COVID-19 Isn’t Just Killing People: It’s Killing My Relationship With My Alt-Right Family
The author details the falling out she's had with relatives, one of whom recently tested positive for the coronavirus.
My parents and siblings and I been on shaky ground for a long time. I’m the black-sheep liberal in a family of conservatives. And not just middle of the road conservatives, either, but Trump-loving, gun-toting folks who spew bigotry and conspiracy theories. They’ve come to embody the worst of the Republican party.
I’ve butted heads with my family over all the hot button issues. Since Trump took office, we’ve clashed over LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, climate change, education, gun control and abortion laws.
As an ally to the LGBTQ+ community and an outspoken advocate for women’s health rights, I’ve had my share of differences with my family, but I’ve still managed to set them aside. But the relationship I have with my father started to crumble when he denounced the #MeToo movement.
“It was started by an attention-starved, anti-masculinist actress,” my dad complained. “It’s part of the conspiracy designed to control us. These loud-mouthed women just want men to live in fear. A man can’t do anything these days without worrying a woman will report him.”
“You mean the same fear that women live with every day worrying that a man thinks it’s okay to grab them by the pussy just because he can?” I retorted. “The same reason why you told your daughters to carry pepper spray on our keychains?”
“You’re twisting the facts. That’s just fake news,” he replied, falling back on the mantra of the far-right.
The Political Is Always Personal
As a survivor of rape and sexual assault, I took it as a personal affront. I almost ended things with him over this conversation, but for some reason, I didn’t. Instead, I just set very firm boundaries and limited our interactions to holidays and birthdays. I wasn’t ready to accept that his viewpoint had the ability to hurt my family and my children the same way it hurts me.
COVID-19 has changed all that.
Like so many other issues, the pandemic has become a partisan one. Only this time, buying into the example set by the far-right is a matter of physical safety for all involved.
I refuse to back down on anything that keeps my kids safe. After losing one of my sons, I don’t take chances where the health and well-being of my children are concerned. My children, my husband and I vigilantly follow social distancing guidelines. We do our grocery shopping online and venture out only when necessary. We avoid gatherings of friends and family. We wear masks.
A poll published by The Washington Post showed that 73 percent of Democrats are wearing masks, while only 59 percent of Republicans are. The same poll showed that people of color are more likely to wear a mask in public than white people. And another report in The Hill says some men view wearing a mask in public as a sign of weakness. Trump himself, the hero of the alt-right movement, almost never wears a mask or follows the advice of medical experts.
My Dad Is Being Mind-Controlled by the Far-Right
My father views himself as a thought leader, an enlightened man. But in reality, he blindly follows Trump’s lead. He’s one of those men who refuses to see masks as a sign of respect and concern for the rest of humankind. He doesn’t follow social distancing guidelines. My siblings follow his lead, to varying degrees. One of them even went so far as to march in protest of our region’s continued shutdown.
They want to know, with restrictions easing, am I going to see them again soon? Can they see my kids?
They send text messages like these:
“Masks are mind control. If maintaining a six-foot distance works, why wear masks? If wearing masks work, why maintain a six-foot distance and avoid group gatherings? Wake up, sheeple. These libtards have you wrapped around their fingers.”
“You’ve gotten a good look at what happens when your freedom is limited. Wake up. Don’t stand for the tyranny.”
I don’t reply.
Recently, one of my siblings told me my father hadn’t been feeling well. He laid on the guilt and told me I should call him. The guilt got the best of me so I grudgingly did.
“I’m fine now. Just tired,” he said and paused. “I’d like to see the kids.”
“We could FaceTime tomorrow when they’re up. The baby is asleep for the night,” I said.
He sighed, “You won’t let me come over and see my grandchildren?”
He hadn’t seen them since Christmas and had made no effort to see them regularly back in the days before the pandemic brought the world to a halt.
“No, I won’t,” I said. “It’s not safe for them, for me or, frankly, for you.”
“I see the propaganda has worked on you, and you’re going to fall for the ploys of the leftist media,” he said, his voice dripping with rancor.
“You know I’m part of the media, right? Besides I’m going with science on this one and not taking unnecessary risks where my kids are concerned.”
“I raised you better than this.” His voice was hard. “It’s so disappointing how easily you’re swayed.”
“And it’s disappointing to see you ignore what science says.” A pause. “Again.”
The phone clicked off. I’m not sure if I hung up first or if he did, but I am sure that I will not waiver.
Two days later, I got a text from him saying he had in fact tested positive for COVID-19. There was no remorse for wanting to expose my family to the virus. “It wasn’t even a big deal,” he said. “And I’m the highest risk group there is. It was no worse than the flu.”
I texted him back, “Sorry to hear. Feel better and stay home!” I left it at that.
In the past, I’ve failed to really consider how the alt-right conservative messages my family spouts could damage me, my children or the rest of society at large. Now I’ve woken up, just not in the way my family hoped I would. It’s just a shame it took COVID-19 to show me.