President Obama was elected just before my son was born and took office shortly after. We were ecstatic, of course. We had taken the country back from the man. Many of us thought that black lives would begin to matter to black people, and that the question of racial profiling would be addressed, that we could discuss the war on drugs and the prison system in a meaningful way, and that we could then stop talking about race issues and get on with our lives. I believed that we were going to stick it to the man by creating a legacy of justice for women and minorities, and clean up a few of these messes, and make things like health care and education accessible. Oh, and we had a new baby to love.
Our lovely boy (nicknamed “The General”, the little Republican, Alex P. Keaton) has blue eyes and the blondest hair and the kind of smile that disarms high school principals. He can be a real jerk sometimes, but I adore him. Of course I do. I want him to feel entitled, every day, to every good thing within his grasp if he works hard enough. I want him to feel privileged, every day, to wake up with two parents who love him, everything he needs, and a good portion of what he wants. If I were to properly indoctrinate him, I would have to begin by tearing down his basic ideas of selfhood. At six years old, he is an excellent swimmer, made of muscle, powerful, funny and confident. He loves work. He loves industry and knowledge and mobilizing people. I have seen the essays on Facebook and blog posts of mothers who are trying to make their sons understand, early on, that masculinity and hard work are no longer valued in a man, lest he get the entitlement bug. But I can’t.
While it’s true that I already had a longterm relationship with a man, we were both liberals, and some amount of self-hate is understood to be part of your daily interactions. So I could be a white cis feminist and he could be the worst sort of scum imaginable — a white cis man — and we could go on living that way because hey, at least we weren’t rich. Had I not had a son, I might not ever have noticed the burgeoning narrative of our country. I would have accepted it all as the necessary trajectory of our neverending push for absolute freedom. But after the numerous Facebook blog shares on how we “genderise” our children, the idea of emasculating my son for the good of all humans seemed, um, sexist. How could gender equality apply to my daughter but not my son? How could I empower one, tear down the other, and still be called a good mother?
When the kids were young, I couldn’t stomach much news or politics, but if you drive, or use Facebook, you can never be too far from the fray. Most of my Facebook friends are liberals, as are most bumper stickers, and I began to feel as though I was missing some major point about free speech, racism, gender stereotypes, and a dozen other things. How could there be a news article on the patriarchy’s control of office thermostats in the same week as the ISIS sex slave market made headlines? I know liberals have access to cardigans. How could we debate sending maxi pads to Africa to empower women while at the same time decrying feminine hygiene products as a plot by the patriarchy to make us pay for having periods? Just this morning I found a comment saying “no one was saying all lives matter until this Black Lives Matter started. Did they just think of this?” How weird would it be for folks to go around chanting “all lives matter” apropos of nothing? That was a given before Black Lives Matter started advocating the murder of cops. How can we get upset about our children’s school lunches being inspected by teachers highly schooled in the Progressive discipline, and yet condone the thought policing of anyone we disagree with? Like this gem from Hillary Clinton: “We cannot let a minority of people – and it’s, that’s what it is, it is a minority of people – hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people.” One out of three Americans isn’t exactly a minority, and since when did Americans start making decisions about what other people could think? Yikes. Or how about complaining about rich corporations, but crying when they take our jobs overseas? And then vowing to tax the life out of them if they come back. Just a few ideas out of a vast sea.
Most of us, liberal, conservative, what have you, think of ourselves as good people; not racist, not entitled to anything we haven’t worked for or voted our tax dollars to do. We hope that we have integrity and we feel our opinions are valid. We want to go to the grocery store and the park and get to work on time, pay the phone bill and take a vacation. At least we used to. It turns out, we were just a bunch of slobs roiling in our own excrement, waiting for someone to tell us it’s okay to stay in bed, the economy isn’t going anywhere.
Without my childrens’ future to think about, I might not have noticed the tone changing as liberals sought to dismantle themselves and rebuild their psyches, either as victims or offenders, or worse; both at once. It was as though the entire nation had gone to a massive family therapy session where every member gets a label and a sharp stick. I don’t believe we are meant to find solutions. Liberalism is a machine, a business which creates despair in order to win votes and keep the momentum going. It’s a monster that doesn’t want to die.
I didn’t really mean to join the “dark side”, I was just looking for more voices of reason. More people that thought the national conversation was becoming more divisive rather than more cohesive, other people whose hopes had been dashed under the Obama administration. It’s lonely to wake up in unfamiliar territory. The commentary I found along the backroads of my search let out onto thoroughfares of Conservative traffic. I was bewildered, to say the least.
By no means have I come to agree with all conservative issues. But I have finally undertaken the real work of examining the history of our nation’s inner struggles, and listening to both sides of the arguments on many, many issues. Like women’s health. I always wondered why a lot of fat white dudes (which all Republicans are, right?) could care so little about women’s health. They were married, right? I always figured there was something I didn’t know about them, but never tried to find out if it were true, or what the issue was. Turns out, they don’t mind if you have it, they just don’t want to pay for it. It’s covered on your insurance, it just isn’t free. Doesn’t that sound fair? And if you need assistance, there are community clinics all over the country to help you. Did you know that Conservatives dislike Common Core not because it teaches Darwinian theory, but because it teaches a uniformity of thought and creates a divide between how parents and children understand fundamental aspects of the world? This sets us up nicely for the next generation to fling poo at us while calling us “the man”.
It looks a lot like that epic battle between Superman and Batman I’ve been hearing so much about. These ‘crazy right wingers’ have the benefit of logic and reason, deep traditions and a long memory. By comparison, liberals seem to be operating on raw emotion with no regard for the struggles and work that came before, for all that their parents and grandparents tried to do for them. Like a bunch of whiny, angry teenagers looking for anything to divide them further. Look at your issues and see what holds water. Right the wrongs you see, but be proud and decisive as you work. Look at your lives and acknowledge that they are good. Be an informed citizen and please, don’t vote until you are one.