How to keep things civil (or not) when it comes to politics: NPR



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Photos from top (left to right) by Alyssa Schukar, Yana Paskova, Hannah Yoon, Hannah Yoon and Lynsey Weatherspoon for NPR. Bottom photos (left to right) by Lynsey Weatherspoon, Phyllis B. Dooney, JerSean Golatt, Phyllis B. Dooney and Jovelle Tamayo for NPR.


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Photos from top (left to right) by Alyssa Schukar, Yana Paskova, Hannah Yoon, Hannah Yoon and Lynsey Weatherspoon for NPR. Bottom photos (left to right) by Lynsey Weatherspoon, Phyllis B. Dooney, JerSean Golatt, Phyllis B. Dooney and Jovelle Tamayo for NPR.

A lawyer and her future son-in-law are fiercely discussing politics on Facebook, accusing the other of ignoring "the facts".

A newly married couple argues violently while watching the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh, until one of them leaves the room at last. "I love you, but you are wrong," she said.

A Mexican-American student talks with her American-Mexican mother, who supports Trump, about how she might eventually accept the idea of ​​a border wall.

Of course, these stories are not isolated stories: political differences can even create a gap between families and closest friendships. A poll conducted by Reuters / Ipsos in 2017 found that 13% of respondents said that the 2016 election had resulted in them ending a relationship with a friend or family member. Nearly 40% said the elections had provoked at least one argument with a relative.

More generally, Americans are worried about the growing polarization of the United States and the fact that their civility – respect, courtesy, kindness – is crumbling in many aspects of their lives. Polls show that Americans think that incivilities are at the level of the crisis.

Recently, NPR traveled across the country to see how people struggle with the idea of ​​civility in times of polarization.

Here are five stories on the fragile line that people walk to keep civil things – or not – in their most intimate relationships.

"I like you, but you're in the wrong"

When Patricia "P." Price met Simone Perry in 2016, she was surprised when Simone told her that she was Republican. As P. explains, "Black, lesbian and Republican – it's not going in the same sentence." They married a year later and Simone Perry became Simone Price.

Simone, who initially supported Ted Cruz and voted for Gary Johnson in 2016, said P. was more interested in "how I behave and how I treat people than those I support politically". P., a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton, says that Simone is much more engaged in politics than she does and earns 90% of their political debates.

But several months ago, a debate broke out in a fight that P. was not willing to concede. The confirmation hearings of Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court took place on television and P. claims that his behavior has "completely upset him".

Simone, for her part, understood Kavanaugh's need to defend herself. She remembers asking P .: "If anyone we love is accused of something, are we going to give him the benefit of the doubt?"

The argument has become angry, uncomfortable. The two women say that they often use prayer or meditation to calm themselves if they fight, but this political moment calls for more immediate action: when P. feels that she can no longer stand it, she went out and went up.

Fights remain on Facebook

Christopher Kilpatrick and Cheryl Hume have about the same political difference as two people. Chris, 38, describes himself as a "kind of extreme right" who voted for Trump. Cheryl, her 58-year-old mother-in-law, voted for Hillary Clinton and donated to causes such as refugee resettlement and prisoner reintegration programs. They only see each other a few times a year, but they frequently connect to Facebook, where they face each other. everything from Trump's border wall to the latest conspiracy theory.

Christopher Kilpatrick and Cheryl Hume in Lansford, PA.

Hannah Yoon for NPR


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Hannah Yoon for NPR

Christopher Kilpatrick and Cheryl Hume in Lansford, PA.

Hannah Yoon for NPR

Their comings and goings can be beaten – they sometimes attack for ignorance – but before things get too bad, one of them changes the subject. "How's Kathy?" Cheryl could ask.

Kathy is Chris's fiancée and Cheryl's adopted daughter. Chris and Cheryl say it's their mutual love for Kathy that helps them put their political differences into perspective.

When the family gets together, say Chris and Cheryl, they avoid talking politics, partly to spare Kathy the misery of the referee, but partly, they say, because they really enjoy each other's company. Chris calls Cheryl "big hearted" and Cheryl describes Chris as a "good guy".

But when they return home after a family reunion, Chris and Cheryl retreat to their respective corners on social media and resume their fight. Fortunately for them, Kathy does not pay much attention to Facebook.

The reluctant mediator

Lorraine Bank, 67, says she thinks her children have been raised properly and "instilled with good values". But somewhere on the way – at school, on television or at work – she thinks her two daughters "have been brainwashed". Politically, the lean liberal sisters, while Lorraine is a fervent conservative. She says that she and her husband speak quite often about Trump so that their children "know that we think he is a good president, but we do not get involved".

That's not always enough for her daughter Valerie, 28, who voted for Clinton in 2016. She says she needs to make herself understood when she visits her parents.

"I'm doing breathing exercises," she says. "Before starting a conversation, I give myself an encouraging speech and say:" I will stay calm, I will not engage, and if someone tries to harass me, I will not take the bait. "

Sometimes she drinks a few glasses to calm herself down. If all else fails, she leaves the room.

In recent years, Valérie has had to deal with additional family stress: her older sister, Sarah, stopped talking to her mother after a serious fight. (Sarah refused to participate in this story.)

As their mother, Lorraine, recounts, after a series of political disagreements, she and Sarah embarked on a "final" dispute over gay marriage shortly before the 2016 election. At one point, Lorraine called homosexuals "fags" and although she apologized afterward, Sarah still refuses to talk to her.

"I pray every day that everything is wrong, that she can recover and that she wakes up and knows that we still love her," says Lorraine.

Now, in the few family occasions where everyone is together, Sarah will not interact directly with her mother. Valerie plays the reluctant mediator, trying to weave a conversation between two people who can no longer find the words.

From & # 39; Oh Crap & # 39; to a lasting friendship

In 2016, Michael Beale and Francesco Mazza were named roommates at High Point University in North Carolina. And before meeting, they each formed an instant impression of the other.

Michael Beale (left) and Francesco Mazza in High Point, N.C.

Phyllis B. Dooney for NPR


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Phyllis B. Dooney for NPR

Michael Beale (left) and Francesco Mazza in High Point, N.C.

Phyllis B. Dooney for NPR

Michael recalls that Francesco wore a bright red cap "Make America Great Again" on his Facebook profile picture.

"And I thought to myself: Oh shit, I have to live with this kid for a year," Michael said.

Francesco remembers that Michael's Facebook page had a picture of Bob Marley.

"So, I'm like Jesus, Mary and Joseph, he's probably like a hippie liberal," recalls Francesco. (Michael actually voted for libertarian Gary Johnson.) Recording, he does not remember a photo of Bob Marley: "It was probably me at a Grateful Dead concert," he says.).

Despite their respective instinctive reactions, the two men decided to start the year with an open mind – a trait that helped them avoid arguments and ultimately build a friendship that lasted until the end of the year. nowadays. Today's junior of 21, the two have recently returned from a spring trip to Florida.

And almost from the day they met, they were not afraid to debate politics.

"Michael will ask how I think Trump is doing," says Francesco. "If I think he's doing something stupid, I'll say it."

Francesco, the son of a police officer, grew up around guns in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Michael was raised in Connecticut, near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a devastating mass shootout led him to wonder why anyone would own a gun.

Whenever there is a shot in the news, they find themselves going back and forth about gun policy. Like many of their political debates, these conversations can be revealing – but rarely, they admit, they change their minds.

"We go slowly, trying not to hurt each other"

Nancy Richer, an American woman of 55 years of age, was born in Texas and spent half of her life in Mexico. His daughter, Daniela Garduno, 19, was born in Mexico but grew up mostly north of the border. Each woman says she feels a stronger attraction on the side of the US-Mexican union trait: Nancy identifies more with her American side, Daniela with her Mexican side.

And that can cause tension. Daniela is against the border wall while her mother supports him.

Nancy says she is proud of her older friends who have followed the immigration process legally: "They had to wait until they were 18. They had to pay, they had to go through the whole process," she says. "Why not others?"

Daniela says she is confused that her mother, a supporter of Trump, "can be Mexican and defend at the same time very anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rights". She says she sometimes regrets that her mother and herself are not more politically aligned and can not have relaxed conversations, which bend their heads, that some of her school mates have with their parents.

At the same time, the mother and daughter say that they try to be respectful of everyone's opinions, which helps them keep their political arguments in peace.

"When I have these problems with my mother," says Daniela, "I will stand out from politics, I separate my mother from politics."

Nancy says of her daughter: "When I see that she reacts as if I was attacking her – instead of her views – it's there that I stop … We let's go slowly, trying not to hurt each other. "


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