Opposing viewpoints create rifts in students’ families

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Photo Credit: Emma George | Daily Texan Staff

Kathryn and Jasper Murphy cringe every time they receive another travel photo from their parents, who have visited at least 13 states since May despite COVID-19 restrictions. 

After learning their parents planned to visit them in Austin and then head to Spring Branch, Texas, to see their 72-year-old grandmother, the siblings drew a line. 

“(We) ended up telling them, ‘We think this is a really bad idea,’” said Jasper, an arts and entertainment technologies sophomore. “They didn't take it very well, but they at least respected our decision. Then, they ended up testing positive for (COVID-19) right before they were planning on leaving for Texas.” 

In the midst of the presidential election season, social unrest and a pandemic, some students are struggling to find common ground with their parents.

“I wish that I could have these discussions with them and have them be open-minded like, ‘Oh, maybe my kid makes some good points,’” sustainability senior Kathryn said.

Kathryn and Jasper’s father, John Murphy, said he and his wife just miss their kids. 

“We want to travel, and they appear to want to discourage our travel,” John said “We missed them, and we'd like to see them.”

The siblings grew up in Melissa,Texas, a town with more conservative leanings, and said their political stances have changed as they’ve grown older. 

After coming to UT, Jasper said he became more politically aware and started forming his own opinions.

“Since I've come to Austin, it (has) opened my whole worldview up to all these different viewpoints and perspectives,” Jasper said.

Kathryn said the notion that Austin has made her more left-leaning is closed-minded. 

“The thought that I couldn't come to this (conclusion) by myself or that this is even something that I wouldn't believe in even if no one else agreed with me really deeply hurts me,” Kathryn said. 

 Jasper and Kathryn said their parents aren’t changing their minds even as the siblings urge them to follow COVID-19 regulations and look at politics in a new light.

“I mean, it should be your parents lecturing you about being responsible, right? But it feels like it's the other way,” Kathryn said. “We're the ones disappointed in them for going out and putting people at risk and themselves at risk.”

Like Jasper and Kathryn, alumna Brooke McGuire Stage has also faced difficulties with relatives who have opposing political views. Stage has cut friends and family out of her life for political reasons and has had tough conversations with those willing to learn. 

“My father-in-law told me that our Black Lives Matter sign was divisive, and I said I think it's divisive that the deed to our house that was built in the ‘40s says that it can't be sold to Black people,” Stage said. “Putting a sign up saying that Black people actually matter too is the very least I can do.”

Stage said she was social distancing long before the pandemic while receiving chemotherapy treatment for lupus. Now, she said she has created boundaries when it comes to COVID-19 and visiting her in-laws. 

“(My father-in-law) was not willing to be quite as careful, so then we had to back off of hanging out with them,” Stage said. “We had to explain, ‘Look, we can't spend time in person with y'all if … my father-in-law isn't being careful.’”

Kathryn, Jasper and Stage all said confronting their relatives’ opposing political views has been both disappointing and stressful.

“My husband said that he was worried about spending time with his dad and learning something that would cause him to lose what respect he has left for his father,” Stage said. “I hate uncertainty. I have to sit with it because the alternative is finding out something that I really can't unknow.”