Why I called my relatives this weekend

Technological people
By Elizabeth Kristen

We are not a close family. We rarely get together.

We certainly don’t call each other on a daily or even monthly basis. It’s basically a text-on-your-birthday type of relationship.

But this weekend, I called my brother and my uncle.

My uncle is a Vietnam veteran and an accountant in Kansas. He is a steadfast democrat and demoralized having lived through Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s destruction of public education in that state.

So he was distressed about Trump, but not mobilized to fight him. I spoke with him about his son, who he thinks voted for Trump and ways my uncle might reach his son about issues that matter to him — net neutrality.  We also chatted about my Aunt and her vote for a third party candidate.  Again, we discussed things that motivate her, such as the IDEA (providing support for students with disabilities — a law Education Secretary Betsy DeVos thinks is optional for the states).  After my conversation with my Uncle, he started emailing me about ways to get involved with fighting back against the Trump agenda.  He told me about this effort to provide a way to contact Trump through his businesses.  So I made that call, and it was great and I emailed my uncle about my experience.  I continue to text my Uncle to call his Kansas Senators.

My brother served in the Army and now lives in Indiana. He is a “white working class” voter. The ones who supposedly love Trump. But my brother also is a Democrat and an Obama supporter. When I called him, he too thought his voice didn’t matter.  I tried to convey the urgency of the panic I feel every day about how Trump is out to destroy everything I care about.

I looked up my brother’s Senators and their positions on the Executive Order Muslim ban and emailed him to call Congress.  To be honest, I am not sure he did it.  But I will keep trying.

Lots of liberals I know bemoan our inability to have conversations with Trump voters. Our emphasis on those lost conversations may be keeping us from remembering the easier and perhaps more impactful calls we can have with our friends and relatives in red states.

They need to make themselves heard too.

Those of us in blue states sometimes may believe we can’t or don’t need to do anything because our Congress people and Senators may share our views.

But we can and should still call Congress. I visited California Senator Diane Feinstein’s local office in person twice last month to urge her to vote against Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. My visit sparked others I know to do the same.

Now is not the time for business as usual. If you are calling your representatives, thank you. Just make sure that the next call you make is to friends and family to ask them to get involved in the fight. If they already are, let’s support each other and continue to connect to those in other states who also are struggling to find meaningful ways to protect the values we care about.

Elizabeth Kristen

About Elizabeth Kristen

Elizabeth Kristen is the Director of the Gender Equity & LGBT Rights Program and a senior staff attorney at Legal Aid at Work.  Ms. Kristen began her public interest career as a Skadden Fellow at Legal Aid.  Ms. Kristen graduated from University of California at Berkeley School of Law in 2001 and served as a law clerk to the Honorable James R. Browning on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.  In 2012-13, she served as a Harvard law School Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow.  She has been a lecturer at Berkeley Law School since 2008. Legal Aid at Work together with the California Women’s Law Center and Equal Rights Advocates make up the California Fair Pay Collaborative dedicated to engaging and informing Californians about fair pay issues.

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