Monday, November 14, 2016

Falling Far from the Tree

I do fall far from the tree.
My dad was just about as conservative as they come. His work for the state government made him subject to the Hatch Act, ineligible to display political signs on our property. He wasn't allowed to write letters to the editor, but that didn’t stop him from speaking his mind to anyone who would listen. Dad was a staunch, dyed in the wool, true to the core conservative. The Hatch Act didn’t stop him from pounding signs for his favorite candidates into other willing voters’ yards. He also wrote letters to senators and congressmen. We used to tease him that he was Orrin Hatch’s pen pal. He would proudly show us Orrin Hatch’s personal replies. 

Dad was horrified when he found out my maternal grandmother was going to vote for George McGovern. I heard him try to respectfully “teach” her why she was so, so wrong. I could tell he was just about to blow, but shut his mouth and stopped so he wouldn't offend Grandma. (In this way, I am just like my father.) I too, have to shut up or stop posting  or speaking before I go too far. I heard him say to my mother, “What is she possibly thinking? She said McGovern is handsome. How is that a good reason to vote for someone?” I’m pretty sure my Grandma just told my dad that to mess with him, she was after all, an intelligent woman. 

I grew up hearing the term liberal pinko thrown around in everyday conversations. I knew Dad abhorred “kooky environmentalists," and as far as he was concerned, Robert Redford was the worst of the bunch, along with Jane Fonda. But he was offended when a neighbor brought John Birch Society material for him to read. For those who don’t know John Birch Society is an extreme right-wing organization. I remember him wondering how the guy could think he was “one of those extremists.” He didn’t like extremism in any shape or form. Dad pined for a day when Ronald Reagan would be elected president. That would have been a momentous day for him and I wish he'd seen it happen. He died two years before, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my dad influenced the outcome from the other side. At the time, I voted for Reagan, even though in retrospect that wasn’t a good idea. Under Reagan's presidency, because of retroactive government cutbacks, my husband lost a good job that was in his field. 

I really had no intention of becoming the person I am today.  I was a slow convert to liberal ideas. I had once believed that being Republican was akin to being a good Mormon, practically a requirement for entrance into the Celestial Kingdom. I knew that admitting to a family member that I had started leaning Democrat would cause as much concern as if I had told them I was forming an alliance with Satan. I have to admit that the first time I checked a box for a Democrat, I felt my heart race a bit—pondering what my dad would think—and if I was indeed committing a sin. At first it was only in local elections  that I dared vote for Democrats. Even though by then, my core beliefs put me solidly on the blue team. Even still, Al Gore was the first Democrat I voted for in a presidential election. When I admitted to voting for Al Gore at what had been a peaceful Thanksgiving dinner, the stuffing hit the fan so to speak. A close family member said some pretty unkind things, including that my deceased father would be livid. I had to admit, Dad would not have been happy. Though I hope that after he passed he wouldn’t have cared one wit about something as inconsequential as a person’s political leanings. 

Through some tears and bites of turkey, I pointed out to the argumentative family member, that my dad had voted for  Democratic candidate Yukus Inouye. I knew it for a fact because I was with Dad when  he pounded wooden stakes of political signs into lawns in Utah county. When I had asked Dad why he was voting for a Democrat, he’d said, because he’s a really great guy, my friend, and the better candidate. To write this I looked up Yukus and found out that he had won in 1972 as Utah County Commissioner in a heavily Republican county. Yukus Inouye lived to be 91 and died in 2007.  

Well, at the dinner I sobbed uncontrollably, even though several of the younger generation tried to comfort me. Eventually that family member and I could speak to each other again. We both had to learn to bridge our differences with a little civility. We also learned never to ask who the other was voting for. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. 

I’m almost certain that my dad would not have voted for Donald Trump, because my dad could spot a fraud. Once in high school, I came home so excited about the stories an LDS general authority Paul H. Dunn told in a huge seminary morning devotional. My dad was sitting in his home office, leaning back slightly in his solid wood swivel chair. When I got done telling Dad the fantastic war stories, he got a smirk on his face and said that they weren’t true. I couldn’t believe my dad, a bishop at the time, would call a GA of our church a liar. I’d said, how can you say that? He'd said, I’m just saying I was in the war and those things couldn’t have happened, and Paul H. Dunn is a great storyteller who stretches the truth for effect. Well, I was hurt and thought my dad was wrong to say what he did. My dad had been gone for a few years when the truth that many of Paul Dunn’s famous faith-promoting stories were nothing more than good fiction. Too bad he’d felt the need to claim they were true. 

There was another popular WW2 Veteran on a speaking circuit, telling amazing tales of his POW experiences and heroism. My dad only had to hear him once to declare that the man was a fraud. Years later he also was discredited. In this case, the man may have actually believed his own stories. 

My dad would have been appalled at the choices in this election. I have no illusion that he would have voted for Hillary. She is far too liberal for my dad. But he also would not have voted for Donald Trump. I’m quite certain he would have seen him as the con artist he is. Dad had strong opinions. He thought everyone should think like him, and he argued with those who didn't. But he also taught us to be politically active and to stick up for our principles. Though he might be turning in his grave to see me as the “liberal pinko” he would disapprove of, I hope he’d respect that I will speak out for beliefs, even when I’m in the minority, even when it’s hard, and even when it hurts so badly you feel like you can’t breathe. Because after all, he taught me to do that. Maybe I don’t fall as far from the tree after all. 


1 comment:

christine said...

I'm leaving the Republican party, a move that's been coming for years. I was told that I strayed from my family's roots. It's pretty awesome to have that division in your family and your country. I voted my conscience which meant I did not vote for either candidate, and was accused of being a coward because I didn't vote for a main party candidate. For me the cowardice lay in voting for someone I didn't believe in. I'm sick at heart over these election results. I'm not sick over who I voted for.

I think your dad would respect your voted because it seems he had an open mind. He could look across party lines to see the good and integrity in people.