THE HUFFINGTON POST: Divided Nation, Divided Family: Overcoming Political Differences

I hate that my mother voted for Donald Trump. But I love my mom.

As we look at the fierce division between Trump’s supporters and everyone else, the fear of the unknown is paralyzing. There’s a reason the hair on the back of our neck sticks up when we find ourselves in a dangerous situation. Our body is screaming out that something is wrong. But when we take on our parents, friends, family, and people we love to right that instinctive wrong, we risk shattering our home core.

Historically, this election is one of the few times the electoral vote and popular vote are different. The resulting message to both parties should be that we need to work together now more than ever – but that isn’t happening.

People are fearful. We’ve elected someone who’s obsessed with Twitter bigotry and hate. I take to heart what Bernie Sanders said: “Our job now is to hold him accountable.”

But my mother disagrees. Seeing the rising number of anti-Trump riots and protests on the news, she has pledged her support. “They should round up the protesters and arrest them,” she believes.

My colleague is Latino. He’s always full of cheer, but today, he’s afraid. He is leery of what the future may hold. And like many others, I see how afraid he is. It’s hard for me to sympathize with people like my mother who support Trump.

Our president-elect has threatened to use presidential rights to take away the rights of many Americans. But if we become hateful, we will, in turn, become like our oppressors – and just like Trump.

We do need to fight forward, but not at the cost of losing friends and family.

We can face discrimination in workplaces, schools. and as well in the state. But it’s doubtful we’ll keep the public fight if we’re raging the war alone. Burning bridges with people we love will get us nowhere.

In an attempt to communicate, I listened to the rants of my mother. I talked about the importance of civil rights in America. Still, her hostile emails continued. I felt hurt. And like many of us whose families are politically split, we needed to find common ground. But how?

When we stop communicating with people we love, our relationships decay. The smallest slight can fire up our emotions.

I was afraid of becoming hateful. There’s always a moment where you face the option of breaking all the rules. Where you know that no matter how bad things are now, you can always make them worse with one choice.

Then I remembered when First Lady Michelle Obama addressed that same choice this election:

“When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is: when they go low, we go high.”

Michelle Obama touched a chord with her words. Faced with the proposition of becoming full of hate, I decided to ‘go high.’

I reached out and told my mother that I loved her, that I cared about her. I explained that nothing outside of us is more important than our relationship.

She took a breath and said, “I love you so much.” And as of late, she has ceased to talk about the president-elect.

There was no way I could have reached middle ground with my mother. We were both trying to make each other understand, instead of understanding the other. Now we have the opportunity to build a more communicative relationship. Or perhaps we will agree to remain respectful and go silent.

Let’s go with our gut instincts and follow our heart. Whatever our future holds, or hardships we’re facing, we will never succeed without the love of family and friends.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

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This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.

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