Family Feud by Theresa Rebeck

I called my parents in Ohio, about a week after the election. It was my daughter Cleo's birthday, and they had sent a present. So I called home to say thanks, the box arrived. My Dad picked up.

After the requisite conversation about what a good job UPS does, getting that box here so fast, he says to me, "so how's it going?" Very chipper.

"Um—it's not going so well, Dad," I say.

"Why not?" he says. All wide open innocence.

"Well—we're pretty upset here, about the election," I say.

"Why?"

Did he just say that? Is he kidding? "Well—because Trump is terrifying, he's promised to do all sort of crazy racist terrible things and he's insane, and now he's going be our president."

"It's not going to be that bad." Honestly, my dad is so serene and positive I think he sounds a little nuts. "You'll see," he tells me. "Not right away, but in about three years, you'll see how good this is. I might not be here to see it. (He's 87.) But you're a creative, and you'll see how much better everything is for creatives, when all the regulations are gone."

What is that supposed to mean?

"You think that the government should deregulate everything?" I ask. "It didn't bother you that deregulating Wall Street cost the country, it almost sent the whole planet into a global depression when the housing market tanked!"

"That was Clinton," he tells me.

"That was Bush and that crazy Iraq war was Bush too and any time the Republicans get any power at all they gouge the middle class and give all the money to their rich friends and what about global WARMING?"

"They don't really know about that," he informs me. Oh boy.

"What about all the people of color, what about the muslims and the hispanics, people who live here, he's threatened to—do you know that hate crimes are on the rise? Do you know what is going on now?" "Now, you asked what I thought and you have to listen to it," he tells me. I didn't actually ask what he thought and I don't like being spoken to as if I'm as big an idiot as he is. I don't mention that because it doesn't occur to me to say in the heat of the moment. What does occur to me is, "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

That of course is not the right thing to say either but I was really upset. "Where is your compassion?" I say. "How can you talk to me like this? You know how frightened we are of that monster. You can't just bully me and tell me that I don't know anything. I have kids, I have kids!"

I confess I'm yelling at this point.

"This is going to be better for them," he tells me. Which is, for me the, last straw.

"Did you vote for him?" I ask.

He fumbles. I swear, he fumbles the question. "I—well, I didn't vote for her, I'll tell you that much." I can't believe it. He still thinks it's okay to take shots at my hero, Hillary.

"Who'd you vote for?"

He can't quite say it. I know he went in there and voted; my mom told me he did on the day of the election, when we all still had hope. "I looked at the ballot, and I looked at the libertarian candidate, there was a libertarian candidate on the ballot too," he informs me.

"Did you vote for him? Did you vote for Trump?" Understand, my father had promised that he wouldn't. He was one of the Republicans who couldn't stomach the guy. Nobody could. The man is mean, a bully, stupid, insane, completely unfit. They all knew it.

But all of a sudden there is my dad sputtering and yelling at me and bullying me and telling me how little I know. I lose my temper. "That is just fucking bullshit," I tell him. He starts to harangue me about my language. And I hang up on him.

I haven't spoken to him since. I'm not going to Cincinnati for Christmas. So many of my relatives voted for Trump, and I don't feel like talking about it. Well, they don't actually talk about it either, apparently; apparently, they just blithely go about their business.

I asked my mother, the Democrat, what they say about it all. "They don't say anything," she tells me.

They simply don't talk about it.

"I'm never speaking to him again," I tell her. "You tell him, he can go ahead and act like this, he can continue supporting politicians who are determined to ruin the planet and destroy the country, and take no responsibility for it, I obviously can't stop him from doing that. But I'm never speaking to him again, I'm not coming to Cincinnati, and my kids are not coming there either. You tell him, this position cost him me, and my kids." It feels good to say it.

"I'm not going to tell him that," says my mom. She's right; of course she's right.

But I have to be honest: I know we're supposed to keep trying to talk to our fellow Americans who voted these criminals into office, but they aren't trying to talk to us, they're just gloating and lying and bullying still. Or, they're just not talking about it! My muslim friends are seriously afraid of being deported. People are afraid Trump is going to get us into a war. And we're supposed to just accept that "this will be better for you and your kids?"

So I'm not saying "Merry Christmas" to my folks this year. I'm taking care of my kids, and my husband, and my friends, and I'm looking forward to the work ahead, standing up for our freedoms and our rights, fighting for the future of the planet, and humbling myself again to the idea of justice for all.

When the Trumpeters want to talk about how to achieve those values in this new cultural environment, I welcome the discussion.

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December 22, 2016

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