As I wrap up my time in Dallas (during one of the hottest weeks in Texas’ history), I want to tell you how I got here, what I have done, and what I have learned. A driving factor for me to want to go to Dallas for this project is because my grandparents on my dad’s side live there. Besides my uncle on my mom’s side, they are the only conservatives in my family, and over the years, many of my relatives have gotten into disagreements with my grandfather over politics. And when I say disagreements, I mean very heated, uncivil arguments. I have never been on a family trip with both my dad and my grandpa where they didn’t at least once vehemently shout at each other for over an hour about how terrible Obama or Trump they thought was/is. Recognizing my biases, I have always sided with my dad in these arguments and dismissed my grandfather’s arguments as just being a FOX News rundown. I had personally never talked to my grandpa about his political views and honestly never wanted to because I thought they were ignorant.
I realized that when it comes to politics, the family unit is where so much of people’s views are formed, challenged, and evolved. These kinds of conversations, in my experience, happen so frequently because when you are surrounded by your family, you are in a safe space; when disagreeing with a parent’s political views, you don’t run the risk of endangering a relationship as much as with a friend, for example. For my project this summer, I wanted one portion of it to revolve around the family unit, so I chose to go to Dallas. Along with my grandfather, I had the opportunity to talk with my aunt’s boyfriend, my 97 year-old great-grandfather, my second cousin, and a close friend who goes to Duke, all of whom live in Dallas.
The biggest takeaway of my time in Dallas is realizing that when it comes to political debates within our family, there is a lot of misunderstanding that leads to fighting and aggressiveness. Before interviewing my grandpa, I was expecting him to praise Trump and say how great FOX News is. Actually, however, he told me how he really dislikes Trump as a person, but only supports him because of his policies. He also told me that he’s aware of how biased news sources like FOX News are, that he doesn’t like most of the FOX anchors, and that he to fact checks his sources with the New York Times and Washington Post and even CNN and MSNBC. After talking with him for a little bit, I realized why I was initially so shocked at many of his answers when I asked him about the debates he gets in with other family members. “When I talk to someone like you dad, he likes to argue, and he wants to win his argument. He gives talking points rather than what he really feels, parroting back what these [politicians] want you to say and hear…it’s like being programmed. He wants to press his points and doesn’t want to listen. Then I get hooked into it and I’m falling into the same trap.” I found his last point so fascinating because he admitted that when it comes to these arguments, it’s hard to not let your emotions get in the way of presenting your side of the debate. As a result, the argument gets nowhere and both parties often fail to realize that they probably see eye-to-eye on more than they think, as was my case before interviewing my grandpa.
I also talked to my friend Carolyn Huynh, who is a rising sophomore at Duke and one of my close friends. She had an interesting perspective because she had grown up in a conservative city, but her Asian-American identity influenced her and her family’s liberal political values. She brought up that she noticed there was a difference in political ideology generationally, which I asked my grandfather about afterwards. From her perspective, she noticed the older generation, such as people like my grandparents, are more conservative and that people in our generation are more liberal. When asking my grandfather about this, he said he didn’t really notice a difference politically, but he did think that the country’s values had moved away from hard-working, pull yourself up by the bootstraps standards which he attributes to an overall shift in political values across generations. Carolyn, however, believed it to be more of a generational group-think that varied among age groups. I also talked with her about the political scene on Duke’s campus, and she said she noticed that an issue that can prevent productive conversations happening is that people tend to surround themselves with others who think the same way as they do, which is something I have noticed too.
Trying make sure there was an even balance demographically in my interviews, I interviewed a second cousin of mine, who is around my and Carolyn’s age. He, unlike most of the people my age I know, is a republican and Trump supporter, which he said is common for the suburb of Dallas he lives in. I was extremely curious about his stances on politics because he suffers from severe hemophilia, which is exceptionally expensive to care for. I asked him, why from a healthcare stance, he would support the republican agenda. Interestingly, he told me that policy-wise, he mainly sides with republican stances on issues like immigration, Russia, North Korea, and taxes, but the one thing he doesn’t support is the republicans’ push to get rid of Obamacare. He noted that it’s a dilemma for him because politics is so polarized that it’s hard for him to stick up for his opinion on healthcare. “It’s black or white these days, and it feels like you’re not allowed to be in the middle of the spectrum on certain things,” he said about the issue.
I was able to talk to a few other people in my time in Dallas, which will be included in my final film along with the three I wrote about, which I’ve begun editing this week. I love making videos, so I’m excited to begin this part of my project. I head home from Dallas today, which concludes all of my travels this summer, but I will continue interviewing people in North Carolina, where I live.