When economists philosophize, they'll tell you that the young start out liberal and as they gather worldly goods and status they mature into conservatives. In a maxim variously attributed to Winston Churchill, Victor Hugo and a slew of others, the thought bubble goes like this: "Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains." (A French philosopher put the line of demarcation at 20 years of age!)
It could also be true, as two decades of Pew Research Center surveys have found, that generations carry with them the imprint of early political experiences. That is, those of us who came of age during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations (we're now in our 80s or older), have fairly consistently favored Republican candidates, while those of us who turned 18 under Bill Clinton and his two successors have almost always voted more Democratic than the nation as a whole.
All of which is a long way of saying, it's not unusual for our political alignments to be out of sync generationally. That's what's led to many an unpleasant political conversation at Thanksgiving dinner. For those of us holding out hope for extended-family reunions around the Thanksgiving table this year, we may find the political divide is not so much generational as geographical. Compounding our differences is the unusual depth of feeling many of us hold about the current political situation and the deep divide between the left and the right. There is no longer any middle ground.
In these deeply partisan times, how can parents of one passionate political view come to terms with an older adolescent or young adult who is firmly wed to its opposite persuasion?
How indeed. And the same holds true for aunts and uncles and cousins by the dozens. This year, many of us may easily avoid dinner time chats with relatives with whom we disagree--social distancing and difficult travel protocols may intervene. But that doesn't help when we sit on opposite sides of the political divide with our grown children whom we may see everyday or Skype several times a week.
When it comes to politics, what does Pickhardt suggest in terms of keeping the ties that bind intact and conversations civil.
*Rather than treat a political difference as a barrier to getting along and listening with their mind made up, treat it as a bridge, as a talking opportunity to better understand each other.
*Rather than take personal offense, respect the individuality and independence of their grown child’s political convictions and the bravery to assert themselves in this displeasing way.
*Rather than treat political differences as primary, keep them in perspective as only a small part of a person, and appreciate the abiding commonalities they still share.
Solid advice. Good luck implementing it.
painting: Romare Bearden, Tomorrow I May Be Far Away, 1967, National Gallery