This is not the diary I started to write this week. That one was fun, and hopeful. It's languished untouched for four nights now. This is the one that happened instead.
If you're at all inclined to lurking on righty blogs, you know the political landscape is not currently a happy place for conservatives. The clouds in their worldview are dark and threatening. They're frightened bordering on desperate. Their regressive fantasy of "Traditional America" is crumbling before their eyes as those they've oppressed for so long proudly rise up and claim their rights as Americans. But when this landed in my inbox with a sickening thud, polarization became personal.
More below the swirl of OMGWTF.
My parents are severely conservative conservatives. Fiscal, social, Christian, the whole package. So was I, a long time ago. It's been twenty years since I switched from (R) to (D) in 1992, and almost as long since I identified with any organized religion besides an occasional affinity for UU (they have the best musicians!)
The last time we got into religion and politics was a couple of years ago. We made a bit of a scene in public. Since then, we've kept it at arm's length, which is somewhat easier when you live in distant states. We talk cats, football, cooking, and work. It's not ideal, but it's worked reasonably well.
Last week, I mentioned in passing that I was volunteering at the DNC. I didn't expect a parade, but I also didn't expect venom. That's what I got. From 600 miles away, Mom's stifled gasp of horror leapt from my phone as if she were next to me.
"You're ... still ... for ... Obama???" She spit the last three syllables out like a mouthful of nails.
We talked for a few more minutes, but the conversation was strained beyond repair. I never did call back. In the afterglow of the DNC, I just couldn't work myself up to jumping in that cold shower again.
The Monday after, Mom forwarded me a lengthy article imploring me to read it. We exchange emails frequently, usually re: recipes, cat videos, and brief pleasantries between phone calls. Never, ever anything like this. It took an hour for my hands to stop shaking.
The author is Mychal Massie, and the article is entitled "Why I Do Not Like Obama," dated 22 Feb 2012. It was a sucker punch straight to the gut. I'm not going to link to filth, but the full text is on his eponymous website (dash between first & last name.) If you must, supplemental oxygen and an antiemetic may be indicated.
Massie opens with traditional GOPer wilted word salad tossed with a bold appalling grammar vinaigrette.
The other evening on my twitter, a person asked me why I didn’t like the Obama’s?A two paragraph rant follows explaining why he doesn't hate the Obama's (sic), he just has contempt for them. The last two words are "Communist state."
Now that his audience is warmed up, he cuts to the chase.
I don’t hate them per definition, but I condemn them because they are the worst kind of racialists, they are elitist Leninists with contempt for traditional America. They display disrespect for the sanctity of the office he holds, and for those who are willing to admit same Michelle Obama’s raw contempt for white America is transpicuous.OK, what the Southern fried f***??? Elitist Leninists? How many times can you use the word "contempt" in three paragraphs, anyway? Is raw tastier than cooked? Were you throwing darts at your thesaurus when you chose the word "transpicuous?"
That's only the beginning. It gets much, much uglier. I'll spare further details and move along to my response. I've edited out some of the more personal family stuff, but this is most of it. It took two solid days to put together. We can poke fun at the wingnuts -- I just did. But the sad truth is, this shit is tearing families apart.
Here it is:
I had planned to have this conversation with you in person or at least on the phone, but after reading your email, I can no longer remain silent. Since you have endorsed Mychal Massie's words as your own, I will treat them as such in my response.
First, was surprised and saddened by your negative reaction to my volunteer work with the DNC last week. We may not agree politically, but I was hurt by your implication that I am too young and/or naive to understand the issues. In November I will vote in my sixth presidential election. I was a registered Republican for many years. My change of affiliation was well thought out, and I have no qualms to this day about splitting my ticket by each individual candidate’s merit over party. I’m a liberal, not a zealot.
Speaking nurse to nurse, I thought you'd be at least a little proud of me for volunteering in my community. I do that sometimes. Even Democrats are human, and occasionally need help getting around.
Despite our differences, I have enough respect for your Christianity and political conservatism that I've gone out of my way not to judge or disparage your beliefs. Experience has taught me that reacting with hostility diminishes everyone's credibility and convinces no one. But if Mychal Massie's rant (his word) truly reflects what is in your heart, I'll need to remove my gloves for a moment and be brutally honest.
This needs to stop. I am no longer a child and will not tolerate being spoken to as if my personal beliefs were the passing whims of a naive adolescent. Nor will I tolerate thinly-veiled hate speech, even if its "eloquent" author happens to be black. It is one thing to dislike the President, but you have crossed a line with this.
Your email begins by identifying Mychal Massie as a "respected writer and talk show host." My question is, respected by whom? By people who wear their open contempt for the President of the United States and his family as a badge of honor? By people who sling eight pages of vile accusations and insults without benefit of a single factual citation? To be fair, I even took the time to read some of Mr. Massie's other columns. Suffice it to say I won't dignify his work with any further comment.
I am deeply thankful to have been raised by loving parents who always encouraged me to fulfill my potential, and I think the results speak for themselves. I've studied hard and worked my way into a stable job in a specialty I love. I've been married to the same man for almost 14 years. And you were right -- I’m SO glad you made me take piano lessons! Life hasn't always been easy, but I am happy.
This is incredibly sad. I love you and Dad very much, and know you have always loved me. You’ve earned the life you enjoy today, and I’m glad for you. But if we are to have a healthy relationship going forward, you will have to come to terms with the reality that am an adult. That’s what you raised me to become, isn’t it?
My opinions and beliefs are not open to debate. I am a liberal Democrat and a Unitarian. That is not going to change. You have been telling me the world was going to hell in a handbasket and Jesus is coming back soon since the seventies. I've heard and considered all the arguments. This is who I am.
I always wanted to make you proud. I'm sorry you're not. We won't be visiting next weekend. I hope you are able to look into your heart and ask yourself how became so consumed with rage and fear that you would even consider sending something like this to your own child on the eve of a much-anticipated family visit. I’ve already talked to (sibs). It’s a huge bummer, but my decision is final.
Words have consequences. Yours have done deep damage. I hope it was worth it. Most of all, I hope you find peace.
FWIW, I've gone back and forth on publishing this diary. It's not my intention to air family laundry. My parents are delightful, fun, smart people when they're out of their echo chamber. They've been evangelical Christians most of my life, so it's not like we're dealing with anything new here. I just miss being able to enjoy their company without all ... this. Elephant in the room, indeed.
What's new is the pre-emptive aggression. It knocked the wind out of me. It was time to speak up. If any of this is helpful to anyone in a similar situation, feel free to borrow as you wish. I welcome your comments.