Trickle Down Polarization

My father is a fervent Republican. My mother was a Democrat. Once saw him put his fist through the solid maple cabinet an inch from my mother's head because her vote was going to cancel his in the second Regan election. Though he never hit her, connected anyway, he often shouted, slammed things, threw things, at me, even, when he encountered resistance (reason) when espousing his conservative views.

My father doesn't believe Global Warming is real, or caused by us in any way (absolving himself of conserving resources).

My father believes all non-believers, atheists and agnostics are dangerous fools—to be converted.

My father distrusts all Muslims.

My father believes in trickle down economics, (though it's been proven again and again not to work).

My father doesn't believe in gun control. “If they come for me, like they did our ancestors in Germany, I'll stop them at the door.” He quotes the NRA with fervor! “Take away what kind of guns we get to own, and you chip away at the foundation of the 2nd Amendment.”

I remind him he can't stop a tank with an AK-47. I implore him to examine history, and context—that the right to bear arms our forefathers were talking about were pistols and shotguns that took three minutes to load and didn't fire straight or would blow up in your face. Automatic assault weapons were neither considered, nor anticipated when the 2nd Amendment was written.

He scoffs. As his daughter, and a women, I am clueless.

As a mother of a 10 year old and a 13 year old, I am horrified.

Not only by what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, but everywhere else, every time an assault weapon is uses against our own because the NRA wants to keep making money. And our government, ostensibly “by the people, for the people,” is paid-off to let them. At least, one very specific part of our congress, and five members of our Supreme Court: the Republicans.

Grew up on the Valley side of the Hollywood Hills, and went to school with writers, producers, directors kids, all fairly to extremely liberal. My father was the outlier in our neighborhood, and among my parents colleagues and friends. The Great Divide between the Republicans and Democrats, fueled by Regan pushing religion, conservatism, and then ignited by Bush Jr's administration didn't exist yet. My parents lived together in relative peace, except around election times.

We have become a polarized nation, and this serves no one here. Down to the personal level, it has divided me from my family, my siblings, like my father—fervent Republicans. My sister, disgusted we're raising our kids without religion, decided she'd had enough of my liberal leanings and checked out of our life. My brother forwards emails from his born-again Christian community to everyone he knows that Obama is a Jew-hating Muslim who believes it's okay to kill babies.

The chasm in our morality, our philosophies is so diametrically opposed at this point, the rare times I talk with my father our dialog turn sours quickly, then invariably moves to contentious. Told him time and again I won't discuss politics with him, but he insists on little digs, like, “Do you care about your kids?” since I voted for Obama. He has not spoken with my children in seven years now, acknowledged them in any way, not birthdays, no calls, ever, and virtually never inquires about them when I call him, which I always do because he doesn't call me.

Truth is, it's getting harder and harder to call him. Almost a decade after my mom's death, my dad is now in an elder care facility two states away, on the bottom floor of a three story building where the first floor is elderly who are...capable. Second floor is the dementia ward. Third floor is check out. Forever.

Living as he does must be nightmarish, especially compared to the vital life he once lived, where his vote and opinion mattered for years to come, instead of being barely acknowledged, and only for elections. Regardless of his current circumstances, my father is undaunted by age or illness in his quest to spread conservative ideology. He's a true believer, as are most vocal Republicans, because believing is easier than thinking. Being told what is right and wrong, good or bad, is simpler than considering the many, often infinite possibilities, our obligations to each other and the world we inhabit.

My father, sister and brother believe woman should not have the right of choice with their own bodies.

My family believes gays should not have the legal, nor moral right to marry. They think homosexuality is a mental illness.

My family espouses they believe in “less government”—preaching the Republican's canonical tagline, but want to restrict women's choice and limit our resources; control who gets to marry; limit medical treatment to citizens who can afford care; allow corporate, Wall Street, even gun regulations to lie, cheat, steal, and allow the mass murder of our children for money.

Been wondering when it's time to say good-bye to family, even before they die. The little connection I retain with my brother and father seems...over. My kids have no relationship with either—their choice not ours. We have virtually no common ground, share little time that isn't contentious, and only via phone. So, really, what's the point? Don't want to know them anymore. Harsh? You bet. Ugly? Yeah. Sad. Hurts. A lot, knowing there are people out there who still think like they do. I'm shamed by them.

Profoundly saddened we've come to this impasse. Our nation is fundamentally divided, like never before, or maybe, perhaps akin to the Civil War.  


Anonymous said...

Your father is more important than politics. You have to make the choice as he is older and cannot do so from what you say.

Austin Barrett said...

You know, you could release this post as a poem. It has very poetic form.

elaine x said...

Sigh, I know what you mean. My parents had that fight over the 1st Reagan election. I "divorced" my family in the 90's when the war started. Not until I "divorced" them and let them go, did they begin to even hear me. When my brother (who did the very same thing you write about too! lol!) finally called me and asked, "what is going on in our nation?" my initial reaction was "Set-up for Thanksgiving." But it wasn't. It was real. After I stopped repeating the scriptures back at them, stopped speaking to them about it at all, stopped engaging in their game: the game flipped.

Are we on the same page -- not by a long shot, BUT now, they are questioning. The truth works its way from the core, the source. My feelings on it is, if you oppose their beliefs they have to defend them and hold on to them tighter and tighter and tighter. If you stop, they have to as well. And THEN, the truth working in their lives, will begin the process of questioning rather than answering/defending/protecting their position.

I don't know it that's a solution for you, but it worked for me and our family. We've got a long way to go, but at least we have a dialogue.

Donna McBroom-Theriot said...

Wow! just wow.

J. Cafesin said...

Something weird...Lots of Republicans have been emailing me that they are really nice, and not like my dad at all. And while I'm sure most conservatives out there aren't as hardcore as my father, sister or brother, they support and tout the Republican agenda, the same one my my fanatical family does...

Sherrie Henry said...

I totally understand. I have ground rules when I visit either one of my parents: no talking politics, no talking religion. Works for us. I just don't understand them, and they will never understand me. If they had insisted on discussing the forboden topics, I probably wouldn't be visiting them at all.

Sometimes family is what we make, not what we are born in to.