I’m trying to get my Chinese mom to NOT vote for Trump again
Let’s start here: I’m mixed race, Chinese and white. My mother is Chinese, and she immigrated to the US during the 1980’s, to pursue her graduate degree at UCLA. My father is a white amerikkkan who raised me and my brother with white supremacist, sinophobic beliefs.
Both my parents voted for Trump.
For my dad, no surprise there (he and 45 even share the same first name). We have been estranged for the past 3+ years.
But my mom? It actually confused me. How could someone who is a Chinese immigrant mother to a trans kid continue to support (or turn the other way) a cult of personality that un-apologetically hates Chinese people, immigrants, women and her trans non-binary veteran child (me)?
Trump just stripped 1,000 student visas from Chinese students, who came to get their education just like she did. She sees the threat of corporate espionage as a real threat, with justifiable action.
Trump just banned downloads of TikTok and WeChat. This would make us unable to communicate with our entire family in China, to include my 97 year old grandmother. Banning our primary mode of communication is heartless and needlessly cruel.
Trump has incited anti-Chinese sentiment through intentional scapegoating and misinformation, resulting in huge increases in violent hate crimes against Asian people. Yet, my mom does not believe the connection between her vote and this rise in violence.
It is incredibly frustrating trying to talk with her about everything that’s happening. I am fearful of her safety. I am trying to show her how these acts of violence affect me, my friends, and their families.
Every time, I try to build the case to show white amerikkan caste crimes. We agree that horrendous things are happening. She sees the violence. I tell her that this is happening with the support of her vote.
Instead of being open to changing her politics to address the continuous harm, it comes down to this: She says she likes Trump because he is clearly “against socialism”.
My mom left China due to the political upheavals of the Cultural Revolution and moved to this country to claim her autonomy. She wanted freedom. Our family was devastated and fractured by the Cultural Revolution. Healing has been hard. PTSD, anxiety, chronic stress, and health impacts have been real. For those of us who are children of Chinese immigrants who experienced the Cultural Revolution, we carry our parents’ wounds too. For those of us who do not speak Chinese fluently, the words to heal together are often lost in translation.
Words in english don’t bring us to mutual understanding, but I can listen to the message conveyed in her body language and emotional tone. I understand her responses as panic and fear that devastation will surely come if anyone labelled even remotely “socialist-leaning” took office. Her fear blocks her from seeing that the devastation is already here, and her survival is at stake.
I tried a different approach to our conversation this week.
Me and my mom talked recently about trauma responses, and how previous trauma can create perceptions of threat which feel very real. Lumos Transforms shared a beautiful analogy of hiking on a new trail and mistaking a stick for a snake in the grass. We are wired to rapidly perceive threat. This helped our ancestors survive. This stress response was passed down in our DNA. We are more likely to startle first (“oh my gosh, a snake!), and discern after (“ah, it’s just a stick”). With practice and non-judgmental awareness, we may begin to mistake less sticks for snakes, or more quickly discern after making the mistake. Ironically, we may replicate or unconsciously seek out patterns of harm that remind us of our previous trauma. What feels familiar (and even tolerable) does not necessarily mean it is safe or healthy for us.
For my mom, every mention of socialism feels like finding a snake in the grass. The fear she feels is real, but she is not able to discern whether or not her perception was an actual threat. In her eyes, even a stick that looks like a snake is still considered a snake. In her eyes, other snakes in the grass are not real, because they *could* just be sticks.
When I teach nervous system regulation, I remind folx that the goal is NOT to eliminate all triggers and trauma from ever occurring again. The goal is NOT to turn off the stress response in our brains. The goal is NOT to become a blank slate, never responding to anything. The goal is consciousness. The goal is discernment of actual threats. The goal is being able to tend, befriend, and collectively respond to harm being done while actively listening and learning from one another.
When we are activated by fear, our rational mind turns off. Appealing to logic stops working. Learning becomes nearly impossible. Our nervous system directs all energy to the emotional brain, and keeps our adrenaline high until we can escape. In the animal world, this stress response cycle reaches a resolution. In the human world, our stress response is compounded by another threat, another crisis, another stress, another atrocity. Let me be clear, the threats to our safety are real. However, the state uses targeted trauma to keep us in panic, to keep us from uniting.
I haven’t figured out how to get my mom to stop supporting 45. I haven’t found the words in english or Chinese to convey the gravity of this threat. But I’m going to keep trying to listen to my mom’s nervous system, affirm her feelings, and try to tell her where we are being surrounded by snakes.
[original post at yourgaydanceteacher.com]