Goodbye Dad, Part Five
We are More than Our Politics
My dad would have turned 79 on May 19th. He died on June 26, 2015, one day after my wedding anniversary. While I think about him every day, I guess he is on my mind even more around this time of year.
I sometimes wonder what he would have thought about the events of the past few years. We used to have some fairly heated discussions about politics, particularly back during my college days. I was a social science major taking classes with some of those "crazy liberal" college professors, and he was a pretty staunch conservative Republican. While my views would grow a bit more moderate as I aged, I remained pretty far to the left of him. He loved watching Bill O'reilly, was supportive of the invasion of Iraq, and thought "Obamacare" was a terrible law - although he, like many Americans, seemed to be unsure of what exactly "Obamacare" was. Meanwhile, I listened to NPR and taught in my classes that the United States throughout its history was not always the good guy.
Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency a short time before my dad died. I was visiting dad in the hospital when I heard on TV that Trump was going to run. Like many people, I didn't take this campaign seriously at first, and when I asked my dad what he thought of this announcement, he was only able to roll his eyes and give me kind of a funny look. I suspect that he also saw the concept of a President Trump as a total joke, but at that point, his breathing had gotten so bad that he found it difficult to speak, so I will never know for sure.
It is likely that my dad would have viewed the past few years in the same way as many Republicans. He would have recognized that Trump was basically an idiot, but once Trump had managed to get the nomination, dad would have voted for him in the general election. As with many Trump voters, this would have been more of a vote against Clinton than anything. He would have then justified this decision by saying that Trump was at least cutting taxes, reducing business regulations, and trying to get rid of that hated "Obamacare." When the subject came up, I would likely repeat the mantra that Trump was an ignoramus, liar, and scam artist willing to say anything to dredge up political support. And as had always happened before, neither of us would have likely changed our minds about much of anything. It would likely have not been long before I tried to avoid the subject altogether.
Ever since Trump was elected, I have not spent much time talking with other people about politics either in person or online. This is primarily because I find it to be an annoying waste of time, particularly if I engage with ardent Trump supporters. I can tolerate someone who says that he or she simply voted for Trump to get lower taxes or conservative judges appointed, but I cannot stomach people who actually think he has any business being president. Every Republican in existence, after all, would have also tried to lower taxes and get conservative judges appointed if he or she were in Trump's position. So why not support a generic Republican who, at the very least, would not be such an ongoing embarrassment? Since all I seem to feel for Trump supporters is contempt, and since no one ever seems to get much out of these conversations anyway, I've pretty much decided to check out of these divisive debates and do more enjoyable things with my life.
I'm sure that I would have gotten annoyed if I had been able to keep talking to my dad about politics too. It's a funny thing, however, when someone is no longer there. You even miss the things that you found annoying about them, and if he were to reappear somehow in my life, I would be happy to talk to him about anything he wanted. I also realize now that the beliefs we had in common were more significant than our differences anyway. We both believed that democracy, in spite of its flaws, was the best way to choose leaders. We were glad that the US constitution contained the protections for individuals found in the Bill of Rights. We agreed that terrorists posed a major threat that needed to be combated (even if we disagreed sometimes about how best to do it). And most importantly, we believed that people should be decent to one another, and that family and friends were more important than careers and money. Dad treated people with genuine respect and was always there for me. There was far more to him than just his political beliefs.
Fortunately, I think that most of us don't allow political disagreements to ruin our closest relationships. The many things that hold us together are more important than the few things that can tear us apart. It is far easier, however, to dehumanize relative strangers and treat them with contempt if their beliefs are different from ours. Sure, some of the people we come across online (or occasionally in person) might be trolls or deranged individuals with irrational beliefs. But in many cases, our discussions would be more productive (and less annoying) if we tried to remember that the people we are talking to are the friends, parents, siblings, and children of others. Like my dad, there is more to them than the sum of their political beliefs. Unfortunately, I am not at that place yet. Because the main thing I feel is contempt when confronted with Trump supporters and others with beliefs I consider to be stupid, it is probably best that I continue checking out for the moment. Since I have little nice to say, saying nothing at all is the wisest course, particularly when speaking online for all the cyber universe to see.
While dad and I often did not see eye to eye when it came to politics, our religious beliefs actually became more similar over the years. After having been raised (by my mom) as a Catholic and being an evangelical Christian during my college years, I evolved over time into the agnostic that my dad had always been. The older I get, the more I tend to believe that there is no life after this one, and I won't be seeing dad or any other lost love ones again. But I have been wrong before, so if there is some kind of an afterlife, it is likely that I will end up wherever dad went, preferably not burning in hell for the crime of having improper theology. Hopefully, we will be handed in this afterlife all of the answers to life's great questions, and dad and I can have a good laugh about whose ideas regarding various subjects were closest to the truth. But even if we are not given all of the answers and there are still plenty of things to argue about in the next life, I'm going to start the conversation by making sure he knows how much I love him and missed him over the years that he was gone. Most of that other shit, after all, doesn't matter all that much anyway.