I am a family therapist raised during the McCarthy and Civil Rights eras. I saw people lose their jobs because of their beliefs and I grew up with the stories of others who went to prison, were hurt or even killed in the South when they stood up against segregation and hatred.
Today, I am thinking of my own family where a civil war of uncomfortable silence and sharp words is prevalent among certain members about this election. I am writing here because that silence has meant I do not speak about what is at stake this year with some. A cousin there, an in-law there — and it hurts to witness my own lack of courage. That is why I am making calls to mobilize volunteers in swing states to get out the vote. I have done this for past election cycles, but this time whenever an hour goes by and I am not reaching out, it eats at my heart. My initial idea was to make up for each family member I disagreed with but I have changed my goal as I listen to other potential volunteers.
A father who has spent decades working for social justice and cannot speak with his own daughter who says she will not vote because its just too scary to face her colleagues at work who are going the other way.
A grandfather in a rural town who told a canvasser at the door that his college-age grandson was looking for a movement and not finding one to suit him, was “turned off to politics.”
A mother who is torn between her evangelically inclined daughter going one way and her union member son going the other.
I feel their anguish and my goal has grown larger.
It is the silence that scares me. I want people to start talking.
What can I do as one person? Inspired by a fundraising email this summer from Elizabeth Warren which spoke of 9 women running for the U.S. Senate who could turn the balance of power, I invited 9 men to join me on a weekly group phone call to talk about the election and take positive action. One volunteered to register voters, another agreed to house a volunteer in his home, others made financial contributions and all courageously shared their viewpoints on social media, some who had not done so before.
And I decided to volunteer and get out the vote. From the past, I see the vision of Germany in 1932 when a fractured electorate resulted in a dictator coming to power. In my own country, I have seen a Supreme Court that passed landmark decisions resulting in desegregation and a woman’s right to choose, and more recent ones that that failed in 2010 to stop the flood of money in the electoral process and 10 years before that, embroiled itself in a recount where 537 votes separated the Presidential candidates in 2000 when that recount was stopped. We know and have lived the results.
This is a year in which some U.S. Senators refuse to even speak to Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland because of the President he was nominated by. This year, could communication…could talking between human beings plant the seeds of something better and dare we say, more durable? To that, I say – and first to myself – pick up the phone and let’s try.
–Neal Brodsky is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Connecticut and New York with extended family roots in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin.