Unlike those who refuse to hold the Bush Administration accountable for their many sins and transgressions, I recognize that nothing exists in a bubble; every circumstance we deal with today was affected by previous events in some way. For whatever failings Obama may possess, he hardly came into his presidency with a clean slate – no one ever does. A new year does not eliminate the previous year, there is only the changing of numbers. There are celebrations of hope for the new year and my hope is that we finally get serious about what we, as a nation, are doing.
I had the mixed pleasure of travelling back to my home of origin and spending a few days with my father and stepmother during Christmas vacation. My father was a biology professor, long retired now, and the opportunities to see him in relatively good health are naturally coming to a close. We invariably talk politics, he an old George Wallace-democrat, now Republican; I, a left-leaning don’t-bullshit-me anti-Republican. Our conversations are ofttimes civil, but they can get heated. What I didn’t expect, on this Christmas holiday, was to be yelling at my father because of obvious Republican chicanery. Our topic was one I covered over three years ago. Here’s how it went down:
My father, stepmother, and I were discussing varying aspects of Washington politics and I tried to not let some of the ignorance light a fuse in me because I understand from where that ignorance comes. My father was born in Mississippi in 1927. He is Old South. He thinks derogatory jokes about black people are funny – because they are derogatory, not because they are funny. My father is rarely funny. For all his education, my father is a bigot and it serves no purpose to deny that. That’s not to say he is a sheet-wearing, cross-burning yahoo, but the racism is there. He recognizes achievement and little else. He is not against people of lower economic situations getting opportunities, but he is against affirmative action. His answer to reconcile this would likely be “work harder”. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. I believe the reason for affirmative action to exist at all is that too often working “harder” was not working. Perhaps you have a clearer picture of him now.
After I had explained my position on the uselessness of term limits in a party-politics system and that the reason the presidential term is limited is because of FDR’s ability to appoint eight of the nine Supreme Court justices before his death, my stepmother went off to do something else. My father now had his opportunity to set me straight about Obama. I don’t know why he has an affinity to world almanacs, but he dug one up and turned to the entry for Obama. He sat on a footrest in front of me and showed me the book and I saw that many things had been underlined. I heard the quick intake of air and the stern timbre in my father’s voice as he muttered in low tones, “First, he was not born in this country…”
“What!?” I cried. I was incredulous. The fuse was lit, but I tried to delay the detonation by calmly replying, “The State of Hawaii would disagree with you.” I smirked and turned my attention back to the almanac.
My father was halted and sputtered, “He hasn’t proven he was born there.”
“You’re welcome to your opinion, but the State of Hawaii would disagree with you.”
“Well, then, they’re liars!” This was usual for him when arguing from weakness or simply to hear the sound of his own voice. But my fuse was short and detonation was imminent. I had had enough of this crap.
“Well, you just go ahead and toss out the facts you don’t like and make up your own and you can live in that little reality – but that’s insane!” He fell to an uncertain silence, perhaps shocked that I may have been accusing him of being insane.
I stood up. “I didn’t vote for Obama and don’t particularly like what he’s done, but I’m tired of this nonsense. Is this about that PDF file of his certificate that people were saying was faked?” I looked down on him with a nasty jut in my jaw. “Because if it is, that is BULLSHIT!”
My father’s expression was blank and the fire he had been summoning in his rant was extinguished in meekness. “I don’t know.” Not exactly the answer I was expecting.
I began pacing and my father returned to his seat across the room. “I am tired of reading about this and watching people on television prattle on about this because what they are saying is BULLSHIT! Is this about that Orly Taitz garbage?”
“I don’t know know who that is.”
“She’s one of ‘em. Fox News will trot these people out all day long and they are liars and they have agendas!” Fox News, surprise!, is watched with interest in that household because, as my stepmother says, “They respect the troops.” Of course they do.
“Who signed his birth certificate?” My father continued.
“I don’t know,” I groaned, “I don’t have the thing with me.”
“I haven’t seen it.” This may have been my father’s way of trying to turn the conversation back to a “conversation”, but the topic was too far gone and way too stupid by now.
“Well, I have a copy of it and I know more about how that file works than any of those clowns! And Donald Trump said he had guys over there and he was going to show evidence. Well, he never did! You know, why? Because it was bullshit! There was nothing to show!”
I couldn’t let it go without one more point to make: “These are the same people who accuse Obama of being a Muslim without acknowledging that a Muslim can be president.”
“I know they can be,” was his subdued reply.
My father really had little else to say for the rest of the night. Whatever other tripe had been force-fed into his brain by the Fox propaganda machine would be internalized until it was safe to spew again, out of my presence. I am under no illusions that I can change his mind, but he raised us to educate ourselves about things and that is what bothers me the most about this conversation. My father is a man of science, an educator and PHd, and he allows his own bigotry to take for truth the lies that are part of the Obama smear campaign. He demanded no proof, no evidence, and didn’t even think to research the topic for himself to be better informed. I am seriously disappointed in him. Above all, I trusted he valued knowledge over all else. He failed that trust on a Christmas holiday.