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I'm estranged from my family for a few reasons. It goes way back. I suppose it started when I didn't take to sports in school and ended up flunking out my sophomore year, then even summer school. Drugs were involved, but I just hated growing up in the city, the whole jocks vs. stoners thing of the late 80's KWIM?

Anyway, I finished high school in rural Nebraska with my uncle, cleaned up, met my future wife and joined the Army. Fast foward 21 years, still married to my high school sweetheart, have 5 degrees, live in a great historical home and am about ready to retire from the service.

I figured my parents would have visited us by now, but they haven't come, once, in the 5-years we've been here, all of 3 hours from them. See, they eventually moved to small town Nebraska after I moved away. I guess they finally got tired of the big city life too. Did we visit?

Yes, at first, probably last around 7 years ago. My wife picked up on the family dynamics a lot faster than I did. My mother dotes on my Dad's every wish. My Dad thought we had no business separating geographically so my wife could pursue her career. They both found religion and Fox News.

Why the estrangement? Well, there was that time they visited me in Texas before I was about to deploy and my Dad asked me if I wanted a bible and it coming out that I was an athiest. There were the wing nut emails I got while deployed that I eventually rebutted in replies that included his conservative friends (the emails stopped). Then there was that time, during my deployment, when I came back for my father-in-law's funeral and said how he was like the father I never had (not realizing my parents came to the funeral without telling me and were sitting in the pews above me-oops). Finally, there was the akward email I got from my dad after my return asking why my wife held him/them in such contempt and me just kind of letting it all out in my reply. (she doesn't hold them in contempt, just doesn't understand why I don't measure up for them)

That led to about a 3-year silence, except for the occasional call from my mom and her saying they want to 'fix this.' They eventually did visit me at my last station, when I mentioned how they really should come down and see what it was like for me in command (being staunch supporters of the troops and all) before I left. That visit went surprisingly well and I thought maybe we were going to move past everything and that they would start to visit us once I got stationed closer to home.

But they haven't and we haven't gone home (their home) either. We visited my wife's family once last year, but my parents wouldn't go there to see us even though they were only 12-miles away. We don't even go there much since my wife's uncle blew up in a right wing rant at Thanksgiving during Obama's first campaign.

Anyway, I know that's kind of a long lead up to the purpose of this diary, but it's context for how I basically never hear from or see dear old dad, until today, when out of the blue I get this text:

"Have you abandoned your guns? Obama will now go after them. He has already contacted the un about small weapons treaty. I believe one of yors is an ak type gun"

Well, first of all, obviously I know it's bullshit, probably a right wing chainmail he just got and a quick search of teh google using "obama un small weapons treaty" search terms produces enough evidence to start the debunking.

But is it even worth it? Has anybody repaired a similar relationship with their parents or have any tips?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    Prevent back pain standing at the polls:

    by Therapy on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:00:38 AM PST

  •  I don't address them (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Therapy, dabr, nextstep, Odysseus, Lujane

    In my personal view politics is not a reason to create friction with family members. I am always happy to listen and ask open ended questions. If you ask the right questions in a thoughtful fashion you can make much more progress than having an argument. I never let politics come between me and my friends and family, even though everyone knows I am a political junkie.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:06:35 AM PST

  •  This is your reply.... (11+ / 0-)

    "Have you abandoned your guns? Obama will now go after them. He has already contacted the un about small weapons treaty. I believe one of yors is an ak type gun"

    Reply: No. I'll let you know when Obama "goes after them".

    Then leave it at that.  As it will never, ever be mentioned by him again.

    Then, once per month send a quick email "Obama still hasn't gone after my guns.  How about yours?"

    Keep that up until he admits he was wrong.

    Tax and Spend I can understand. I can even understand Borrow and Spend. But Borrow and give Billionaires tax cuts? That I have a problem with.

    by LiberalCanuck on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:08:55 AM PST

    •  That sounds like a reasonable response (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Crabby Abbey

      I'll weigh that against what ontheleftcoast said about being whisked away by FEMA hehe

      Prevent back pain standing at the polls:

      by Therapy on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:16:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  They just aren't that into you. (9+ / 0-)

    I highly recommend you and your wife google "Dealing with the In Laws and Family of Origin" otherwise known as "the DWIL."  It is an open forum for people wrestling with exactly these issues--a lot of the people on there are in your wife's position but there are a bunch of guys as well.  Basically: being estranged from family over politics and social issues is way more common than you might think. Its not something that can ever be gotten over. If you 've had your children (if any) and that didn't bring your parents around then nothing ever will.

    Your parents don't respect you as an adult and as a political thinker, they hate your wife and project on to her the "fault" for the cratering of your relationship, and they see you simply as some kind of changeling child who they got stuck with, who never fit in, and who now is out in the world continuing to wear a human face without actually being their real child.

    The more you push back on things the more they will push because you are no more to them than another part of their echo chamber--they are not expecting to hear a real, human, voice coming back to them with a rebuttal.


    •  Hmm I'll check that out (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I have thought lately that I think my dad needs to seek professional help on the matter.

      Prevent back pain standing at the polls:

      by Therapy on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:14:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "is it even worth it" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Therapy, Crabby Abbey, Lujane, Naniboujou

    It can be, they are you family and if your really get down to it helping turn them towards the light is the ultimate form of canvassing for Democrats and progressive ideas.

    The flip side is you probably realize it is next to hopeless and feel the emotional and even physical drain from the effort.

    Maybe the best way is to simply keep living a good life as you choose. Perhaps some of them will wake up to the fact that you (and they) haven't been "whisked off to FEMA death camps" that the UN hasn't taken their guns and sharia law isn't being imposed on them. Maybe the bubble will pop for them.

    To me progress is not so much a goal as it is a process and I believe it will not follow a straight course. Remember, the drops of water that form the river may not take the shortest path but they will still reach the ocean.

    by ontheleftcoast on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:10:01 AM PST

    •  Sadly, we were just thinking (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ontheleftcoast, Lujane, Naniboujou

      we might invite them down for the holidays this year. Now I'm not so sure that is a good idea, because I know my dad will say something about Obama. Maybe if I just make it clear we don't want it brought up...

      Prevent back pain standing at the polls:

      by Therapy on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:24:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why are you planning to invite them? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        profundo, Terre, Its a New Day, Shippo1776

        They don't like you and you don't actually like them--your wife sure has no reason to and you are just, as far as I can see, bending to custom.

        Ask yourself this: if your parents weren't your parents would you like them? REspect them? Learn from them? Obviously not because your wife's father was "your real father." Don't let sentiment blind you to the fact that your parents and you have both "voted with your feet" for years.

        Can your parents be saved politically? Obviously not. They prefer to live the way they live. They prefer to be lied to, they prefer to live in ignorance, they prefer to spread hateful rumors about their President--about your President. Which is by way of insisting, in fact, that you don't know what you are talking about, that you don't know the world you live in. When their facts are falsified do they do what you do and say "hm, I need to reconsider my opinon?" or do they become more entrenched?

        To the extent that they have conflated Christianity, Ayn Rand, Right wing Demagoguery, Paternalism, Authoritarianism, and Jingoism is there anything left, underneath that all, that is worth saving?

        If you consent to be in a relationship with an Authoritarian you are going to have to accept a subordinate position because that kind of person/parent assumes that the child is always the child. It doesn't sound like you are willing to always be a loyal footsoldier in their crazy crank war. So how can any kind of family event go well? Your parents are going to attack you on Obama because they can't brook the opposition.


  •  I won't engage anymore. Facts (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crabby Abbey, Therapy, Chi, ssgbryan, Lujane

    do not matter to them.  If they start talking crazy, I just tell them that they sound insane and I refuse to listen to crazy talk. Then I leave, or I hang up the phone.
    If it's an email I simply ignore it.

    •  Am ignoring it thus far (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Am still debating a snarky response though

      Prevent back pain standing at the polls:

      by Therapy on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:21:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I should add that I decided (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi, Its a New Day, Naniboujou, Lujane

      on this tactic when it became clear to me that most wingnut talk is just a version of a tantrum.  My kids did not have tantrums- they all tried it once or twice and the only response they got from me was a quiet "honestly, you're making a fool of yourself"- then I ignored it, completely.  Even a two year old can pick up on that and figure out that there's no payoff for acting out.

  •  My advice is to muster all your grace for family. (5+ / 0-)

    I let it be a place to do recon on conservative thinking, and I try not to let it get me down too much.  Easier when we're winning, of course.  Finding ways to laugh and smile a lot about it all helps.  Not always possible, but it's always worth trying.  And having a supportive partner to walk through it all with is awesome.  Sometimes 3 seconds of eye contact with someone who gets it can turn a disatrous family visit into just a weird movie.

    •  Haha (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Torta, Shippo1776, Lujane

      "And having a supportive partner to walk through it all with is awesome.  Sometimes 3 seconds of eye contact with someone who gets it can turn a disatrous family visit into just a weird movie."

      this is true.

      Prevent back pain standing at the polls:

      by Therapy on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:19:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My family is completely split. (5+ / 0-)

    My mom and I are diehard democrats and her sister and brother-in-law are Teabaggers.  We rarely talk to them or see them, but when we do it's all superficial niceties.  Haven't actually seen the uncle in 8 years or so.

    They despise us on a personal level for being liberal and voting for Obama.  They live in the Fox bubble and believe everything they hear and just continue to get angrier and more self-righteous.

    I don't really have any advice for you.  I tend to avoid seeing them because it's just awkward.  If they weren't so disdainful of us it wouldn't be so bad, but the Fox climate has really turned what used to be nice people into real haters.  :(

    Good luck with your situation.  I have found a really good network of liberal friends cushions the family split.

  •  parents (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ssgbryan, Lujane

    are a different order of relationship repair than crazy siblings or in-laws, it seems to me.

    "repair" doesn't have to mean that you will ever agree on politics or cultural values.  Depends on how much you value and respect from whence you came and what your parents, simply as your parents, mean to you.

    We don't get to pick our relatives, so have your political discussions with your friends.  

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:20:30 AM PST

    •  My husband is the conservative in our family (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl, Naniboujou, Lujane

      I live with this every day.  Our relationship is for all intents and purposes over, but we are in our 70's and neither of us are ready for the drastic change of a split or separation.  it's very wearing.

      My brother, also is very rw, sent me hateful emails by the bushel during the first Obama campaign.  When I finally said, look, I voted for him, he was openly disgusted.  But the email stopped.

      This week we talked on the phone about another matter, he then said he was afraid now that Romney didn't win and went into a litany of all the awful things the president has brought about, including tanking the economy (his business has really suffered)

      I refused to engage him though I had plenty of information and could have dealt with his positions pretty easily.  I have two blood relatives remaining in this world, my brother and my niece.  I'll be damned if i will let politics separate us.

      When he finished, I said, "sorry, remember I'm a Democrat" and he said "you should be sorry"  I had tears in my eyes.  But I won't engage him and i won't cut him off.  That's all I know.  Love is best, and i believe that.

  •  I treat it like an addiction. (4+ / 0-)

    First, the behavior of cultivating and spreading lies is in itself an anti-social behavior and in the Republican case it's consequential -- their policies are often thinly veiled acts of aggression and abuse against others and their tactics including the lying but also deliberately/recklessly undermining prosocial behaviors that allow democracies and free markets function, hurt all of us in really gratuitous ways.

    Second, it's largely self-inflicted and therefore primarily the responsibility of the person indulging in it.  Enabling may make sense in case-by-case instances but over the long-run it's better to discourage rather than facilitate self-destruction.

    Third, engagement is a reasonable approach.  Not just engagement on political issues which is fine if they can tolerate that without escalating their crazy but also engagement on a social level (i.e. apolitical interaction) that -- so long as they don't exploit it (i.e. by creating an asymmetrical relationship in which they get to spew but hold you to a different standard).  

    My experience is that many have essentially created and joined a subculture that explicitly rejects the social tools (like honesty, charity, reciprocity, compromise, respect, etc.) that make healthy relationships possible and there's not much you can do without their willingness to change a little.

    Romney is Prince Humperdinck.

    by monkeybox on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:27:52 AM PST

  •  I don't. We tried to leave politics (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Its a New Day, Naniboujou, Lujane

    at the door when interacting w/ my Sister In Law and her husband, but it was one sided. Her husband felt free to continue to make comments that he'd then claim he didn't realize were over the line etc.  In parallel they got way more religious as we basically became non-religious. Even w/out the politics, the faux piety was gagworthy, including at my mother in law's funeral where my BIL had to make sure everyone saw him reading from his own bible during the service vs using the program like everyone else in the church.

    So we don't spend holidays with them at all anymore and that was the only time of year we really saw them. We also don't get worked up for days before and after about what he might or did say and gained a lot of time back.

    We view "The Handmaid's Tale" as cautionary. The GOP views it as an instruction book.

    by Vita Brevis on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:28:30 AM PST

  •  It depends on age, partly -- my Dad is 83 and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, Naniboujou, Lujane

    his views are pretty well damn fixed in place.  I don't want to spend our last few years of him being alive, filled with political arguments.  He dislikes Obama and my Mom tags along - so I ask them to leave it aside as a truce, and with some slip-ups, they do.

    I figure the voter registration and GOTV work I've done, more than cancels out my parents' views and voting patterns.  They are moderate-Republicans, not social conservatives but they are all about low taxes and cutting government, and they are slightly racist in a generalized, "those people" kind of way.  I'm the progressive outlier in my family.  

  •  How do I do it? (0+ / 0-)

    The same way I address any other lie.  By outright calling it a damn lie to their faces.

    Now how it works out is a completely different story.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:38:45 AM PST

  •  This sounds a lot like my experience (0+ / 0-)

    I have been slowly cutting sling-load on my crazy family members.

    I choose not to be around the stupid.

  •  Sorry (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Its a New Day, Naniboujou, Lujane

    I'm almost 50 and still can't figure it out. Mom never forgave me for being born, and god forbid female on top of everything else. That was my entire crime, I was punished mercilessly for it. Years of abuse, years of being disowned by my whole family. I live 500 yards from my parents and Election Day was the first time in a month we spoke. We have not spoken since. They did turn up and vote (they say for Obama, I believe her), they hate Mormons.
     My sister and her husband (the Catholics), keep screaming that Obama is a Muslim and will take power by military force and refuse to leave office at the end of his term. My brother is a baptist, I gave up long ago. He's a nice guy, I love my sister dearly, they think I'm a 'hippie'. I'm actually a moderate, I shoot back (and my sister wants guns outlawed kiddies, keep it in mind). My in laws are not fond of me at all, my mother in laws husband actually stood in my home and said "rape is the woman's fault, and women who insist on joining the army should expect it. If they were decent they'd be at home taking care of the kids." He is no longer welcome in my home. My nieces and nephews post all their little pro romney crap, I just hide it so I don't have to look at it. I can't reason with them and when they yell at me I just tune them out. With the siblings and their kids we have an 'understanding', we don't talk politics (except my brother in law who is slow to learn). For the parents and in laws, it's a case of 'be who I tell you or suffer the consequences'. I do neither, they do. If its not politics, it will always be something, so I have my husband, my boys and my friends.  All family knows accept me as I am, I am intelligent and independent, live with it or go away. I return the favor, you be you, I'll be me and we can move on, or not, your call.
     I have chosen to be content with who I am, they can be happy and be part of my life...or not, their call. It's not easy, it hurts like hell sometimes. But my mother in laws husband proved one thing, nothing but utter submission to his will is acceptable to him. My answer was 'hell no', he sees women as property and minorities as less than human.
    It would be nice if we could appreciate each others differences, but so many people refuse. And when it's's even worse. If you figure it out, let me know, I could use the help. Near as I can tell it a take no prisoners situation, and I refuse to lie down and die.

    "And while it was regarded as pretty good evidence of criminality to be living in a slum, for some reason owning a whole street of them merely got you invited to the very best social occasions."

    by Shippo1776 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:49:29 AM PST

  •  I don't see my sister much, she watches Hannity (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Naniboujou, Lujane

    and I never bring up politics but she posted on hubby's facebook page after the first debate that maybe we finally see that PBO is incompetent

    and she parrots the husband, has no thoughts of her own and is a racist, I just discovered....ugh

  •  How about a bet? (0+ / 0-)

    "If any time over the next four years, Obama moves to take our guns away, I will admit that I was wrong, and will never vote Democrat again.

    If four years pass, and Obama doesn't try to take our guns away, you will admit you are being misled, and never watch Fox or listen to Rush again."

    GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

    by gzodik on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 01:21:58 PM PST

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