Irreconcilable Frustrations: Based on a True Story

I felt guilty even as I was dialing my sister’s phone number. This was the first time I had called her since the pandemic started, but what better day than on her birthday?

She answered on the third ring, saying, “Hello” in the way she always does, as if it’s a final statement, not a question. I sang Happy Birthday to her.

She was surprised to hear from me but not being the emotional type, I could tell she was glad I called.

“So what’s news?” I asked her. (I may as well get this over with – my sister can talk non-stop for fifteen minutes, at least.)

“Oh, nothing much. I’m staying home a lot, not going out much. But I keep myself occupied.” My sister lives in a senior community where she’s involved in many things. During the pandemic it’s slowed down, but not completely.

“How are your beautiful granddaughters?” My sister has two very cute granddaughters, aged six and five.

“Oh, they’re fine. Ginny is really getting into distance learning with Molly. The teacher has the kids doing projects. They go around to various places to experience them, they look for things, like a scavenger hunt. Ginny says she’s exhausted, what with her new job and Molly’s kindergarten teacher keeping her occupied!” My sister chuckled as she said this.

“How’s Sophie?”

“Sophie’s okay. I’m worried about her though – she’s getting confused, first with remote learning, then living in the house with only her mom one week and her dad the next week…”

“Huh? Why’s that?”

“Oh, I thought you knew. Nate and Julie are living apart. They each have their own place to live, so Sophie lives in the house all the time, and the two of them alternate living there with her.”

“Weird. Expensive, too, I imagine.”

“Oh, yeah. They couldn’t agree on who would get the house, so they left it to their six-year-old!”

“Why are they split up?”

“Well, a lot of things built up over time — Nate’s been taking this computer course, you know. He dropped all his piano students to do it, while Julie works all the time. Apparently she also suspects him of infidelity, but he doesn’t have a perfidious nature. Nate can’t handle her frustration and accusations, so he blows up at her. Then she rants about how she’s having to support the family, while Nate gets to just ‘do his thing,’ you know.”

“Wow, I’m so sorry! They’ve been together so long! I hope they reconcile their differences.”

We moved on to lighter topics and chatted for another fifteen minutes.

Image downloaded from Google Images: https://adamsfamilylaw.com/2018/03/irreconcilable-differences-mean-divorce-case/

Posted for Fandango’s One Word Challenge, Ragtag Daily Prompt, and Your Daily Word Prompt.

FOWC: Making Assumptions

The word for Fandango’s One Word Challenge today is assume

I think many of the conflicts we have with others, and the rifts between large swaths of society in the U.S. today, are due to the assumptions we make about each other. When we assume things about others, we create or reinforce stereotypes. Here are some examples: 

  1. “I assume he is a racist because he supports Trump.”

Although it is hard to understand why a person who is NOT racist would support Trump, there are many people like this. Perhaps for them, racism is not a central issue. I mean, there are even a few Blacks who support him (that I really cannot understand!). While we may think such people are stupid, ignorant, or supporting a president whose policies go against their own interests, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are racist. Many Republicans hold their noses and put up with Trump because they want to stack the courts with conservative judges or they want abortion to be further restricted or outlawed altogether.

2. “She is college educated, graduated summa cum laude, top of her class. I assume she would never vote for Trump.”

Wrong again! Can you believe there are smart, college-educated women who vote for Trump? We assume the profile of a Trump voter is a person who is ignorant, not well-educated, racist, unintelligent, probably disgruntled white male. While many (perhaps a majority) Trump supporters may fit this profile, we should not assume all of them do.

3. “My son’s friends surely will vote this year! They didn’t in 2016 and look what happened. After living through four years of this moron, they’ll be willing to wait for hours in line just to vote him out of office.”

Once again, we should not assume that turn-out in November will be huge. We assumed Hillary Clinton was going to be elected in 2016, and look what happened. Part of the problem was low voter turn-out. I do not understand why citizens would not exercise their right to vote, one of our rights guaranteed by the Constitution. If Trump is re-elected again in 2024, we will most likely have fewer rights than we have now. Our democracy is already flawed; four more years of this corruption and ineptitude would put democracy on very precarious footing. 

However, the mid-term elections of 2018 did have a record high turn-out, causing speculation among liberals that this was an indictment of the Trump administration. And aren’t there millions of young people eligible to vote for the first time registering? What about the kids who were passionate to end mass shootings? What about all the American counterparts of Greta Thunberg? Climate change is an existential threat, and so is Trump.

I can tell these things to people until I’m blue in the face, but it doesn’t guarantee they will get their asses off their couches and go to the polls on a nasty cold November day. If we assume that people are going to vote according to their interests, we will also be disappointed. People vote against their interests all the time, whether they know they are doing so or not. Voting is not an objective process – it is most often quite subjective. People vote according to what they feel, not necessarily based on knowledge or facts.

Bob Englehart / Cagle Cartoons

And looking at this from the other side, what do Trump supporters assume about liberal Democrats?

Don’t assume we are all left-wing or socialists. Some of us are, but most are not.
Don’t assume that when we protest, we encourage violence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Don’t assume we want to allow anyone to come into this country, including criminals, drug pushers, and rapists. We simply want an immigration system that is humane and respectful to those who seek asylum.
Don’t assume we are all in on some insidious plot to ultimately overthrow the U.S. government.
Don’t assume we all want to take away all your guns. 
Don’t assume we want to encourage voter fraud by allowing people to vote by mail. 
Don’t assume we want to “discriminate” against white people. I am white, why would I want that? We just embrace the ethnic diversity that our country has undeniably become.

I think most assumptions we make about “the other side” are based on our own biases and often are “projections” (saying that ‘the other side’ is doing whatever nefarious deeds that in fact your own leaders are doing). 

What we need to do, instead of pushing people away by making assumptions about them, is to communicate with each other. Engage in a dialogue. We will certainly not always agree, and probably won’t change others’ minds about most things, but we can at least understand each other. We may even end up liking each other, sometimes.