The Vine: March 15, 2017
I think I might want to cut my brother out of my life, and I have no idea what to do.
My relationship with my brother has always been a little rocky. Growing up, I was a people-pleaser desperate to get praise and approval from our parents, while he took a more normal teenage path involving weed and less-than-stellar report cards. I think he felt like my parents favored me and didn't understand him at all, and I know that was hard for him.
Despite that we were pretty close as kids and young adults. But he has always had trouble managing his anger, and can't admit when he's wrong. The pattern is that he blows up over something minor, we (my family) get upset and try to smooth things over, he yells at us and stops speaking to us for a while, and then eventually he talks to us again and we pretend it never happened because every other option seems too exhausting. I can't think of a single time when he has offered me an apology. If I tell him I'm upset about something, he either blows up or snorts and tells me to get over it.
We haven't lived in the same state since 2004, but kept in touch via phone and text and my occasional visits home. In 2015 he started asking me a bunch of weird questions about race relations on the campus where I worked, and texting me every time there was a terrorist attack to say that Western values are under assault. After a few rounds of this I asked if I should donate his Christmas gift to the Trump campaign, thinking he'd be embarrassed to hear he sounded like Trump.
It turned out that somehow, my brother had gone from only caring about the legalization of weed to being 100% on board with the entire Trump/Bannon agenda.
He started texting me tons of links from places like Breitbart and demanding that I read them and discuss them with him. At first I argued for my beliefs — white privilege exists, feminism is good, Beyonce is awesome, etc. He'd tell me I was "brainwashed by all that libtard bullshit" and needed to "go get informed" and "actually think about it." When it became clear he didn't actually want to listen to my perspective, I suggested we stop talking politics. The links kept coming. Finally I drew my line in the sand. No more links, no more arguments. I had a 3-month-old baby, I was applying for jobs, and we were moving; I was exhausted and stressed out and needed him to back off.
He said he had "every right" to send me "legitimate articles" and mocked me for wanting a "safe space." I told him he was acting like a convert to a new religion who wouldn't shut up about how everyone else was going to hell. He called me an "ivory tower libtard asshole," said I was "playing the victim, again, which is really insulting," and stopped speaking to me.
That was a year ago. Since then we've been in touch a handful of times. I sent him a message when he finished a second degree, and again on his birthday, and a small Christmas gift. He begrudgingly thanked me for the graduation wishes but otherwise he's only contacted me to gloat about the election, and to call me a "fear-monger" and accuse me of lying when I posted something on Facebook about how worried I was for women and minorities, as well as my husband's job, under a Trump presidency.
Since the inauguration I'm…kind of feeling done with him. I have a lot of close friends from other countries and they are terrified by what's coming out of the White House. I'm terrified for them. I am not sure I can stand to talk to him knowing that he voted for — argued for! — a white nationalist platform in the White House. I am also really sick of the pattern where he does something shitty, never apologizes, and everyone around him just tiptoes past it to keep the peace.
Refusing to see or speak to him again would upset my parents, but I live so far away that it wouldn't seriously disrupt anything, and it's not like he's trying to talk to me. Even when he was still speaking to me he never asked about my son, my job search, or anything else about my life. I honestly don't think he cares. Maybe I can play nice at a family dinner the next time I go home. But I kind of don't want my son around him — my mom (who shares my politics) says in person my brother is hostile and loud and will not shut up about how white men are super-persecuted and liberals suck.
So I guess what I'm asking is, what now? Can I just never speak to him again? Is that okay? He wasn't always like this, and I feel like I'm being a coward by not engaging with him. Should I try harder to argue with his bullshit worldview? Should I tell him that he's out of my life because he's become a really awful person? I am at a loss here, and also feeling kind of beaten down by this whole awful year.
You have two separate issues here: his political beliefs; and his behavior. They're both shitty, but they're still separate issues, and I think you have to try to put aside the former to the extent that you can, and base your decision-making on the latter.
And the latter, even if you subtract the content from it, is aggressive. It's harassment. He hectors you. "Demanding" that you read links and discuss them? (Which meant "defend yourself, in vain.") Calling you names? Refusing to interact with you and your life on any other basis except your politics — not sending you gifts in return (I assume)? not asking about the baby even in passing? You would not keep anyone else who acted this way in your life; in fact, you'd go out of your way to avoid him.
There is something about your account of his (d)evolution into a Breitbutthole that strikes me as…unwell. Not your account, that is, but rather Brother's complete, resolute transformation into a combative bigot who appears to have no other interests or conversational topics. I guess some people just really don't care, even after hearing it directly, that their views/constant harping on same make people who love them uncomfortable, but even your mom's like, he's too much with this…I don't know. He's functional enough to get "a second degree," but maybe there's something else going on here.
Even so, it's not your lookout. He's turned into a bad guy, and you don't like each other. The only reason you're really even considering not punting him for the extra point is that it makes things harder for your mom/family, but it's not like they don't see what he's like, and take it from me, continuing to deal with That Relative because it seems easier just means everyone gets to be unhappy.
So. First thing, decide where your line really is with him, in a perfect world where it doesn't complicate anything else. Second thing, create the perfect world for yourself and just…put the line there. Live with it, just you and the line, for a little while. Consent to family dinner, or not? Leave when certain trigger words are brayed at you, or stay put? Suffer it for yourself but shield your kid/partner from him? Figure out what's right for you. (Regardless, I'd block him on social media and your phone, and set up an email filter.)
Do not make a big announcement, to him or anyone else. He'll just take it as yet another excuse to get in your face, and the time he was owed an explanation is long past. He's done. Tell your mom if you'd like, especially if you have a trip planned back home and your line requires that you not share space with him; if he tries to contact you about it, explain that you don't care to associate with people who have no respect for you, blood relatives or not, and end the interaction with a curt "take care."
This won't change much, really, because unfortunately Brother's a twat who doesn't care about you. This is just formalizing what you already know for yourself, and while it will be freeing in some ways to do what's right for your sanity and not have to care even socially about this problem anymore, it will be painful and depressing in others, so let yourself feel those feelings and mourn the brother you should have gotten instead of this racist angerball.
But it's not just okay to be done; you've been done for a while. Bury it, put up a stone, and think about something else.
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Tags: shut up GOP the fam