Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Help me with a problem with a relative and politics. We were
completely on opposite sides of most issues in the last election. This
caused unbearable friction in the family, most of whom are liberal
Democrats. But one cousin, the eldest son of the eldest son of my
grandparents, at whose home we tend to celebrate the big holidays,
because they are sill alive (!) and we love them both, is not just a
diehard conservative, but openly scornful of “fool and idiots” who have
social values different than his. We agreed on ground rules last year,
but as this new president (whom many of us consider a “fake
president”) has begun to attack institutions that nay of us hold dear
and even are employed by, the cousin has become emboldened again.
At Passover he took over the floor for long, pontificating rants that not
only were offensive but also disrupted the Seder. No one knew what to
do and we couldn’t just leave, though many of us wanted to. Finally my
grandfather said “Enough!” and he shut up, but honestly it’s enough
that there is talk in two generations about avoiding any gathering he
attends. Do you have a recipe for family unity?


Dear Earplugs:

One rule can be: zero, absolutely zero, discussion of politics or the first
offender will be summarily ushered from the family gathering. You can
distribute a pledge form and ask every family member to sign it prior
to attending. Another might be to agree that it is okay to talk about
politics but not more than one sentence, or the person will be escorted
out. Another, which is not very democratic, would be to disregard the
one outlier person and say that since 90+% percent of the voting
members of the family agree on a point of view, no other opinion is
allowed to be heard. But that’s the kind of thinking that has brought
this country to our current political standstill, so I am not advocating
that solution.



Since autumn there has been a wave of listening classes that have
allowed split relationships, be they familiar or friendships, to heal by
learning how to talk about subjects they disagree on. It has worked in
places like Northern Ireland and South Africa, so I’m betting your
family could pull it off. Google to find some ground rules and see if you
can all get a lesson in living in a world that’s not a bubble. You are not
alone in this, and in many families it is akin to the US before the Civil
War, which is not healthy for any of us.