I am a woman, and I feel so betrayed that he voted for someone who clearly sees me as “less than” — someone who thinks women are there to grab and touch and lord over without consequences. It feels like, on some level, he has to be able to accept that behavior to have voted for him. It’s a betrayal to me, to my non-white boyfriend whose parents are immigrants, to my friends of color, to my LGBTQ friends, to my women friends, and to my mother. He’s spent time with all of these friends and likes them, but he was still okay voting against their civil rights and safety.
He had been saying he wasn’t going to vote, but from listening to him talk I think it is clear that he voted for Trump — because he was the “lesser of the two evils.” What is more evil than the hate Trump was spewing though?
I came home to see my parents, and my dad and I talked about it a little. I think we’re going to avoid talking about it from now on, but it feels hard to look him in the eye. It feels like he threw me, and all the people I love, under the bus. His not voting I could have dealt with, but his actively voting for Trump… I don’t know how to handle.
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for how to deal with this? — Ashamed of My Dad
A Trump presidency is an assault on civil liberties and personal safety (not to mention, a complete shit-show in the making when it comes to foreign relations). Since the election there have been hundreds of reports of abuse, assault, and harassment, of minorities and women, by jubilant Trump supporters celebrating his victory. A person who voted for Trump is complicit in these acts. He is complicit in the KKK’s victory parade to celebrate the election of Trump, whose campaign platform was grounded in hate. A person who voted for Trump is complicit in the fear that many of us, including children, now feel about having a racist, sexist sociopath leading our country. To have a father (or a mother or other family member or friend) who voted for Trump goes beyond feeling embarrassed and betrayed; it means we failed. We failed to change their minds, to open their hearts, to get them to abandon the compartments they place people in — us, their daughters, their friends — to avoid feeling shitty about being complicit in assaults against us. To have a family member who voted for Trump is a disgrace and a deep shame. But we must love them anyway.
To denounce a person we love who has voted for hate is to be no better than they are. And, frankly, it’s avoiding the responsibility we continue to have — now greater than ever — to convince them that people cannot be compartmentalized, and that their actions have consequences. They may not care about the consequences their actions — like voting for a racist sociopath to lead our country — have on people they don’t know; but they may care about the consequences their actions have on people they do know. So for those of us who have family members who voted for Trump, it’s our responsibility to keep those family members abreast of the horror they are complicit in and the effects that horror has on people they know and love. It is your responsibility, it is our responsibility, to give voice to the oppressed for those who are complicit in oppressing them. Who better to deliver the message than YOU, someone your father loves and, presumably, respects and wants the best for?
Seeing an opportunity to thoughtfully engage and move toward changing minds and opening hearts doesn’t lessen the anguish you must feel in knowing your father voted for a monster — one who brags about sexually assaulting women. But it should give you a sense of purpose in maintaining a close relationship with your dad beyond the family ties and personal history you share, and that motivation may help in how you reconcile your love for your father with the pain and horror he is complicit in. It may also help in remembering that your experience is not his. He doesn’t know, and he’s never had to think about, what it’s like to be a woman or person of color or an LGBQT person in this country. He has never had to worry about being raped on the way to his car after a late shift at work or being stopped and frisked and even killed because of the color of his skin, or having to fight for the right to marry whom he loves, or knowing that his grandparents were sent to concentration camps for being the same religion he is — a faith that will be under attack in our new administration (Trump just named a known anti-semite as his top advisor). He doesn’t think about those very real fears and anxieties because he’s never had to. Make him think about it now. Because he just helped elect a man who normalizes hate and who emboldens people to grab women by the pussy because he himself bragged about doing just that. Make him think about what that means.
At the same time, you have the opportunity to think about (and even discuss) your father’s experiences that motivated him to vote for Trump. I don’t doubt that there are reasons that are very important to people to have voted for him: a platform strong on gun rights and anti-abortion appealed to some. The idea of fewer taxes appealed to many. A hatred and distrust for Hillary (and I’m sorry, but using a private email server is not anywhere close to the level of crimes and immoral acts Trump has committed). And, simply, a desire for “change” and being suckered into believing Trump’s promise to bring it. Some of these are more valid reasons than other (though I certainly don’t agree with all of them) and maybe talking to your father about his particular reasons might help you understand his vote. I know that even a reason other than explicit misogyny and racism doesn’t begin to erase the anguish you feel right now, and you are right to feel it. But instead of ignoring it and avoiding the topic with your dad, which may help preserve your relationship but does NOTHING to preserve the rights of others, speak up. Use it as a motivating force to appeal to the good in your father and maybe, just maybe, in the next election he will vote with the voice of the oppressed in his ear because you had the courage to share it.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.