College in the summer: Dorms and quads are quiet, and it seems that the whole community is catching its breath. No marches, sit-ins, shout-downs, protesters giving professors whiplash. No arguments over free speech, Black Lives Matter, Israeli boycotts, abortion, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, President Trump.
But the fighting hasn’t stopped. It has just come home for the summer.
College students driven to the left (and occasionally to the right) by campus culture wars are now engaging in the same debates with their longtime housemates — also known as their parents. Students come home thinking that their parents are hopelessly stuck in some distant era like the 1990s; parents wonder what thousands of tuition dollars actually paid for.
The New York Times interviewed students and their parents who have struggled to live under the same roof, even for a few weeks, sometimes arriving at détente over dinner and other times ending in slammed bedroom doors. Their responses have been condensed and edited.
‘I just want them to change their minds’
Senior, Rollins College; a self-described liberal
Sheriff’s office I.T. administrator, Altamonte Springs, Fla.; voted for Mr. Trump
Nick: I’m getting more on the left side of the spectrum with every passing day. All of my family — mother, father, stepfather and grandmother — voted for Trump, despite me begging them not to.
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My mother is not super-crazy nutso, right-wing. But since the election, talking about politics has gotten harder. I tweet things at the president out of frustration. I called him a nasty word and my mother said, “That is not an appropriate thing to say.” We got into a whole fight.
We do get heated and a bit argumentative and raise our voices. But it’s never destroying anything. I just want them to change their minds.
Susan: I think his perception is that I am very staunchly a Republican and conservative. But that’s not the case. I was a registered Democrat until last year. My father was a blue-collar Pittsburgh Democrat. The first time I voted was with my father for Ronald Reagan. I’m very fiscally conservative and I’m all about individual responsibility.
What I notice is that when Nick is at school and not with us, his opinions will become far more liberal. This summer, he’ll get very fired up and we’ll have a conversation. I think both of us learn from listening to each other.
It will sometimes get to the point where we’re yelling at each other or swearing. But we know it doesn’t change the core of our relationship.
‘We couldn’t really agree on the facts’
Sophomore, University of Chicago; opponent of abortion rights
Lawyer, New York City; supporter of abortion rights
Nicholas: I grew up in New York City, and until recently was probably to the left of my parents. I was a volunteer with Greenpeace. I was staunchly atheist.
But this past Easter, I became Catholic. One big influence toward shifting my worldview was the book “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller, a Presbyterian pastor. And when I worked at Greenpeace, I met a girl who had Christian ideas, which made me start asking questions. She is now my girlfriend.
Now abortion is very important to me. When an election comes around, I’ll figure out how to vote, but I’ve adopted a traditional Catholic or conservative approach to that issue. At school, I got involved with Students for Life, and next year I will be on the executive board.
My mom doesn’t like it. She would definitely describe herself as pro-choice. She has been a contributor to Naral Pro-Choice America. One conversation we had ended very badly. We were talking about whether or not Planned Parenthood was doing things that were illegal. It took the turn I feel is common in current political discourse, where we couldn’t really agree on the facts, and because of that, we got angry and thought the other was crazy.
Livia: Last spring, Nicholas met his girlfriend. She is quite religious, but he took it a step further — like, many steps further. He’s now read all the books of the Bible, and recommended books I should read. He tends to get passionately involved with something, and that’s what he did with religion.
It’s very tough because I am pro-choice and feel so strongly about it. He believes that life begins at conception and you’re killing. It’s very black and white for him, and he can’t see introducing anything else to that analysis. I’ve tried.
I’m counting on his thoroughness in researching new ideas and hoping he changes. He is very respectful of my views. I’m, frankly, the one who gets more angry.
‘Mostly I avoid political conversations’