This time, my dad duped me into talking about politics with seemingly harmless bait: "So what do your friends think about Obama?" Notice the subtle wording - what do my friends think; that way, if he wants to attack, then he is attacking my friends and not me, yet I'm the one apparently speaking for my generation, and myself.
I'm willing to have an honest conversation about what President Obama has done wrong and right in his presidency, as long as two conditions exist: 1) We focus on empirical evidence and analyze it without ulterior motives, and 2) it isn't with my father. Already from the get-go, this isn't a conversation, nor is his purpose altruistic -- like to get to know me better or find some common ground in our values or even to think carefully, non-emotionally about solutions to the world's problems -- but to exert power, to exercise debate tactics imbued since his childhood (if not statistical, then anecdotal; if not reason, then emotion; if not practical, then hypothetical; and if all else fails, attack the opponent), to blow off steam that has built up from his hatred, and to relive the arguments he once had with his Liberal father.
I am following this election carefully, and no, not just the Trump-bashing opinion pieces, as much as I salivate over a good Trump-bashing. I am objectively analyzing his policy positions and character for myself. As much as one can block out media bias, I have tried, if not just to genuinely understand why so many people support him. I've listened to Trump's speeches and read his website and his social media to get a feel for what he believes, as I think everyone should do. That's as objective as you can get, trying to hear it "from the horse's mouth." Because the media is attention-hungry and profiting off our Trump fascination, I read everything with a grain of salt; I ask questions even when someone's analysis appeals to me. I have exerted much effort to understand, to the best of my human ability, the issues that our next president will actually have power to address. That means understanding how ISIS evolved, and what measures President Obama took to recover our economy after 2008 and what failed and what worked, and how police are trained and overseen, and how social programs have changed, and immigration and unemployment and racial tensions and Gitmo and the Second Amendment and --- sorry, the blood vessels in my eyes almost burst. All of those hotly-debated topics, even if you can find them presented in a nonpartisan way, are difficult to form a staunchly one-sided opinion on if you are truly thinking holistically, examining all sides of the prism, and in not just in a way that satisfies your worldview. Because as much as people like to believe that if you add water and sunlight, something green will grow, ecosystems and economies and social equity and human psychology are much, much more complex than that.
If you have made your mind up about everything, then you're not right in the head. "A wise person knows himself to be a fool," right? The more you learn, the more you realize you don't know anything. But the problem is we're all deathly afraid of being seen as fools.
I think that is at the root of why politics have deteriorated my family. I have family members who, it feels, only look at me in a politicized way, automatically on the attack -- maybe, I rationalize, because I work for a nonprofit that advocates for criminal justice reform, or maybe because my book makes a statement about imperialism, how we are quick to misunderstand other cultures, and the dynamics of Islam. STUPID LIBERAL! There is no room to respect what someone does or believes because everyone is scrambling to defend their intelligence. Family dinner is no longer a place of warmth and mutual gratitude for having each other in our lives. One assumes the other half of the table is against anything they say, so they speak as if only to the air particles, just to shake something. So much love, once omnipresent, has been turned to stone. It is devastating.
Well. As Edie Brickell once sang: Choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep. Hopefully you glossed over all that to get to the humor. Below I've broken down what it means to debate with family members into a series of helpful memes.