Half my family voted for Donald Trump and half for Hillary Clinton – now the hatred between us has reached a fever pitch

I asked my sister to stop contacting me and called her a bigot. It’s hard to call her anything else when she says she doesn’t care about gay rights (a hard blow to me as a gay man) and says 'white power'. I regrettably posted on Facebook that I thought Trump voters should die

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The Independent Online

My family is originally from Kentucky, a state that is itself an experiment in contradiction. We had a star in both the Union and Confederate flags during the US Civil War. Our motto is “United we stand, divided we fall,” yet every Kentuckian knows stories of brothers who marched north and south in 1861, never to see one another again.

Once more, American families face seemingly unresolvable differences. The election of Donald Trump has divided my own tight-knit family to the point of schism.

My first indication of what was truly happening back home came the night after the election. I rang my grandmother, who asked me to stay in the UK. In the 10 years I’ve been coming, and intending to emigrate, here, she has always told me: ‘no, come home to America’. Yet like so many, my 73-year-old grandmother – who first put a flag in my hand and taught me the Pledge of Allegiance – has lost faith in American democracy and decency.

The next day I finally spoke to my sister, who I had been avoiding since I learnt she was voting for Trump. In what is the biggest row we’ve ever had, we exchanged a series of texts in which we fiercely defended our positions and accused one another of betrayal, both to the family and the country. I finally asked her to stop contacting me, calling her a bigot. It’s hard to call her anything else when she says she doesn’t care about gay rights (a hard blow to me as a gay man) and, in what I can only hope was an attempt at sarcasm, says “white power”.

Donald Trump calls for a Muslim registry in the United States

This sister at least had the courage to confront me. My other sister, who claims she can’t be racist because her children are “half-Spanish” (their father is Dominican), simply deleted me on Facebook. It stung, but in some ways I can’t blame her. I’ve not exactly been gracious myself in defeat, posting that I hope Trump voters die, just as they want me dead, in a failed and regrettable attempt at hyperbole. It was not my finest moment.

It’s no one’s finest moment. My aunt has disowned several Trump-voting cousins. My grandmother’s niece has deleted every relation she suspects voted Republican. An uncle has apparently been mocking Clinton voters. Another uncle messaged me to gloat about taking the country back from “libtards”. My grandparents have told me to ignore and cut ties with racist family members. If America is divided, my family is in open civil war.

This election is different to others because it was a fight for America’s soul. Do we embrace the browning and queering of the United States, or do we turn time back to 1956? Trump’s unique brand of identity politics – straight white citizens against everyone else – and the split between the popular vote and Electoral College have only served to further this divide. For many of us on both sides, this election wasn’t about a difference in politics, but a difference in principles. It’s easy to see past policy disagreements in a family, but it’s harder to pass the gravy to someone you think is utterly immoral.

Next week is Thanksgiving. I will be back in America, but I will not be home. I no longer feel welcome, comfortable, or even safe, breaking bread with my Trump voting kin. It’s hard to fathom they would want me there, when their vote indicates they don’t want me in their country, let alone their house. America suddenly feels foreign to me. The hate I’ve seen was certainly always present, I have no doubt, but invisible to or ignored by my privileged eyes. Still, it is utterly destroying my faith in my family and my nation.

Many Trump voters see it differently though. Feeling foreign in their own country, they view this election as a chance to reclaim American exceptionalism, even if it excludes anyone who isn’t like them. For the Trump side of the family, this is a return to American values. For the Clinton side, it’s an abandonment of America’s promise. Bridging these distinct worldviews may well be impossible.

After the Civil War, white America reconciled by oppressing its black citizens, something we are still fighting to correct today. Trumpians seem incapable of or unwilling to understand the very real fear and anger the rest of us have, and people such as myself refuse to sacrifice our convictions to keep the peace at home. So for many families such as mine, we go forward divided and detesting one another. This election has broken America and broken my heart. I’m not sure either will ever recover.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is an American journalist and essayist. He is based in Chicago, but hopes to move to London next year

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