In the aftermath of the presidential elections, many American families are now divided by a deep chasm. Due to their sharply contrasting views of the Trump legacy, they are not on speaking terms anymore. And this phenomenon is often intergenerational, pitting liberal college-educated children against conservative parents, or vice-versa.
But this particular situation is not unprecedented. In France, in 1894 amid rampant antisemitism, Captain Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused and convicted of selling military secrets to Germany. A French officer of Jewish descent, he was sentenced to life imprisonment and deported to Devil’s Island in French Guiana.
The French population became deeply polarized and this situation generated countless editorials and cartoons.
The most famous of them (February 1898) was called “un diner en famille” (a family dinner). The first frame depicts a family gathering with a caption saying “surtout ne parlons pas de l’affaire Dreyfus” (above all, let’s not talk about the Dreyfus affair).
The second frame shows all the guests at each other throats with the caption saying “Ils en ont parlé” (they talked about it).
This case brought France to the brink of civil war.
After serving 5 years in Devil’s Island and after a ceaseless campaign spearheaded by his family and by (future Prime Minister) George Clemenceau and novelist Emile Zola, Dreyfus was ultimately found innocent of any crime. He was reinstated in the French Army with the rank of artillery major.
This episode pretty well summarizes what is presently happening in the United States. A deep cleavage separating Trumpists and anti-Trumpists. An unhealthy climate likely to last for a few years…
The subsequent question is: can you remain friends with buddies and relatives despite your sharp political differences?
It depends on the degree of polarization of both parties. Hardcore and vocal devotees of any cause are unlikely to change their colors and the break might be irrevocable. No use to argue with fanatics.
But with reasonable people, it might be different. It can be politely agreed by both parties to disagree and to never bring up that subject again… just like the uncle who spent 5 years in prison for undisclosed reasons.
Life is too short to waste time with distasteful negativity.