My Family Voted against Me and I’m Supposed to be Okay with that?
After the elections are over, your neighbors will still be your neighbors.
While I understand the impulse to soothe our election anxiety with the notion of “getting along” with our neighbors, ultimately his vapid, “tolerant middle” sentimentality ignores and erases the real problems our country is facing, and must solve. Why? Because some of my neighbors do not believe I have the right to be married to my wife, or legal parent to my children. And by “some of my neighbors” I actually mean “some members of my family of origin.” These same neighbors and family members, people who “love” me, do not see the connection between voting for Trump and leaving my family structurally and legally vulnerable. They try to convince themselves that because they “love” me and my wife and our kids, they are “just” voting for an abstract concept called “protecting marriage.”
Honestly, I am tired of this conversation. I am tired of arguing that tolerance ultimately upholds discrimination, that acceptance and legal protection are what we need. I am tired of carrying around the adoption papers that prove my two children, biologically the offspring of my legal wife, are indeed my children, and that I am authorized to have custody over them, to travel with them, to make medical and other important decisions on their behalf.
It’s true: On November 4th and 5th, on U.S. Thanksgiving day and at the dawn of 2021, my neighbors are still my neighbors. My family is still my family. And voting for Trump still represents an attack on our rights, our safety, and our dignity.
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” the Torah says.
What does it mean?
It means holding the door for a parent laden with babies and bags and strollers as they enter the local cafe for their much-needed coffee. It means encouraging your child to apologize for accidentally hurting another child on the playground. It means tipping the service staff at the neighborhood restaurant because you know their wage does not sustain their basic needs. It means treating people as people.
But it doesn’t mean treating people as if they were you.
ואהבת לרעך כמוך V’ahavta l’reacha kamocha, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“As” here is an adverb, meaning, “the way in which.” Not “Love your neighbor as though they were you.”
It’s like the original Jewish version of the Golden Rule. Many folks recite this wisdom thus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Such a sentiment allows people to vote for Trump and other politicians who wish to take away my legal rights, including secure custody over my own children.
Rabbi Hillel, as quoted in the Talmud, put it this way instead:
דַּעֲלָךְ סְנֵי לְחַבְרָךְ לָא תַּעֲבֵיד — זוֹ הִיא כׇּל הַתּוֹרָה כּוּלָּהּ, וְאִידַּךְ פֵּירוּשַׁהּ הוּא, זִיל גְּמוֹר.
What is hateful to you, do not do to your friend: This is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and study it. (Shabbat 31a)
We have a lot to learn, in terms of finding our way to leading ethical lives, as individuals, as families, as a nation, as a world. The place to begin is to do no harm to others. And the place to continue is to investigate what it might mean to love our neighbors, all of us, in the way they need to be loved.
I wish I thought it were enough to smile at the grocery clerk and wave to the mail carrier. I wish I thought it were enough that the next door neighbor who opposes adoption by LGBTQ+ parents knows that I am, in fact, an LGBTQ+ parent. I wish I thought it were enough that I happen to get invited to the Thanksgiving table of someone who voted for a candidate that would gladly overturn the legalization of gay marriage federally.
I deeply believe in loving our neighbors in the way the Torah commands. I ask the same reciprocally.