In 2006, my father moved into the last apartment he would live in and since I was starting to make decent money from my job at that time, I paid for cable tv for him. But I told him right away that if I caught him spouting Fox News bullshit I’d take his tv away and super-glue his radio to one radio station. Because I was NOT going to lose my Nixon-hating father to Fox News and right-wing Republican Nazis without one hell of a fight. It was one of the few times I put my foot down with him and he knew I was dead-nut serious in what I said.
He reassured me he would not watch Fox News because he liked the women on CNN better because they were much smarter and prettier than the Fox News bimbos. (and yes, he really did say this.) I said a silent ‘thank you’ to the women of CNN but also I knew my dad was firmly against Fox News and their bullshit-hosts because he would rage anytime he heard some Republican asshole-politician talk about abolishing Social Security and Medicare, his only source of income and health insurance. Every time he heard that shit he’d go, “What the fuck am I supposed to do? Die? I’m already doing that.”
My dad was my first teacher in history and politics. He was a huge consumer of news and history, and he shared it with me from a very early age. He told me stories of meeting people with numbers tattooed on their arms- Holocaust survivors. He told me stories about Abilene, Texas 1958 where he saw water fountains side-by-side with signs over each one saying, ‘Whites Only’ and ‘Colored Only’, an ugly picture of segregated America. He told me the story of the Berlin Wall going up and how Russian snipers shot people trying to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin, and about President Kennedy’s speech there in 1962.
My dad taught me about the 1960’s and Vietnam, then the 70’s and his deeply-avowed hatred of Richard Nixon (which he was totally right about). Then he told me how he fucked up in 1980 and voted for Regan and came to regret it pretty fast when Regan busted the unions, allowed massive off-shoring of manufacturing and all the other shit he did. He said he’d never make that mistake again and he never went Republican again. He was on the Clinton-Gore bandwagon in 1992 and loved it when James Carville, the Clinton-Gore campaign manager said, “It’s about the economy, stupid.”, and when Bill and Al would go, “It’s time for them to go.” And in 2008, he told me about watching a young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama and how he liked him, and said Mr. Obama was a good man, a family man.
In 2006, there was a potential skirmish between us when he said to me one day that maybe the data about climate change wasn’t that solid. I bit my tongue and the next time I saw him I gave him a DVD of the documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and told him to watch it. Then I told him when I saw him the following weekend we’d talk about it. The following weekend came and I asked him if he’d watched it and he said yes and apologized for ever doubting the real facts of climate change. I was loaded up and ready to go after him about denying climate change because he’s the one who taught me about DDT poisoning in the 60’s, how the Cuyahoga River burned in 1969 because it was so damned polluted, and how we both watched footage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1986. Instead, he told me we needed to work our asses off to try and save this little planet of ours, and how we may need to terraform our own planet first before we do it to other places like Mars (my dad was a hardcore sci-fi junkie, too).
My dad had the ability to surprise me sometimes like when he said the United States needed to stop trying to be the world’s policeman. This was after a few years in Afghanistan and Iraq and how bad things were being fucked up there. It surprised me because he always pretty gung-ho about our soldiers going in and doing the right thing but in those two places, it wasn’t about doing the right thing but about making a small number of people a shit-ton of money despite the body counts and wounded and dead soldiers (fuck Dick Cheney and Haliburton and all those contractor-bastards).
My dad died in 2011 and I miss him terribly after all this time. Yet a part of me is sort of glad he didn’t live to see what’s happened since 2011. I think I would have spent a lot of time talking him down out of a tree and I might have had to wage more battles to keep him away from the fascism of Fox News and all the right-wing bullshit artists out there. But I miss talking with him. I miss being able to ask him about things he’d lived through and his thoughts on then and now. As I work on this ‘Stand or Fall’ project, I have to work from memory when it comes to wanting his knowledge and experience.
At a very early age, my dad taught me the old Hebrew proverb, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” He used to wonder how many times we could fuck things up before we blew ourselves to Kingdom Come once and for all, or how many times could we pull it back from the edge. And every time he said that he would say he hoped we didn’t find out. He believed we could do better, but he also knew the human capacity for destruction.
From my father I learned that fascism, Nazism, or any other bullshit-right-wing conservative -ism just consumes everything in its’ path. It’s just consumes until there is nothing left. It is devoid of conscience, empathy, and compassion. It is about extreme conformity without any dissent or question at all.
To anyone reading this who has lost loved ones to the right-wing Fox News hatred-and-outrage machine, I’m so sorry you lost the battle I won in the past. But as my father would tell you, don’t ever lose hope and don’t give up on anyone. Because despite a deeply cynical and pessimistic nature at times, deep down my father believed in the good and the potential of humanity. He believed in a ‘Star Trek’ future and not a post-apocalyptic or dystopian-Orwellian one (a la ‘1984’).
In the end, my dad knew when I did put my foot down, I meant business. I didn’t do it at the nuclear-level like my mother did when she snapped and slammed her foot down, but my dad knew I had that potential. And I would have gone nuclear-level if I had to save him from becoming something he raised me not to be. Because despite being a class-A hard-ass at times, he truly cared, and that was most important thing he taught me.