My grandmother is one of the most important people in my life, but political disagreements have driven a wedge between us

My grandmother is one of the most important people in my life, but political disagreements have driven a wedge between us
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Bella Bromberg sitting on a blanket with her sisters and grandmother
The author, left, with her Halmoni and two younger sisters.

  • My Korean grandmother has been a beacon of light and love in my life for as long as I can remember.
  • In recent years, political disagreements have only ended in fights and tears.
  • Our family has transitioned to a culture of silence when it comes to politics.

Few people in this world make me feel as loved as my halmoni does. In my earliest memories — hazy as they may be — she is there. She swaddles me in the warmest of hugs; she sings to me; she laughs toothily and heartily while conversing with my mother in what they have playfully coined “KorEnglish.”

As I grow into adolescence, she is there. She cooks special seaweed soup as I experience my first menstrual cramps. At 13, I contract a viral infection, and a comment from a crush about my rash sends me home in tears. She painstakingly carves garden cucumbers into paper-thin slices and places them gingerly on the backs of my thighs. The sting cools.

At 19, I experience my first heartbreak. Without even trying, she says the perfect thing: “You had a good experience with a person that you loved. But now you have to find yourself. And clear mind. First love is always never work.”

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At 22, I lament the fact I cannot speak Korean. She institutes weekly phone call lessons and then gives me a Korean name: 만세, Manse. She tells me that Manse means “hooray,” but not in a silly way. She shows me how it must be exclaimed — with one’s arms outstretched, waving up and down. She tells me it was a very important word when the war ended.

Throughout my life, my grandmother has profoundly cared for me — physically, mentally, and sometimes spiritually. At every juncture, she has nurtured me, protected me, and been a fountain of unconditional, selfless love.

But now, we share very different political views, and for the first time, it’s creating a divide in our relationship.

Political conversations are causing strife in our family

When I was in high school and living close to my grandmother, I would try to engage her in political debate, but conversations would all too often turn heated, sour, and sometimes even cruel. I eventually decided that what I most wanted out of our relationship was peace. For that peace to be maintained, politics must forever remain a can of unopened worms.

In my head, I know that such silence is counterproductive. But in my heart, I know that having a close relationship with my Halmoni is profoundly important to me. I feel that her love for her family is boundless, and my love for her is boundless too.

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Recently, I asked her if she felt she could speak openly about political issues with her family. Her answer was a resounding no.

“Ah, Bella.” She let out an exasperated sigh. “Politics…you cannot talk to people in the family about it. Because it’s just fighting. Even in a family, everyone have their own opinion. So they fight. It’s not open mind, Bella. Politics is very secret. Right now, so divided. So bad. So it’s hard to talk about it.”

I also struck a nerve when I asked Halmoni what it’s like to engage in political discussions with my mother.

“Whenever I talk with your mother…she say that everything I say wrong. Everything she say right. So I shut my mouth. When your mother gets upset, she yells at me…I don’t want to talk to your mother about anything.”

Silence is the reigning power in my family when it comes to politics. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t talk. We just don’t talk about things outside our insular familial universe.

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“When I call your family — they always call right back,” Halmoni tells me earnestly. “I respect about that. That is very good. I think your mother teach the kids good. I think your family is good quality.”

I’m struggling to connect with my grandmother on a deeper level

Most of my conversations with Halmoni are relegated to the domestic sphere: relationships, recipes, romantic comedies. I know without reservation that there is a depth to our relationship that I am missing out on.

Often, I feel that I’m being irresponsible by pretending like political conversations don’t matter. But it’s also comforting to construct a bubble of safety for our relationship and live inside it. To do so, however, I must suspend my beliefs, which often leaves me feeling hollow.

This is not a method I can apply to other relationships in my life, but in the case of my Halmoni, I don’t want to squander a single moment with her.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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