When Mom starts dating a fascist

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A Canada flag outside in the winter, billowing in the wind.
It may seem like he’s billowing, but he’s really just full of hot air.  Holly Funk  

How to maintain the relationship without losing your mind

What do you do in this, the year of our Lord 2024, when your mother starts dating a fascist?  

You know she hasn’t had it easy the past few years and on one hand obviously you’re happy that she’s happy, but if you want her around you also live with this choice.   

Maybe he doesn’t explicitly use Social Darwinism in attempts to justify his white supremacist views, but you’ve never seen him speak to a person of colour with the same warmth he uses to speak with those he considers his peers. Maybe he hasn’t exactly fallen prey to a cult of personality, but his crescendo of YouTube videos shared in the family group chat features takes much more extreme than what you’d see on Fox News. Maybe he didn’t invite a known wife-murderer to a tough-on-crime throne speech, but he has no problem using his size and strength to intimidate your mother into acting more like an accessory than a person.  

So… what do you do?    

You may have a hell of a lot of love for dear old Mumsie. Maybe she’s been a great listener through your time with her, maybe she’s always had a joke or quip when you needed a pick-me-up, maybe she’s someone who humanizes every living thing she greets. Whatever the case, you adore her quite a bit too much to willingly want her out of your life, and you’re going to need some coping skills to survive for however long her fascist flame kicks around.  

Your first big obvious move if you’re hoping to maintain your relationship with Mom is going to be identifying friends you can spend time with before and after you’re forced to engage with said fascist flame. Beforehand, this will be helpful in making sure that you’re grounded going in, and after these chats will be endlessly valuable to recentre you in your values as you debrief.  

I have bad news: you will need to learn to pick your battles. If Mom really has her heart set on this particular partisan, then there’s a good chance he’ll be around for a while and that you’ll wind up being the one demonized if you’re pointing out every single context in which he’s decided to act like a literal demon. If you’re trying to maintain the relationship then know you won’t be able to call out every disgusting statement, but you won’t have to sidestep every potential avenue for dialogue either.  

For the not-right-now moments, make sure you have some topic-changing statements at the ready each time you go to visit (pre-visit friend hangs can help here). No matter how different two people are they can always connect over at least a handful of things, so put in the work to find out what those things are; don’t sink to their level and dehumanize.  

Maybe fascist flame loves craft beer – bring over a four-pack from Malty National next time you head over so you can draw conversation back to brews. Maybe this particular partisan prefers board games – grab a new one you’ve been hoping to try anyway and use it as a way to refocus attention on a shared activity. Maybe the neglectful Nazi only has an interest in chatting about his gym gains – prepare questions about workout routines, which times are the best and worst to gym during, or what sorts of out-of-gym activity can result in the same physical health benefits.  

It won’t always be appropriate or possible though to simply change the subject, you will have to pick some battles, and the best ways to do this are incredibly subtle. All you need to do is to continue (or start to; it’s never too late to) treat your mom like a person.  

The particular partisan is sitting on his ass while dear Mumsie has been busting hers all day? Choose to help her out. You don’t have to voice the difference between how you treat her and how he does; the dissonance will get louder the more frequently you pitch in to lighten her load while he freeloads. This will have more of an impact if you’re somebody who presents masculine. 

The neglectful Nazi has decided to fill dinner conversation with his thoughts on how social supports everyone can access are the literal worst thing to exist? Pop in with a few quips about how many lives groups like Prairie Harm Reduction, Good Trouble YQR, and Newo Yotina Friendship Centre have changed and/or saved. Then note how much more that number could be if the provincial government would make saving lives their priority instead of mostly a community effort.  

The fascist flame won’t stop interrupting Mom’s stories and comments, constantly drawing conversation back to his views and interests while downplaying things that make her excited about life like they’re just meaningless sidequests? Stop looking at him when he interrupts. Stop laughing (people-pleasing) when his jokes aren’t funny. Hold your eyes on Mom and wait until he’s done speaking, then pick up the conversation with Mom from where he cut her off.   

The dissonance will do a lot. And, if you’re someone who isn’t confident in their confrontation abilities, it’s a great subtle way to set a standard of care without having to outline it outright. I do believe you should make an effort to state your standards outright to people who you trust can uphold them, but chances are that Mr. Step-Fascist isn’t the one to bare your soul to like that.  

The gist here is to solidify yourself. To connect with people you trust who will kindly ground you in your standards. To decide which battles you will – if only temporarily – disengage from, and which you’ll step up to head-on. To become so firm in how you treat Mom (and other people, all of this generalizes) that someone else’s mistreatment of them won’t shock you into silence. Instead, you’ll have your wits about you, and you’ll be setting the standard for Mom that she’s more than just a resource to have.  

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