This Son Found A Creative Way To Bridge The Political Divide Between Him And His Mom

"Ultimately, this project isn’t about changing minds, it’s about strengthening relationships."

Many people love their families, but when it comes to their politics... not so much. That can make trying to communicate with relatives who have differing political views feel like a minefield. Even when you have the best of intentions, you can still end up saying the wrong thing. 

That's why after Chris Barr, a Chicago-based artist, and his mom in rural Ohio voted differently in the 2016 presidential election, he wanted to bridge the political divide. Frustrated that he and his mom didn't talk much about social issues, Barr wanted to try an experiment that could teach them both how to speak respectfully about meaningful subjects. 

Chris Barr and his mom 
Chris Barr and his mom  Photo Courtesy of Chris Barr

Thus News for Mom was born. In a weekly email that is then published online, Barr collects headlines from reliable news sources and combines them with personal reflections. Though he tries to avoid much of the federal political debate, Barr chooses to focus instead on everyday issues such as health, education, local news, art, and culture. 

In the first issue, sent to his mom on April 18, 2018, Barr opened the conversation by thanking his mom for agreeing to try this newsletter experiment with him. "I hope that by sharing a handful of links each week, we'll have the opportunity to talk about life and the world in new ways," he wrote to her. The rest of the email covered everything from bruised fruit waste to teachers' strikes to Beyonce headlining Coachella. But no matter what topics Barr includes in each email, they all end with "I love you." 

Photo Courtesy of Chris Barr
Photo Courtesy of Chris Barr

"My mom and I have always had great discussions, but social issues can sometimes be a sore spot. Whether or not we have deep political discussions, I think taking time each week to make this newsletter reminds her how much I care about her," Barr told A Plus via email. "And for me, scanning the news from someone else's perspective has helped build my own empathy. Ultimately, this project isn't about changing minds, it's about strengthening relationships."

More than anything, Barr created News for Mom to help people pop their social media bubbles by using direct communication to create stronger relationships with loved ones. After every email he sends to his mom, Barr makes sure to follow it up with a phone call to see what new conversations it may spark. "Because of the geographic distance between us, this has been one way that I've found to nurture our relationship and get out of the small talk rut," he explained. "It's funny, because new technology, like text messages and messaging apps, push us towards brevity, but there is still something about getting a long letter or email from someone you love."

While Barr's mom has yet to respond to his newsletter with one of her own, Barr noted that, in a way, she already has. "While she might not be sharing news and articles, the conversations we have online have gotten a lot lengthier," he said. "At least once a week my mom is now sending me a longer update on her life, what family members are going through, and what worries and excites her." 

News For Mom may not change Barr or his mom's political leanings, but it has changed their relationship for the better. That, if nothing else, makes it worth sending every week. Because, as Barr concluded, "There is a magic that happens when you build something out of love." 

Cover image via Shutterstock

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