There's always some drama at the family Christmas party, but this year seemed particularly ridiculous. I have a giant family, so there are attitudes and belief systems that span a pretty wide range, which always makes for some interesting confrontations.
A few years ago, my uber conservative Christian 40-something cousin (let's call him R) pissed off an atheist, bisexual 20-something cousin (let's call her P) by telling her that her lifestyle choices were immoral, disgusting, sinful, and how disappointed he was in her. The two of them had been close previously because of their shared love for games. I knew they had a falling out, but didn't know details. I spend a good amount of time talking with her yesterday about the whole thing. Apparently, he's confronted her multiple times over the years to have these weighty "debates". But eventually she realized how one sided the debates were, and the last one where he told her she was disgusting, it was the last straw.
I figured out R's deal when I was a young teen, and have avoided having these sorts of discussions with him. I don't think he has any idea what I think or believe. We can discuss the weather, pets, etc. If he starts turning the conversation to religion, politics, or anything else of substance, I excuse myself. I learned early on that his beliefs are held deeply and stubbornly, and that his only goal in hearing differing opinions is to figure out how to make counterarguments so he can convert you to the "correct" way of thinking. He knows to acknowledge your argument, make you feel validated, make you feel like you are making him think. "Oh, I didn't think of it that way before" he'll say. But there are only so many times that he can "never have thought of" the fact that most gay people wouldn't choose to live such a difficult life with such persecution if they could help it. It's all a ploy.
So this Christmas, R decided to pull aside another cousin, another 20-something who is gay and black (let's call him J). I was worried he was pulling the same shit again, but it turns out he was trying to figure out how to mend things with P. J took him at face value, and tried to talk to him about accepting the fact that people have differences of opinion. He explained that he would also have been very offended if R had told him the same things he told P. He was being very balanced and kind, which R eventually ruined by saying things like how terrible affirmative action is, and how calling someone a cracker is as bad as calling someone the n word. (God, seriously dude?) J wisely excused himself.
P and J are such smart, awesome people, and it's so weird because I still sort of think of them as kids (even though they're not actually that much younger than me), but now they're such mature grownups! P was telling me about how annoying it is to debate things with R, because it's all academic for him. He can have a conversation where he tells someone their lifestyle is wrong, or that the discrimination they've experienced is imagined, because it's not real to him. There's no emotion involved. He's speaking from a position of privilege.
We spent a good while talking. J takes the very Christian viewpoint (or what I think the Christian viewpoint is supposed to be) of forgiveness and acceptance, and seeing all belief systems as equally valid. He thinks she should hear him out and explain to him that she respectfully disagrees, and that he needs to accept her viewpoint as valid. He said R is really upset about their falling out, and P should forgive him because holding onto grudges is unhealthy.
I said she doesn't need to relive that argument again, and she has no obligation to make R feel better. If, and only if, she feels like having any sort of relationship with him (because I think she also misses their old relationship, but he really hurt her), she should tell him that certain topics are 100% off limits. He has made his position clear, and needs to accept that they have certain fundamental differences.
So that was all fun. Drama! Weighty conversation! Awkward interactions! Just fills me with the warm fuzzy holiday spirit.
In cuter news, I had a 4 (?) year old cousin that wore this to the party:
Seriously you guise, how cute is that? Always a silver lining.