Deprogramming The Parents
The election cycle this year has been so deeply divisive, that I thought it was time to post this diary I wrote in 2004, when my family was divided by another, equally damaging Republican.
Re-reading it today it could be about this election.
My father has since passed, my mother is an invalid and a shut in, and my brother is a Republican.
I invite you to replace the name Bush with Trump as you read this diary.
"An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda is less inclined to put up a fight - ask questions and be skeptical."
I dont remember where I got this quote from back then, but it is still appropriate.
Deprogramming The Parents
My elderly parents came to visit this weekend. We had reason to celebrate. My Mother had a terrible health scare in December and had recovered nicely. They hadnt visited my home in nearly a year and my husband and I were keen that they enjoy their stay.
My chosen life path has caused tension between my parents and myself that has simmered below the surface of our relationship for years. Raised Presbyterian, I have embraced Buddhism. I have been a vegetarian for thirty years. I am childless by choice so that I could pursue my career as a painter and writer. Most annoyingly, I am a liberal Democrat whose most wonderful and loving friends are Gay, Jewish, and Black.
My husband is a birthright Quaker who shares my views, supports my ambitions and loves my parents.
Everything went swimmingly for two days.
Even though my parents sprinkled their conversation and reminiscences with their typically obtuse racial stereotyping and insistence on labeling all of their interactions with a well, you know hes a Jew or hes very regular for a gay NOT THAT THERES ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT kind of covert Christian racism; I remained sanguine. Both my husband and I have deep groves in our tongues from biting down deep in order to preserve family harmony.
The problem started Sunday morning over coffee and bagels and, of course, The Sunday Times. My father would never spend a dime on the Times; hes a Post man all the way. The fact that my husband purposely purchased a Sunday Post for him, didnt seem to cut the tension produced the Times prominence in our Sunday ritual.
As the conversation, inevitably I suppose, turned to politics, the mood darkened. At first I just listened the dutiful, respectful daughter.
I had vowed long ago the Easter before the Iraq invasion to be exact, that I would not discuss politics with my Father. That Easter Sunday ended with a table-clearing row between my Father and I over Bush and his lying cronies.
This rant began with a diatribe against the unions (even though both of my parents owe their pensions to unions) and escalated to the demonization of Democrats, Jim McGreevy in particular, and reached its crescendo with a particularly crude remark about John Kerry. My Mother asked him to stop but retreated to the living room with my husband perhaps with the foreknowledge that I was about to go nuclear. My father continued to work himself into such a fit, his face red with anger that I feared for his blood pressure.
Theyre all thieves and crooks he bellowed every one of them.
That may be true, Dad, I responded but which is worse? The politician who lays his hand on the Bible and swears to protect the Constitution even though hes spent some time in the dog pound and may have some fleas or the self proclaimed Christian who swears on the Bible to protect the Constitution invites the dogs to run the Government, turns the Congress into a veritable flea circus and then sets out to destroy this nation and everything it stands for?
Thats when the lid came off. The ensuing row has become clouded in my memory for all but one moment when everything became clear. Even in his rage that I should have the nerve to disagree with him made a stunning albeit angry admission.
I dont know as much about these things as you do, he ranted. I just listen to what other people are saying and go along. Dont EVER TRY TO DISUADE ME.
There it was. What ever you do, I cannot forgive you for trying to make me think. This is the spell that the Bush Administration has spread over this land. This is the extent to which the propaganda has worked. My father sounded like a drug addict suckered into an intervention. He fought me like a cornered animal because he FEARS my ideas.
How unutterably sad. The whole thing left me drained and desolate. I needed to bounce this off of someone who knew my dad as well as I, so I called my Aunt, his sister, and related the whole awful incident to her. I dearly love my Aunt. She is a big, no bullshit, kind of woman who has had her share of rounds in the ring with her volatile brother. She just listened and soothed my frazzled nerves and told me that on the subject of Bush I would just have to stuff it. Consider, she herself had forbade her best friend (a Democrat) to utter Bushs name in her house for fear it would destroy their thirty year friendship.
So now we come to it. Families and friends are on the brink of verbal warfare all the time because of George Bush. The Kool-Aid drinkers in our families are exerting emotional blackmail over those friends and family members who will not just get in line.
I think this is why we Democrats are so loath to act out as forcefully as we should to stop this creeping Fascism from taking over our beloved country.
Is this the way it happened in Germany?
FOR THE LOVE OF OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY WE SHOULD JUST
LET IT RIDE.
There was another war in this nation that tore families apart. I hope we are not heading for another civil war, but not at all certain it can be avoided.
I dont know about you, but Im getting awfully tired of apologizing.
They just voted by mail-in, absentee ballot because they are confined to their home, with caregivers. My Mom is in her early 90s, my Dad turns 100 in four weeks. I made sure my brother, who lives in the same state, got them to sign the absentee ballot request forms (I printed them out and mailed them to him). He told me this weekend that he didn't want to fill out their ballots for them (he's a lawyer), so they both voted a straight Democratic ticket.
I grew up with parents who were all in for Adlai Stevenson. They had a brief flirtation with Reagan in the 80s but quickly returned to the fold with full force. When Bush Jr. took office (they despised Bush Sr. as well), my father, then in his early 90s, told me that Bush was the worst president he had ever seen in his lifetimeand he saw almost all of them throughout the 20th century (he was born in 1916). He opposed the war in Iraq ("let Bush send his OWN children" , even though he was a WWII Vet who flew 60 missions as a tail gunner in the South Pacific.
No wars at all in my family, either nuclear or extended. I guess we're lucky.
Only because there were six of us and we were able to show him that most of his beliefs were based on ignorance. He was a member of the masons and very anti-catholic. I was an ex catholic / atheist. He had two daughters and a son. There was a woman married to the son who was also liberal and mildly catholic (very pro choice). The other daughter was married to a liberal non religious guy. My wife is liberal and an atheist.
Quite a gang.
This took years but eventually he came around to see conservatives for what they are. It helped that he was treated very badly by a drumph like person/company after a lifetime of work with them.