When I go home for the holidays, I find myself among friends who are more conservative than my Cape Cod ones. I usually try to avoid political talk. But I think there’s too much at stake now. I want to speak up more about my beliefs and I want to listen and ask questions. I know there are some people I just can’t talk to. But I like to imagine there are some ways to find grounds for agreement. At least maybe we all feel bad about the detention of minors at the border.
My problem is that I get indignant about the ignorance of the beliefs that underpin some of my friends’ political views. That’s when I get hot under the collar.
From there, my own lectures on history, present dangers, structural inequalities, and immigration policies go downhill. When I get nervous, I can’t keep my facts straight. How can I have the conversations I hope for?
NOT THEIR PROFESSOR
The easy way out of this would be to take the easy out. Avoid hard topics and uncomfortable conversation. Steer clear of red-hat-wearing Chadwick who likes to literally bring out the big guns. Bow down before Becky who tries to prove her point by increasing the decibel level. Stick your head in the sand when your facts crumble in the face of confident ignorance.
But then again, you say you’re not an ostrich.
Ask yourself this: are the friends you speak of feeling anxious about their political disagreements with you? Are they online right now looking up facts and history that might support their point of view?
One fact you shouldn’t need to look up is that your beliefs are valid and worthy of being discussed. If you get history wrong, allow yourself to be corrected, not dissuaded from what defines you as a politically involved human. You don’t have to know every shred of history to form an opinion. Dare to make your heartfelt case. Most important: do not allow yourself to be silenced by ignorance. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “neutrality helps the oppressor … silence encourages the tormenter….”
If all else fails, take a page out of their book and dig your heels in, plug up your ears when they speak and yell louder when you have something to say. A few shots of Jim Beam might help with that strategy.
I have a two-year-old nephew who doesn’t like to sleep. He has an unending amount of energy and stays awake very late even when my sister and brother-in-law try their best to get him to sleep in his bed. Usually he ends up staying up way past their bedtime or cries from his bed until they bring him into their own.
Their dynamic drives me crazy, and I know I’m going to be seeing it again when we’re together for the holidays. How can I help them get the little guy on a better sleeping pattern in his own bed?
Dear Fatigued Funcle,
This toddler might seem to you to be defective, but I can assure you this is a common malfunction not covered by any warranty.
For his actual parents, patience and routine are going to be key. Growing humans need as much routine and training as puppies while they figure out how to navigate life. Your sister and brother-in-law need to set a consistent bedtime and remind Bonzo of it by starting 45 minutes ahead, helping him to wind down his current activity. Create a pre-bedtime step-by-step with reminders of the countdown: “Put on your PJs, we have 30 minutes until bedtime. Brush your teeth (it’s good to throw that in early), we have 20 minutes until bedtime. Get under the covers, we have 15 minutes of reading time before bed.” If his parents do these things with him, he might feel less anxious. He’ll be involved in his routine instead of spiraling into FOMO (fear of missing out).
But steady as you go. This routine isn’t really something a visiting uncle can put into place. You can listen and sympathize with the parents, but when you are with this wild, wakeful nephew of yours, do remember young children need to feel safe and validated as much as grown-ups do. Perhaps the best role for you as his uncle is to put on some music and prepare him for life as a D.J.
Doctor Doublepenny, who practices exclusively in the pages of the Provincetown Independent, will answer your questions if you send them to [email protected] or to Dear Indie, P.O. Box 1034, Provincetown, MA 02657. Due to the volume of letters received, almost every one will be answered.