Facing Rifts That May Never Heal

The family fallout from identity politics, religion and massive manipulation


If you have one or several, you’re not alone. We can dress them up and call them ‘estrangements’ but it doesn’t change the pain that comes with a family member’s refusal to communicate, to block or belittle or even to harass us.

These rifts can seem surreal when the source is a loved one. I’ve been hurting for several weeks now. And I know that I’m not alone.

We might think that family has a leg up when it comes to understanding us, but as I wrote in Just Because You’re Related Doesn’t Mean You Can Relate that isn’t necessarily true. In fact, the illusion of a leg up, of shared DNA and childhood experiences, may keep us stuck in a cycle of despair and depression.

Nothing is Normal Now

“No normal” may give you small comfort but it’s worth a reminder. Our economy is built around sucking our attention, reinforcing our overwhelm and fears based on fine-tuned algorithms designed to make money.

We are not seeing or reading the same “news”. We even distinguish between misinformation (inaccurate) and disinformation (intentionally deceptive). Lies are so very pervasive that we have relabeled them according to their different levels of harm.

Religious and political identities, for millions, trump our family ties. Fear-based marketing from the pulpit, “polls” and particularly insidious groups affiliated with white supremacists and other hate groups began infiltrating American minds pre-internet. Now, it’s full-blown war online, phone line — seemingly all the time.

Don’t Expect Them to Change

Regardless of what happens on election day, we are not who we were. Our very cells are changing all the time. What we feed ourselves — what we put into our mouths, in front of our eyes and what we listen to — greatly influences what and how we think, act, and react.

Don’t expect any of that input to change — even with a less narcissistic President or a more democratic government. At least in the short term.



Jodi Barnes, PhD

Writer and Collaborator-in-Chief of https://www.14wordsforlove.com where small acts of writing, art and conversation create multicultural connections for good.