Wedding Woes

Put a ban on these conversations

Dear Prudence,
My in-laws have become obsessed with conspiracy theories, almost all of which are rooted in anti-Semitic paranoia. Despite being the kind of progressives who traveled to New York to canvass for Cynthia Nixon, both of them have internalized all the dog-whistle boogeymen about “international bankers,” “globalists,” and especially the Rothschilds. They deny they are actually anti-Semitic and, I think, sincerely believe their own rationalizations. But they definitely believe dark forces are conspiring—and those dark forces almost always have a Jewish name. My wife recognizes her parents’ views are problematic but struggles with how to respond to it. Her brother and sister (and their spouses) don’t share our concern and are in denial about their otherwise tolerant parents’ abhorrent beliefs. About three years ago, when my small business did some work for a much larger company owned by a locally prominent civic leader, my father-in-law explained to me during a family dinner that my client was “definitely Mossad” because he was Jewish and traveled a lot for business. It’s an absurd and offensive assertion, and I was doubly upset because it was personal. I lost my temper. My mother-in-law accused me of “bullying” them over their beliefs and started to cry at the dinner table. My siblings-in-law wanted me to apologize and be “open-minded and more respectful to all beliefs.” I refused. Since then, my in-laws and I have settled into an uneasy peace where they limit their baiting to subtle, passive-aggressive asides (“It’s just suspicious that Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations came through Sen. Feinstein’s office.”) that I choose to ignore even if it means leaving the room to avoid the conversation. That has avoided further blowups.

After the Pittsburgh shooting, I don’t know if I can, or should, continue to hold my tongue. I realize my wife is in a no-win situation, and I don’t want her to feel like she needs to choose between her husband and her parents. At the same time, our son will be 6 years old next month—old enough to understand what grown-ups are talking about. He shouldn’t be exposed to anti-Semitic bigotry, and he shouldn’t be led to think that such beliefs are normal or OK. I’d like my brothers- and sisters-in-law to join us in the united front that conspiracy-theory fever dreams are forbidden topics at family events, but as I say, they refuse to acknowledge the problem. Do you have any suggestions or strategies for convincing my siblings-in-law that this needs to happen?
—“Accidental” Anti-Semites

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Re: Put a ban on these conversations

  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
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    Tell your wife that there can be no unsupervised visits between your in-laws and your son, and the visits have to be at your home and you have to do the supervision. End the visits the instant they say something inappropriate. Otherwise, don't engage your in-laws or have any contact with them that isn't absolutely necessary.

    But no, you can't "convince" your siblings or ILs of anything.
    short+sassySTARMOON44OliveOilsMomsparklepants41
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
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    levioosa said:
    And I’d be working double time to talk to my kid about tolerance and love, because kids don’t “suddenly” just start understanding conversation at age 6. That ship has sailed and he’s already heard and internalized these toxic ideas. 
    There are anti-bigotry groups that actually prepare materials on how to teach kids about tolerance and love. I agree with you that this poor child needs that fast.
  • Walk out every time the start with this bigotry. 
    short+sassyeileenrob
  • I would stop all interaction with them and be very up front when they ask why.  Wife can still communicate and visit if she wishes, but I would not expose my children to that kind of talk, period.
    short+sassyeileenrob
  • This is definitely a personality type. I think we see them more now because they feel free to vent their evil views, thanks to the shining examples in public life .

    A few years ago, I had a kook like this in my Bible study. Her fixation was Muslims, not Jews ("they're taking over Whole Foods!"), but the mental defect was the same.

    My advice? You absolutely cannot reason with these people. They don't trust any media except for Fox news, so nothing you tell them will refute the twisted narrative in their heads. The only thing you can do is walk away. If they start with the anti-Semitic crap, hold up a hand and say NOPE. I had to distance myself completely, which will be difficult for you since these are your ILs, but for yo. ur son's sake, you must shut down their talk each and every time. This is not harmless stuff.
    short+sassy
  • Your in-laws can be anti-Semitic and progressive at the same time. Call them out. 
  • maine7mob said:
    This is definitely a personality type. I think we see them more now because they feel free to vent their evil views, thanks to the shining examples in public life .

    A few years ago, I had a kook like this in my Bible study. Her fixation was Muslims, not Jews ("they're taking over Whole Foods!"), but the mental defect was the same.

    My advice? You absolutely cannot reason with these people. They don't trust any media except for Fox news, so nothing you tell them will refute the twisted narrative in their heads. The only thing you can do is walk away. If they start with the anti-Semitic crap, hold up a hand and say NOPE. I had to distance myself completely, which will be difficult for you since these are your ILs, but for yo. ur son's sake, you must shut down their talk each and every time. This is not harmless stuff.


    It might be regional, but I don't ever remember running into/knowing someone who is anti-Semitic.  I realize it very much exists, unfortunately.  Just not something I've run across.  But anti-Islam :(, yeah, I have come across that too many times.  And anti (insert groups).

    I'll typically attempt once or twice to "educate/remind" that Islam is a peaceful religion.  With much more similarities than differences to Christianity.  And it is grossly unfair to judge one of the world's largest religions based on the acts of a few extremists.  I'll often give the analogy of, "I mean, you wouldn't want all Christians to be judged because one of our extremists blows up a mosque, right?"

    However, when words of reason don't work, then I just shut those parts of conversations down by literally repeating almost the same phrase.  Like, "I've already told you I don't want to hear your derogatory views about Muslims. Stop talking to me about it."  Or, "You know I've told you not to use (racial slur) in my presence."

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  • Casadena said:
    Can't edit but wanted to add:  It really make me angry when people use the "please respect everyone's beliefs" line to justify racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, etc behavior.  That's not what that means, and it doesn't make (general) you the bad guy if you choose not to continue relationships with people who hold these beliefs wildly irrational and intolerant ideals. 

    Yeeessss!  I've noticed in the Trump-era that some people have even completely twisted the phrase "freedom of religion", to mean it's okay to discriminate against homosexuals and different religious groups because my church (supposedly) says "they're wrong".
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