No Room at the Table


Last year on Easter Sunday, I packed up my car, dressed my kids in their very best, and we traveled out to Long Island to enjoy Easter dinner with my mother’s family. This side of my family is conservative. They’re “religious” – though they haven’t been to church in years – and are die-hard supporters of both the conservative right and our current administration. Dinner started with grace, and grace ended with “God Bless President Trump.” I held back my comment – even though I didn’t recall us saying the same of President Obama – while my aunt began to pass out the salad. Over muffled snickering, I hear her say “Make sure Ally and Rich get the Russian Dressing”. It took exactly 45 seconds for them to find a way to call me and my father liberals.

Ah, family politics.

Name calling and fighting while we pass around the food. This was just another case of the family not getting along, right? Wrong, and here’s why.

They mean it.

They aren’t just teasing me because I believe Russia influenced our elections. They aren’t just having fun at the wasted vote they assume I cast for Hillary.

They wholeheartedly believe I am a card-carrying snowflake because I don’t toe the party line.

Because I vote on both sides of the ticket.

Because I educate myself and question my leaders rather than blindly following the talking heads on TV.

To be clear, I do not consider the word “liberal” to be evil, nor are the people it genuinely represents. I have most certainly found myself on the left side of issues over the years and still do side with many of the social pieces. However, just as with conservative views, I do not agree with everything the left believes in. And in 2018, there is simply no room for me at the dinner table.

In today’s antagonistic climate, you are either all in or you are the enemy.

Over the years, I’ve tried not to engage the losing battle. There have been a few occasions where I admittedly tried to stoke the fire. At Easter, I knew I wasn’t winning over any hearts, but I still took the time to point out that Americans should all be upset with Russia for interfering with our democracy, regardless of what comes of the Mueller Probe.

From the end of the table came a packaged line from Fox & Friends, and the conversation moved on. They don’t get it, and that scares me. If we continue down this road of selective truths and “all in” mentality, we are leading ourselves to a fiery end.

I remember talking with my dad when I was young about voting. I remember asking him who he was voting for and getting names. Never just a single party, but always multiple names. And truthfully, I never thought to check if there were both Rs and Ds on his list, but knowing my father, I believe there likely were. He too gets the scarlet “L” from my mom’s family, but he would describe himself as a conservative, even without diving head first into all of the doctrines. He refused to simply accept an entire group of leaders just because of their affiliation. He had impendent views and thoughts.

Oh, the horror!

Over cake and coffee, we started talking about real life – mortgages, house prices, the cost of raising children, school systems, and the cost of living in New York. Of course, the recent tax cuts came up. Because they came from President Trump, my family endorsed them completely. When I questioned any negative effects they may have on the economy and our way of life, I was completely inundated with the mantras from all the talking heads on the right.

I’ve heard these sound bites too, but they don’t hold up in my court. I have questions about where we will be in a few years. How will this affect health care? How would the changes in FHA loans affect my cousins who were buying a house? How would the cap on interest and state taxes affect their returns? I talked about how reverting to older technologies like coal might not be in the interest of the country. Of course, I was speaking to deaf ears.

No one listened. They simply repeated their mantras.

I notice this “head in the sand” approach is popular with professional sports fans too. Growing up, we were a Giants household. My grandpa, dad, and I all love Big Blue. My dad loved to talk about the true origin of my name. Yes, Allison is a lovely name for a little girl, but I was named for Allie Sherman, my dad’s favorite Giant coach growing up. My brother, however, went green. The Jets were his team. The rivalry between the Giants and Jets was strong, but in my house, bi-partisanship was king.

In 2009, the Giants went to the Super Bowl. They really aren’t that great of a football team, so it was a big deal. They were playing the Patriots, and it was the greatest upset I had ever witnessed. In downtown Manhattan, I was glued to the TV at the bar we posted up in… right next to my brother, the Jets fan. I remember our friends teasing him about being there, decked out in Giants gear. He laughed it off, said something to the effect of “I’m a New York Fan. The only time I hate the Giants is when they play the Jets”.

There it was. A willingness to embrace another side or another team, even if only for a day.

So many Americans are being duped by our leaders. They are led to believe there is no middle ground and that the opposition is just that. Opposition. We choose to believe sound bites and TV personalities rather than do our own research – even though in today’s world it is so damn easy to do. We find the station or person or politician that makes us feel safe, and we buy everything they offer.

So next year, I will have Easter with my Dad’s side of the family. They tend to be more liberal than my father and I, but they are also highly educated, thoughtful and willing to engage in debate. They are the antithesis to where our country is headed. And together we will break bread and begin to train the next generation of free thinkers. My hope is this ship will right itself sometime soon.

And the millions of us in the middle – the moderates and the independents – will have a voice and a role in the healing process.

As I head into the holiday season – I have to prepare myself. I am armed with facts, stats, and educated arguments, but I know they will do me no good. I want so badly to help my family understand their rights as Americans: to question, confront and research what is being done on their behalf.

Instead, I will simply compliment my Aunt’s cooking, congratulate my cousin on her new home and keep the lively debate for my dad.

He really does love a good political battle!