My Mother Has Been a Conspiracy Theorist for 15 Years. What’s Keeping Our Family Together?
As the U.S. grapples with what to do with Trump supporters who cheered the storming of the Capitol, the story of my German family reveals how little there is to be done.
One of my favorite stories about my mother is from a ski vacation we took in Italy around 10 years ago. She spotted a couple on the slopes who she had met the night before in the hotel sauna. She skied over and greeted them effusively. When the couple didn’t immediately recognize her, she said with a laugh: “We only know each other naked!”
I almost melted a hole in the snow with shame. Yet my mother never gets embarrassed. At my wedding around two years ago, she excitedly started telling others about how she had just met a Scientologist. The man was actually a scientist (a fact he’d told her in English), and he was somewhat puzzled by the confusion. My mom cracked up at her mistake.
It’s usually my father who then steers things back into socially acceptable terrain. Whether it’s an apologetic smile or a harmless joke, the role of diplomat suits him. He also plays this role when dealing with the handful of longtime friends who have distanced themselves from my mother over the years — whether because of her difficult-to-accept views or, most likely, because of her non-stop efforts to convince others, to coax them into engaging in debate. “I’m afraid that’s my Scorpio Ascendant,” my mother says then. And: “I’m a provocateur, like Trump.”
For the past 15 years, my mother has increasingly been living in a parallel world of alternative facts and her own truths. It’s a world where there is only good and evil, and all events are controlled by hidden forces. Angela Merkel is pushing forward with replacing the German population with immigrants, the international financial system will soon be swapped out, and a global elite of actors and politicians are killing children to harvest their blood for eternal youth. Her theories about the coronavirus alone could fill entire pages. They are contradictory, but that’s never been much of a problem for my mother. The main thing is that Christian Drosten, Germany’s foremost virologist, is…