With hundreds of thousands of miles traveled, dozens of countries toured via interstates, planes, vans and buses; from dining with royalty in the South of France in castles to living on the road with hobos and vagabonds, Rev. Peyton has seen and done a lot. As an internationally revered recording artist and performer — and a proud Hoosier — we asked Rev. Peyton to lend his unique perspective and wildlife experiences to our readers.
Got a question about music, traveling, love, food, religion, politics, family, friends or enemies? Send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit anonymously to bigdamnadvice.tumblr.com, and Rev. Peyton will answer back in a regular column. Anonymity is assured.
Dear Rev: My dad is a Trump supporter. I’m as far liberal as you can be, about. How can I survive Christmas with my family? What’s the most loving way to tell him that I think he’s totally crazy?
It's the holiday season, and so many people are going to be surrounded by family and friends in the coming days and weeks. This should be a warm experience filled with fellowship and love. I really have been looking forward to answering this question, especially since it is Christmas time. So to the person who wrote this question, I want to say a giant thank you. Thank you for giving me the perfect question for this time of year.
However, if you think I was going to come out in this column and back one party or candidate over another they were grossly mistaken. What I am about to say is very serious, but I am in no way backing anyone, so read carefully, pay close attention, and try to take what I am saying to heart.
So your dad is a Donald Trump supporter and you are worried about surviving a holiday encounter with him. Let me dig into this issue and I want to assure you that there are millions more out there like you are dreading political discussions and political arguments with family members around the United States. That is because as a country we are more polarized than ever when it comes to political party affiliation. This isn’t hyperbole or exaggeration. The data proves it. According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats and Republicans are more divided than at anytime in the last two decades. According to a recent YouGov poll, 49 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats would have a problem with their family marrying someone outside of their political affiliation. This is compared to 5 percent for Republicans and 4 percent for Democrats when the same question was asked in 1960.
Shanto Iyengar (director of Stanford's political communications lab, working with Dartmouth College political scientist, Sean Westwood) found that political bias far outweighed racial bias when people were reviewing resumes of applicants. Here is the sad irony of this whole political picture. As average Americans we are actually far closer to the middle than our elected officials, news media, and partisan blog sites would like for each one of us to believe.
It is true that the most extreme among us are the ones who tend to be the most engaged. The most polarized among us are more likely to turn out to vote. The biggest problem that we face currently is that if someone leans to one side of the political spectrum, they then shut down the other side entirely. They use words like “evil,” “stupid,” or “Nazi.”
Is your Dad an evil Nazi? My guess is no. Is he, like you, only getting his news from one side? My guess is he is a disciple of Fox News and the Drudge Report. My guess is that you are a disciple of Huffington Post, Slate and Salon. Both of you probably have no idea what the other one really truly believes politically, or why you believe what you do. Your discourse doesn't get past weak arguments like, “You just don’t get it,” or, even worse: “You’re an idiot.”
As humans we want to tribe up. It is an evolutionary trait that helped us to defeat the neanderthal and build civilization as we know it. It can also be a very ugly trait. This desire to be true to our tribe can cause us to close our minds. This is a fact that has become way more obvious to me the more and the farther away that I personally travel. When you get to see the differences in other cultures, you are able to better understand just how much we are so culturally the same here in the United States. A Democratic American has way more in common culturally with a Republican American than a Bulgarian of any political affiliation. However, when it comes to the things that really matter, like friends, food, family, etc., we share these values with everyone across the planet.
Since you wrote in this question, I am sure you really care about what happens to this country. You are concerned about the path we are on, and you are concerned about the future. I am guessing your Dad does too. He is concerned, he cares, and if he votes, then he is engaged and doing his civic duty. You just disagree. I don’t think I am going out on a limb saying that I could probably phrase political questions that could elicit the same response out of both you and your old man.
In the earliest days of our nation, you wouldn’t call a political foe an “idiot” in public. It would mean an honor duel to the death. You would choose weapons and then one of you would literally be killed in a “fair” fight to the death. If Representative Joe Wilson had yelled, “You Lie” to the President of the United States, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, like he did in 2009, President Obama would have challenged him to a duel. One of them would have literally been killed.
Am I calling for a return to honor duels to the death? Of course I'm not, but I do long for the days when in disagreement you might start off by saying, “I know you to be gentleman and your character is beyond reproach, however I must respectfully disagree with you because…”
So in short, don't tell your dad he is crazy. If it is going to be an issue, then don’t bring it up at all. If politics does come up, then see if you can really explain what you believe without name calling or buzz phrases or parroting bloggers. See if you can really listen to your dad, and find out why he believes what he does. Maybe you can open his mind, maybe he can open your mind. Extremism on all sides leads to violence. The far right and the far left is just one economic catastrophe or tragedy from becoming ISIS. Stand up for what you believe, but I personally have way more respect for someone who can extend a hand in friendship to someone they disagree with. It is harder to compromise than it is to dig in your heels.
Presidents will come and go. Quit de-friending people who disagree, and remember you only have one dad, and he won’t be around forever. In the spirit of giving and Christmas, maybe you could find a place to volunteer with your dad that you both could get behind. It would go a lot farther toward making the world a better place than sharing a partisan Facebook post.
In that same spirit, I suggest you get your dad one of those Trump, “Make America Great Again” hats for Christmas. Think of it like raising the white flag of truce. The joke will be on him anyway, because regardless of what you believe politically, I think we can all agree those hats look ridiculous. Who designed them anyway?