chose not to wear a mask, and became a health threat to those around them by not taking the pandemic seriously, I refused to tolerate it. The people who talked wrongly about the Black Lives Matter protests were, in my opinion, choosing not to educate themselves about the deeply rooted problem of systemic racism in this country, and to me, that's inexcusable. Some people's reluctance to see both sides was too hard to ignore, which left me feeling frustrated and hopeless. I unfollowed former friends on social media and even went as far as blocking some numbers on my phone. I have never ended a relationship over a political candidate before now, so I'm still in the midst of navigating how to fully come to terms with it.
While it's OK to have different opinions on certain things, when it comes to supporting or backing Trump's racism, homophobia, and blatant disrespect for people, that is not OK. I lost friends and cut people out of my life who used politics in the same way Trump had done to perpetuate hate and violence.
When politics became a dividing force in my relationships, it was less about the politics themselves and more about the hate that was behind them. In a time when equal rights, police reform, and a caring leader were (literally) on the ballot, I couldn't see how it was justifiable to support someone who wanted to take away rights, perpetuate systemic racism, and care only for themselves. Cutting people out of my life who didn't see this as an issue was hard, but also freeing. There comes a time when personal beliefs and values are important enough to trump former friendships.
If the recent election changed or altered any of your close relationships, you're not alone. In a divided country when conflicting views, different opinions, and internal turmoil are at play, it's not always possible to keep relationships the way they once were. Fighting for women's rights, taking a step toward ending climate change, stopping police brutality, and properly addressing a pandemic are just a few of the things I will stand by even if it means risking my relationships. Fighting for what's right goes beyond the ballot in this election as well as those to come.