Would you let partisan politics ruin your family?


"The County Election," by George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811-1879), oil on canvas, 1846. (Click to enlarge, work in public domain in the US, published/registered before Jan. 1, 1923)

“The County Election,” by George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811-1879), oil on canvas, 1846. (Click to enlarge, work in public domain in the US, published/registered before Jan. 1, 1923)

In my summer travels and writings, I recently had an opportunity to see the play “The City of Conversation,” by Anthony Giardina. The play is about family and politics, and how the latter could affect the former.

In short, and without diving into the work itself too much, the play is about two strong women, a mother and daughter-in-law, vying for control of a less-than-resolute man, the mother’s son and daughter-in-law’s husband.

The women are also diametrically opposed politically. The man was raised one way by his mother, had shifted to the other side by his wife, but really seems ambivalent about it all.

In the play’s key moment, the mother–a well known influential Beltway operative– is working against one of her son’s political causes, and has a choice of whether to send a key letter to help defeat said cause in Congress, or risk not seeing her grandson again, under threat of the daughter-in-law, herself also a fervent and ambitious politico on the Hill.

The son is caught in the middle, and acts more like Hamlet than Clint Eastwood, waffling his way to disaster.

The mother sends the letter, the cause is defeated – but the family is also ruined for an entire generation. Later, the grandson returns as an adult to seek answers from his grandmother as to why and how everything could have gone so wrong.

As I watched the play, I could relate with the partisan politics therein and the strength with which each woman became entrenched in her position. But I couldn’t see how an entire family allowed itself to be devastated over politics, and a Senate vote.

What about you?  Do you have members of your immediate or extended family who vote right and left, and cannot seem to get out of each other’s way?

Can these pople keep it civil?  Is there a line they won’t cross when it comes to family and friends – or do politics dictate everything they do, every friend they make, every family member they trust or shun?

What would you do?  With millions of others fighting for your causes every day, and who could potentially pick up the baton for you, would you let your involvement of the position you take tear your family apart? Ostracize certain members?  Black mail another member with banishment because of the way they vote?

If you have a story, share it.  I spent many of my formative years in a scalding European political environment that makes our current presidential election look like a day at the park.

And yet: I could never see any of that coming in the way of friends, and especially of family.

What runs deeper for you? Your vote, or your blood?


Telly Halkias is a national-award winning newspaper columnist.

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Telly Halkias

About Telly Halkias

Award-winning freelance journalist from Portland's West End. Writes columns, features, and drama reviews for newspapers in Vermont, where he also owns a home, Massachusetts, New York and Maine.. Former weekend columnist at the now defunct Portland Sun. Longtime adjunct professor of college English/history/humanities. Has lived overseas for 15 years, and all over the U.S. Veteran. Small business owner. Published poet. ATCA drama critic. Loves all things outdoors, and Siberian huskies.