A Father’s Failure

It’s all my fault. Well, it’s mostly my fault. Well, I bear some minor responsibility. “Of What?” you ask. “Of my son’s unfortunate affliction with right wing political conservatism.” I reply.

I had only the best of intentions. He was born during one of the darker times for Republicans. Nixon, Watergate, Ford’s inability to walk and chew gum at the same time, recession, gas lines and a host of mistakes that had the potential to shred the Republican party for years to come permeated the political horizon. In my mind I had to take extraordinary steps to insure that he wouldn’t fall into the abyss of liberal Democratic thought.

It started subtly, with me mentioning Pooh’s fiscal responsibility with honey, as Brian listened intently to bedtime stories in the evening. Limited role of government and deregulation came into play when I explained our “hands-off” policy on the condition of his bedroom floor and how he spent his allowance. It was easy to segue into the value of a strong military as we ate popcorn while watching Star Wars. (I just wish he hadn’t identified with Darth Vader so closely.) But, I think that I went over the line when I insisted that Linda dress him like Alex Keaton when he went to school. But, dog gone it, he just looked so damn cute in that little sweater vest and tie. If only I’d known how things would turn out. Maybe I could have backed off just a little.

I began to really understand the disservice I had done to him this past weekend. He and I were having a nice telephone conversation about the upcoming birth of his new niece. (six pounds, nine ounces and the cutest smile I’ve ever seen, thank you very much.) Somewhere, the conversation shifted to politics and his laments about how “liberal” John McCain is. Curious, I asked him what it was that he didn’t like about McCain.

One by one he ticked off the reasons he thought McCain was too liberal. The most egregious included his stance on immigration reform and his early record voting against Bush’s tax cuts. As we debated each position, it finally dawned on me that he was parroting the ultra-conservative rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and his like without taking the time to truly understand the ramifications of those positions. That’s where I failed him. While I taught him to believe in the Republican tenets that I felt were important, I did that at a time in my life when I didn’t realize that any belief has to be justified and that independent thought is the most valued kind.

Despite being opposites politically, ultra-conservative Republican pundits and their ultra-liberal Democratic brethren are two very similar creatures. Both sprinkle their rhetoric with absolutes like “always” and “never”. Both wear blinders that filter out the good aspects of less polarized positions. Neither seems to understand that omniscience is reserved for a Supreme Being and that they just don’t qualify.

Alexander Hamilton once said, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” I believe that wholeheartedly. But I also think that what you stand for should be born of thought, knowledge and logic mixed with appropriate amounts of understanding and compassion. I guess that makes me, like both John McCain and Barack Obama, too liberal for some of my Republican friends and too conservative for some of my Democratic friends. That’s OK. While the left and right are bickering about who’s right and who’s wrong, those of us stuck firmly in the middle will be quietly working to resolve the problems and get things done.

Despite my Republican roots, I’m not happy with the state of my party. Brian isn’t either. We just disagree about how to fix things. One of my good friends said something to me recently that took me aback. Like me, he’s Republican but probably more conservative than I am. What he said was, “I don’t know whether our country can stand another Republican president this election.” I thought about that statement for quite a while after that and I still don’t know whether I agree. But I do know that the thought I put into it wasn’t wasted because I came to a few important conclusions. Some of those conclusions were:

· Dumping billions upon billions into the money pit called Iraq is not “fiscal responsibility”.

· That the only time since 1981 that the national debt as a percentage of GNP dropped was during the Clinton years.

· That, despite what President Bush thinks, we can’t spend our way out of a recession in $600 chunks. We have to earn our way out with new manufacturing and productivity improvements. That’s hard to do when the “free trade” deck is stacked by countries like Mexico, China and India and the American companies who are abandoning the United States in droves.

· That illegal immigration is a huge problem that has to be addressed, but kicking all of the illegal immigrants out would throw what’s left of our economy into gridlock. Americans are too lazy to work in the fields or do the menial labor jobs that immigrants are happy to have.

· That immigration, legal or illegal, has historically always prodded our economy, and country, to new heights. Someone who has the guts to pack up and move to different country in an effort to improve himself probably has the ambition to succeed. Nature calls it “survival of the fittest”. It’s a good concept that, in this case, has the side benefit of pulling the economy up with it.

· That sticking our head in the sand about global warming and the other effects that pollution is having on our environment may be good for us, but it’s a bitch for our grandchildren.

· That it’s unacceptable when 16% of our population is unable to see a doctor when they’re hurt or sick because they don’t have health insurance.

· That “No Child Left Behind” was an ill conceived and worse executed plan to fix a broken and battered educational system. This is a big one for me, so I’m not going to do the subject a disservice by trying to discuss it here. Stay tuned for a future post.

· That a lack of government oversight and the greed of our banking system created the mortgage mess that has derailed our economy. Heads should roll on this one, government heads, banking heads and legislative heads. This is going to haunt the economy, and us, for years to come. But a government bail out isn’t the answer, that only delays paying the bill.

· And finally, that it’s going to take all of us to straighten this mess out. That means that the solution isn’t far right or far left; like always, it’s moderate thought and compromise that will get it done.

So Brian, I’m sorry I failed you. But I’m also impressed and proud that you feel so passionately about your political beliefs and I really do love debating them with you. I just want you to make sure that they’re truly your beliefs, and not those of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.


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2 Comments on “A Father’s Failure”

  1. Son of Tigerdad Says:

    I don’t quite remember ever wearing a tie to school.

  2. Tom Says:

    I’m with you in the middle, I think there are things the government can do to help under priviledge people, but not let them ride on it. I also remember that inflation and the national debt improved under Clinton, but I sure don’t think we need a co-presidency of Clintons.
    As for my stance on health care see my blog!

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