A father and his son
In this edition of The Middle, an essay on family and the exchange of ideas.
By Alex Kamczyc / Julie Riedel
I remember sitting in the car with my dad when I was younger, going to and from football practice, and listening to a man on the radio talk about politics. At that time, I couldn’t understand most of what he was saying, but I listened all the same. He was aggressive and sure of himself, lambasting the opposition with critical analysis of whatever subject he was going on about — he was passionate..
I used to think back then that Rush Limbaugh should run for office.
At home, Fox News was gospel growing up. Every night we sat and ate dinner while Bill O’Reilly talked about who the patriot and pinhead of the day was. Hannity and Colmes would follow, before Hannity went off the deep end. Glenn Beck was still on television before he went off the deeper end and then surprisingly mellowed out.
It was apart of our family routine; my dad lives and breathes right wing politics. For the greater part of my life I used to consider myself a conservative. All of my opinions aligned with my dad’s because that’s how I was raised.
Of course, opinions change.
I grew older and so did mine. I went to college, I got involved in what was going on, I started building my own views on what was going on in the country, not just what was being talked about at home. I started reporting on what was going on in my first column for Kent Wired and then later The Devil’s Advocate for The Burr magazine.
Because of this, things back home got uncomfortable between us. O’Reilly is no longer on the television so we watch Hannity and Tucker Carlson at night. The term fake news has found a spot on the shelf of phrases my dad likes to use. His views on things especially towards journalists, like me, has become generally negative.
Hillary’s a crook, build the wall etc. etc. etc.
He even tried to buy me a book by James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, the organization that got caught trying to feed the Washington Post a false story as a graduation gift. I politely declined his offer.
Most of the time we clashed because of a difference in opinion.
Being my father’s son: prideful, loud and sometimes arrogant, I didn’t back down from a political fight with him. This even though the rest of my family begs me not to get into it with him about what’s going on in Washington (I don’t blame them). I always tried to keep it cool when we talked about the news, reminding myself that it was all part of the circus.
It can be one hell of a frustrating experience to explain your point of view with your family but eventually they’ll respect you enough let you have it. Speak clear, calm and listen to their opinions before hijacking the conversation to prove your point. Hostility will only be met with more hostility.
It once took three hours of arguing at a bar for him to concede his viewpoint because he was getting tired. I made him buy us a shot because it was the first time I counted a victory over him (even though he still won’t admit that I was right). Just the other day, when I was talking about my column with my mom, I could hear him from the kitchen jokingly calling out:
“You talking about that liberal trash you write about?”
I always answer back that I’m a moderate. To which he would respond with a sigh and glance like he thought I was blowing smoke up his ass. I could never convince him I was anything other than a liberal and I could never convince him that his viewpoints about certain things in our political system were misguided.
On one particular Saturday, my family and I had just picked out our Christmas tree for the holidays and we were discussing what our plans for the night were. During our discussion, there was mention of my dad’s political views while being out in public and I jokingly asked him:
“How does it feel to be on the wrong side of history?”
The room got quiet, I clearly killed the mood, so I tried to change the conversation awkwardly, embarrassed that my joke was not taken as such. I had betrayed the level-headed nature I always tried to take when we talked about these things- it felt dirty.
It felt dirty because as soon as I made that comment, I remembered something that he told me after one of our small arguments. It’s been the same reason I try not to fall to hard into “us or them,” politics — which I despise with all my being.
“We want the same thing as democrats do. We just think there’s a different way of getting it.”
There are Republicans out there with genuine intentions of doing good for this country, just like there are Democrats with that same intention. Yes, there are groups like the alt-right and antifa that make both parties look bad to each other and it’s okay to not like them. However, it’s important to remember that these groups do not define the majority.
It’s easy to fall into categorizing all members of the opposition as the enemy, but that sort of thinking is dangerous, it could lead to another long and shitty year like 2018. Because let’s face it, do you honestly think you have enough energy for that? Especially during this holiday season, remember that while speaking to your family (God help you) about politics that it is supposed to be a discussion and an exchange of ideas.
Don’t hate them because they think differently than you.
Instead just talk with them about their view points and don’t write them off just because you don’t agree with them (unless they’re saying some off the wall things, then maybe go to a different room or throw on some Morrissey). Don’t let what’s going on currently in our government bog down spending the holidays with the people who love you, whatever form that may take. Don’t lose your cool.
I was mad at myself for making that comment because he was still my blood and flesh.
The man I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh with on car rides home, who I now disagree with on most things going on in the news is still my dad. He still has my back despite writing “liberal trash,” as he puts it, for my columns. It’s easy to forget in the heat of an argument that regardless the difference in opinions, you want the same thing.
In this political circus, you have to remember that it is not us or them.
We’re on the same ride together.