'Trump Changed My Brother, I Want Him Back'

As children growing up in Miami in the 1970s and 1980s, my brother and I often had skirmishes, typically brought about by frustrations from living with economic struggles and instability. Over the years, we grew closer as we both matured and had families of our own, and shared holidays and family gatherings. Admittedly we both have strong personalities and there were times we didn't see eye to eye, but our differences never got in the way of our respect and love for one another.

Now in our fifties and both with stable lives and incomes, I was stunned at how much had changed between us, and in such a short amount of time.

Just three years younger than me, my brother and I were raised in a close-knit Cuban immigrant family, and have always remained close as adults, sharing holidays and gathering regularly for family meals at his home, which had become the family gathering spot. Yet beginning in 2016, he seemed to be transformed from a sweet man with a passing interest in politics to a full-blown "Trumper," a Donald Trump devotee with everything from an outsized Trump flag, Trump shirts, socks, to a ringtone with Trump's voice from The Apprentice.

Former President Donald Trump
Donald Trump exits the stage after speaking during a rally hosted by the former president at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on April 23, 2022. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

I, on the other hand, as a die-hard liberal since my teenage years, was used to being politically misaligned with my conservative Republican family—but it had never before caused a rift, never mind an altercation between us.

At a recent family get-together, we were arguing about COVID-19 vaccination rates and the disparities among political lines, a phenomenon that's been well-documented by mainstream news organizations and research institutions. As an advanced practice registered nurse working in COVID-19 units, I spoke from experience about seeing this disparity first-hand, and wishing that more people would get the vaccine to protect themselves from the ravages of the pandemic.

My brother claimed the disparity didn't exist, and that I was making up the data about the rates of vaccinations. The fact that we disagreed was no surprise, but the nature of his verbal attacks and the argument that followed, shocked me. My brother ridiculed my education, my doctoral preparation and even my descriptions of how I had been affected by the tragic loss of life I've directly witnessed for more than two years. He then showed an intensity of aggression that I hadn't seen since we were children.

Several months later, he has yet to apologize, and we have not spoken since. I can still see his face, screwed up in hatred. It seemed to me that my brother became consumed by Trump, and even when we tried to stay clear of political conversations, he seemed to obsessively want to discuss his love for the 45th President and hatred of President Joe Biden.

My only clue as to why he may have changed was in the nature of his verbal attacks on me that night, which focused on my education. As the only sibling out of the five of us to go to college, much less obtain a postgraduate degree, he claimed I was looking down on him and judging him because of his lack of formal education. My brother is a self-made, intelligent man that has achieved great success as a highly skilled technician, a fact about which I have always been proud. Yet, his anger echoes the critique, popularly echoed by those on the right-wing, that all folks on the political left are "elitist."

My brother is not alone in his ongoing devotion to Donald Trump. People across the country are still under the Trump spell, seemingly no longer thinking for themselves. Instead, some parrot a radical right-wing agenda and feel emboldened to lash out against anyone perceived as an enemy. Trump may not be in office, but his influence is still strong today.

Carmen Presti's Brother Is a Trump Fan
Carmen Presti says her relationship with her brother changed after he became a fan of Donald Trump in 2016. Carmen Presti

The righteous anger my brother displayed reminds me of the faces I saw on January 6, 2021, and that I now see again on the faces of activists on both sides of the debate regarding a potential reversal of Roe v. Wade. When it comes to abortion rights, multiple polls over many years indicate the majority of Americans favor upholding Roe v. Wade, yet as a society we seem to have slipped into zealotry with no middle ground for rational decisions based on facts versus dogma. Although abortion rights and vaccines are separate issues, I see all these separate events as interwoven.

Despite our different political views, my brother always supported and respected me and my profession. He and I always loved each other and were proud of one another's accomplishments. That night, it felt that my brother had stopped seeing me as his sister, or a nurse, and instead saw me as nothing more than an ideological foe. I wish he could remember how he felt about me before he became a fan of Trump, and I hope that he fights to make our relationship great again.

My bigger hope is that Trump supporters act on the love and respect they have for the women in their lives, and fight to protect their rights. Overturning Roe v. Wade won't end abortions; instead it will drive women to unsafe situations, a conclusion reached by over a dozen medical organizations, including the American Medical Association.

What I wish to communicate to my brother is the same thing I want to communicate to Trump supporters everywhere: let's not allow extremist ideas to fracture our ability to keep talking and have relationships. See the women and girls that you love, and protect their right to control their own bodies, regardless of your party. Let's unite and put women's rights—and their physical safety—before politics.

Anything less is a tragedy.

Carmen Presti, DNP, APRN-BC is an Assistant Professor at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies and an acute care nurse practitioner at Jackson Memorial Hospital, although her views are her own and do not represent those of any business or university. She is also a Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.