This morning I received an email from a relative demanding that I state my political viewpoints on a hot-button topic in US politics because his political views are opposite from those that are being posted by my wife on Facebook (specifically, he asked if I shared her views). The things that my wife has posted that he disagrees with were enumerated. He then went on to imply that my wife is driven by hate and only has these viewpoints because of the location within the US that we live and her profession (relevant excerpt):
I understand that (your wife) is surrounded by ultra left-wingers in a university setting and she is likely inundated with constant hate. It might be worth having her check her facts rather than mimicking her radical associates just to get along.
As I tell everyone with hate as their pilot, you don't have to love someone to believe in them.
It was ended with "Please do give me your rebuttal if you will. I respect your opinions."
For some background, I have not had a Facebook account for many years for several reasons, one of those reasons being that I strongly dislike discussing politics (especially among family). My wife and I do not discuss politics. If it matters, I consider myself moderate and am not registered with any political party.
Based on the enumerated offenses in the email, some of the things my wife posted are pretty neutral, and some were stronger politically, but to my eyes none of them were radical or extreme. However, I can see how someone from the opposite side of the political spectrum might think they were extreme or radical.
Potentially of relevance is that this relative has always believed that I share his political viewpoints (I do not nor have not - I have never corrected him but never encouraged the belief either). Additionally, he tells me every time we meet that I have to leave where I currently live because of how radical the political views there are. There is a strong implication that he believes I will become "brainwashed" by the region.
For me, this email is completely out of the blue, and I feel as though I have been randomly accosted and told to defend political views that I have deliberately not stated.
I am not sure even how to respond to this, or if I even want to. I cannot understand why it is important to him that I tell him my views when my views have no bearing on his life.
I also don't really appreciate the implications that my wife cannot think for herself or that she is driven by hate. I cannot tell if he wants me to "fix" my wife or is just saying this to get a reaction out of me.
I also do not understand why he would not just confront my wife about this if he is so upset by what she has posted.
I am on the fence as to if I should respond, but if I do, here is how I was thinking of responding. My goal would be to make it clear that I do not want to have this conversations or conversations like it down the road, address the way he characterized my wife, all without escalating the situation. Would my proposed response achieve this? If not, what might work better?
I prefer to keep my opinions and views to myself - all I will say is that I consider myself a moderate. One of the reasons I am not on Facebook is that I actively dislike discussing politics. I do not now, nor have I ever in the past, nor will I be likely in the future, wish to discuss politics, especially with family. I do not appreciate being dragged into a political discussion against my will, and do not understand why others would care about my political views.
I am saddened to see that you believe (my wife) is driven by hate. She is not a caricature, but instead is a real person. I am also saddened that you believe that she cannot form her own opinions, but rather accepts the views of those around her. She is her own person, and has been since I met her. Her views are her own, for better or worse, whether you or I agree or disagree with them.
I would suggest that if you find her posts offensive to discuss them with her directly, or to block her posts so you do not have to see them.
I ended up sending an edited form of @baldPrussian's suggestion. It turns out that my relative also does not have Facebook, and he was writing the email on behalf of his wife (!). He also indicated he is concerned that she is eroding her public integrity on Facebook and he might discuss that with her.
So, I responded to that with the following
If you do write to her, I suggest you do so without using charged language such as "hate", "lies", "ultra-left-wing", etc. Whether or not you believe it to be true, using those terms will quickly turn any communication into an attack, and the core message of "don't erode your public integrity" will be lost. Using that language is very accusatory, and anybody reading that will be put on the defensive.
If you actually want to help, please stay neutral or you will just make things worse.