Scotch and vodka. Two different types of alcohol that, when consumed individually, are tolerable and even enjoyable.
Yet, “scotchka,” the mixture of these two drinks, is not enjoyable or even tolerable. Scotchka is disgusting, because combining equal parts scotch and vodka does not create a “beverage.” It creates a liquid tragedy — a cloudy iced tea look-alike with the aroma of paint thinner that, if consumed, is guaranteed to induce panic to your liver.
Therefore, no sensible person with even a beginner’s knowledge of alcohol would ever think to make a glass of scotchka. They know that certain things just do not mix.
Which makes it amusing that, despite nearly decades of prior knowledge of the countless family fights due to the topic of politics, one of my family members will eventually inquire to the group, “Hey guys, how ‘bout that (extremely divisive political topic that is guaranteed to start a screaming match)?”
Mixing family with politics is painful. From the single-family unit to the mass gatherings of relatives, the multiple viewpoints and positions of your loved ones often mutate into harsh accusations and arguments that never end well. I have been to quite a few graduations, baptisms, weddings, birthdays and just casual dinners that have descended into battles full of vulgar insults, Alex Jones-ian rants and far too many examples that use some iteration of “back in my day.”
There are several reasons why political dialogue within the family is so difficult. From generational gaps to different lifestyles and experiences, the political ideologies held by our family members become all the more divisive because the emotional stakes are far greater. Your view of a loved one becomes muddled when their ideology does not match your own. There arises a conflict in which you struggle with understanding how you can love someone you see as undeniably wrong on a clear moral issue.
Politics become amplified within the family when these ideologies do not match, and it becomes extremely difficult to hold civil conversations on issues that are even slightly political. The squeamishness and hot tempers that are so often tied to politics have only further increased in intensity due to the chaotic nature of our current political environment.
Because, surprisingly, the result of the 2016 election did not mend the nation back together. Our TV-reality-star-turned-president has only further led the country into the divisive politics that plague the United States’ progression. Each side of the political spectrum is becoming more and more filled as the moderate middle evaporates. And with the average news week filled with so many divisive and chaotic stories, it’s as if Aaron Sorkin teamed up with methamphetamine to write a twisted “precedent to the apocalypse” season of “The West Wing.”
It is truly disturbing that I can no longer use facts and truths in discussions with family members who have ultimately decided that they refuse to believe anything that does not adhere to their ideologies, and that I now have to have discussions where the facts don’t matter, where everything is entirely based on opinions, where personal feelings supersede truth.
This combination of divisive times, rejection of facts and constant news has degraded the political communication of this country to the point that simple family discussions on a particular issue can erupt into emotional arguments. The 2016 election and its results have almost permanently divided families. And although politics and family never mixed well before, the loaded anger on both sides seems always ready to bubble over; the consistent amount of chaotic news allows for ample opportunities to start a screaming melee at the next family outing.
Political discussions should be hard — they are complex and involve emotional issues. And speaking about these topics with loved ones should be harder to do than with strangers. But it is a testament to the times of how divisive the U.S. has become when politics are near impossible to discuss at the dinner table.
Yet as much as it pains me, family and politics may be where the change occurs. That somewhere on the other end of these screaming matches and slammed doors, love and family bonds will overcome the divisive hate plaguing our country. That we can somehow, with calm, cool, collected manners, find a way to communicate again and reverse the polarization, at least on the family level.
If not, I am more than likely going to be downing scotchkas to get through the next family party.
Michael Mordarski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.