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Families Still Fighting Over Trump, Even As His Term Closes

 November 23, 2020 at 10:15 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 The pandemic. Won't be the only reason for empty seats around the Thanksgiving table. This week with president Donald, Trump's still refusing to concede the election. Many families remain fractured. KPBS is Amica Sharma reports on how some San Diego clans are coping. As Trump's tenure draws to a close. Speaker 2: 00:20 All it took was talk of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases for Jonathan Hanson and his brother-in-law to get into a desktop. The brother-in-law defended president Trump's pandemic response, Hansen disagreed. Speaker 3: 00:33 He started raising his voice. I raise my voice. I said a curse word. Speaker 2: 00:38 Well in front of their kids, Hansen says he reached for his shoes to leave. When his brother-in-law Speaker 3: 00:44 Do you grab the shoes, check them out the door. And then just punch me out. Speaker 2: 00:48 Hanson says his sister then appeared and hit him too. He called police. Speaker 3: 00:52 I was in shock. It's my sister who I love dearly. It's my brother-in-law who I also loved dearly. Speaker 2: 00:57 Family fights continue to IRAP nationwide as siblings, parents, and children and couples divide over Trump riffs have developed over the president's comments about immigrants, women, and minorities, the sexual assault allegations against it. His administration's caging of migrant children, his handling of the pandemic, and now his false voter fraud claims in the race. He lost to president elect Joe Biden. This month, Speaker 4: 01:25 You really hear people sharing about the pain they have, that they can't talk with their brother anymore. Speaker 2: 01:30 David Peters is a San Diego marriage and family therapist. Speaker 4: 01:34 Their parents won't talk with them anymore. The family just can't relax together. People are afraid. People are hurting. People feel shamed and bitterness is rising. Speaker 2: 01:47 Your says science explains how emotions get so charged Speaker 4: 01:50 Politics in the mind sits in the same space as religion. It's that deep because it has to do with which try by the way Speaker 2: 01:59 Has in a real estate contractor says he's puzzled that his siblings and parents all more men have supported a president whose conduct contradicts their religion. Speaker 3: 02:08 That's not what we were taught. Growing up to love one another to turn the other cheek, to be more compassionate and empathetic. Yes, Speaker 2: 02:16 I wonder is why his mom, a nurse has been reluctant to wear a mask. Speaker 3: 02:20 She'll go off on, Oh, that's an overreach of the government. They're overreaching. Speaker 2: 02:25 It says the cognitive dissonance is unbearable. Speaker 3: 02:28 We can't talk. We can't even hang out together. It's too incendiary Speaker 2: 02:33 Teacher and Trump supporter. Diane Pearson says political arguments with her youngest child, Benjamin Goodwin, a senior at UC Davis have cut deep. Speaker 3: 02:43 I was even moved to tears several times. I was so sad that after several years of college that he seems to have so far become pretty closed minded. Speaker 2: 02:55 Here's some. So she likes Trump because he opposes abortion. She also favors his immigration policy. Speaker 5: 03:02 The wall is a good idea and more than a good idea. I think it's essential. Yeah. Speaker 2: 03:05 Last for Trump's disparaging tweets. She gets the criticism, Speaker 5: 03:09 But at the same time, he's got a certain decisiveness and power in making decisions that I agree with Speaker 2: 03:14 Goodman, doesn't get what he says is his mother's unconditional backing of Trump. Speaker 5: 03:19 And this isn't just my mom. I feel like this is most Trump supporters. No matter what, they will find a way to defend him. Speaker 2: 03:26 Goodwin is half white and half black. His mother is white. He believes Trump is a racist. He says race forums, the crux of the gap with his mom. Speaker 5: 03:35 I see things from a boat like a black and white perspective. My mom can only really see things from a white person's perspective Speaker 2: 03:43 Therapist. Peter says he counsels his clients to apologize for heated exchanges, refrain from talking politics and not to give up. Speaker 1: 03:52 First thing you can do is cut off relationships with family members, Speaker 2: 03:55 Jonathan Hanson, and his girlfriend, crystal Coleman hoped to mend fences with his siblings and parents. But she says they wrestle with telling them that everyone makes mistakes and that Trump's supporters were misled by his lies. Speaker 5: 04:10 Then the other part of me goes, how could you not realize what he was doing? How could you not say it? How could you not hear it? And your silence was your consent, if nothing else. And how do we get past that? What has said knows for sure is I miss sitting with my mom and having tea with her, laughing, talking about her grandkids, Speaker 2: 04:30 Amica Sharma KPBS news. Speaker 1: 04:33 Joining me is Steven Dinkin, president of the national conflict resolution center in San Diego. Stephen, welcome to the program. Speaker 5: 04:41 It's a pleasure to be here. Marine. We Speaker 1: 04:42 Just heard about a family torn apart by political disagreements. One of many facing that same situation, even though extended families have always had different beliefs before. I can't remember it being this bad. How did we come to this? Speaker 5: 04:57 This is a very challenging time. I there's a confluence of events that is occurring right now with regard to the pandemic. Uh, we're in an economic crisis and in this post-election environment. And on top of that social media and the bully pulpit of the presidency are exacerbating the situation. So we're in unprecedented times Speaker 1: 05:20 Best just to avoid talking about politics with friends and family, you, you know, that you don't agree with Speaker 5: 05:26 At the national conflict resolution center. We always advocate whenever possible to engage in a conversation. Uh, the problem is that if we avoid conversations, we end up, uh, remaining in our own silo in a sense, and reinforcing our own ideas and those ideas become more and more polarized. And so it's important that we engage in the conversation, but do it from a place of being constructive as opposed to, well, how do Speaker 1: 05:58 You recommend starting to have a constructive conversation? Speaker 5: 06:01 We believe it's very important to, uh, have a conversation, begin that conversation by listening and engaging the other individual and then acknowledging, uh, their point of view. That doesn't mean that you're agreeing with what they're saying. You're just acknowledging so that the other person feels heard and that deescalates the situation, as opposed to coming into the conversation from a antagonistic perspective where you dehumanize that person, you, you tend to assume that they have motives that are not the same modes that you have. So it's important to have a constructive conversation by beginning to engage and acknowledge what their perspectives are. Speaker 1: 06:45 Now, it takes two to have a relationship or resolve a dispute. How can you tell if the other person is open to finding common ground? Speaker 5: 06:55 Yeah, that's a challenging situation, but you enter the conversation with an open mind and if the other person is hostile, uh, what we teach is to take a step back and maybe start with something that is less controversial, uh, maybe try to find a topic, uh, where you do have common ground and then slowly move into the more challenging discussions Speaker 1: 07:21 And what would be examples of common ground. We heard from one of the people in the report that, you know, he would just like to speak with his mother about the kids and, uh, sit down with her and have a lovely conversation about his children and her grandchildren sometimes. Speaker 5: 07:37 So it's challenging to find common ground with strangers, but when we're having a dispute with a family member, uh, it's much easier to find common ground because there's so much history we have with our family members. And, uh, perhaps, uh, go back to a memory that you had, uh, when you were growing up or a holiday years ago when it was very pleasant, uh, or a family vacation that you took. So, uh, there are a lot of opportunities, especially with family, uh, to find common ground. Speaker 1: 08:08 Now in the longer version of a [inaudible] report, one of the people she interviewed remembers the words of Austrian philosopher, Karl popper, and he wrote quote, when we extend tolerance to those who are openly intolerant, the tolerant ones end up being destroyed and tolerance with them, unquote. So can you give up too much just to have a nice dinner? Speaker 5: 08:31 I think it's always important to, to try to have the conversation, if at all possible we are really in a very difficult situation as a nation we're facing unprecedented problems with regard to the climate, with regard to the economy, uh, with regard to our own democracy. And if we are all avoiding the conversation with family members, with friends, with colleagues, then we're not going to be able to find the critical solutions that are needed to move the nation forward. So whenever possible, uh, let's engage in the conversation, but let's do it in a constructive way. And there's a lot of techniques. We teach, uh, a training called the art of inclusive communication. And there are techniques where people can, uh, be actively aware, be respectful when they respond and to work through solutions together and using these techniques, oftentimes we can get through the controversy and find solutions to these really tough problems. Speaker 1: 09:35 Now, most of us will be communicating remotely with relatives outside our household, this Thanksgiving. Do you think that's going to make it easier to maybe get along and avoid arguments? Speaker 5: 09:46 I think the remote environment might make it a bit easier than all being around the kitchen table or the living room, dining room table. However, uh, we're now, uh, becoming more and more comfortable with the zoom environment. And so, uh, where once, uh, disputes from muted now they are coming to the forest. So even in a virtual environment, uh, challenging situations can occur. And if you get involved in a conversation that is very controversial and there's a lot of people around, maybe it's time to just change the conversation and then circle back to that individual a day or two later when you're just by yourself, as opposed to in a large group, which oftentimes intensifies the emotions and the feelings Speaker 1: 10:32 You mentioned that, you know, the families, uh, are almost a microcosm of the kind of rift that we're seeing in the entire country. And I'm wondering how long you think it could possibly be before we find some area of facts that we can agree upon and, and heal this, this rift in our society. Speaker 5: 10:53 I think you've touched on a very important point in that. Oftentimes what we're finding now is that we're dealing with a different set of facts, and it's challenging enough to have a conversation when the facts are known. But when we all are arguing from a different set of facts, that makes it so challenging and the way our society is set up right now with social media and the different media sources. I don't see that challenge ending anytime soon. So we're going to have to learn how to navigate through this noise of the different media stations that are just reinforcing our polarized beliefs. And we're going to have to, as a society, you know, figure out how to find common ground during these challenging times. Speaker 1: 11:42 I've been speaking with Steven Dinkin, he's president of the national conflict resolution center here in San Diego. Stephen, thank you very much. And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving. Speaker 5: 11:52 Thank you. Same to you, Maureen.

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Four years of disputes over President Donald Trump and his policies have fractured families to the point of estrangement, made even worse by his refusal to concede and false claims that President-elect Joe Biden’s victory is based on voter fraud.
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