Sunday, November 4, 2012

Family & Politics

My mom won't tell anyone who she voted for in 2008. Ian and I have unsuccessfully reassured her over and over again that, "No, seriously, we promise we won't be upset!"  At this point I'm convinced that you could water-board that woman and she wouldn't spill the beans. I think she's taking her vote to the grave with her because she's afraid of offending two people: me and my father. Me because I did a poly sci internship with then-Senator Obama in college; my dad because he is an ardent Republican.

Poor mom, right? Right. She's stuck between two political opposites. Mi padre is a Fox News-watching, Chick-Fil-A eating, Romney-supporting conservative. He listens to Rush Limbaugh every. single. day. I do not. My favorite arguments come from the Real Housewives reunions, and I like to get my news from Anderson Cooper because... yum.

I certainly have my own well-defined political beliefs, but I've grown weary of arguing about them. My dad, on the other hand, has the debate energy and longevity of George Will.  He luuuurves to talk about politics and can masterfully turn an otherwise innocuous comment into a reason to debate. Once, when I called his attention to the beauty of the windmills against the sunset over the cornfields of Indiana, he abruptly responded "I don't support wind energy because it takes more energy to make wind turbines than they actually produce."

He loves political debate so much that a few years ago he called in to a talk radio show to discuss the importance of oil in our everyday lives. True enough, I suppose. But still... he actually called in, proving once and for all that behind every great dad is a daughter rolling her eyes.

But I haven't rolled my eyes at him recently because he isn't talking about politics with me at all anymore, and I know why. I totally lost my cool with him earlier this year. It started with a text message conversation one evening last spring:

"Hi Annie you should change to Fox News right now. John Stossel is on."

"No thanks, I feel like being able to sleep tonight."

"He is smart and it's an important message."

I pushed the Guide button on my remote and scrolled to FNC to see the program title: No They Can't: Why Government Fails But Individuals Succeed." Ugh. I texted back, "Yeah, government ALWAYS fails. I hate the interstate highway system," and clicked my phone closed.

Before I could change the channel back, Rascal Flatts began blaring from my phone. My dad was calling. I picked up.

His palpable frustration was choking his normal tone of excited debate. Feeling patronized, my annoyance quickly morphed into fierce aggravation. Alone in my apartment, I stood up out of my chair and shouted into the phone receiver: "HOW DARE YOU CALL ME JUST TO LECTURE ME ON YOUR RIDICULOUS CONSERVATIVE TALKPOINTS? ALL YOU EVER WATCH IS FOX NEWS SO HOW CAN I BELIEVE ANYTHING COMING OUT OF YOUR MOUTH? YOU ARE JUST A PUPPET OF ROGER AILES AND THE KOCH BROTHERS, AND I'M COMPLETELY SICK OF IT!"

He was immediately taken aback and could only muster out a "No, you're the puppet" before quickly calming me down. He spoke gently and hurriedly apologized, "Okay okay okay okay, I'm sorry, Annie. I'm sorry, I promise I won't talk politics with you ever again."

"Good. Have a good night." I hung up.

My dad has kept his promise so far. But I don't feel relieved; I feel bad because now he's afraid to include me in his favorite pastime. He avoids talking politics around me altogether. I fully realized the extent of his avoidance a few months ago when he quickly unmuted himself as soon as he found himself alone with Ian. The two of them left to run an errand together, and, as Ian told me later, the first words out of my dad's mouth were "Hey, if Democrats are proud of government spending, then why aren't they proud of the national debt?"

My poor dad. I lost my cool because I forgot my most important political lesson - one I learned from my dad, of course. We've hardly ever agreed, but no matter how much I rolled me eyes or told him he was wrong, he always knew how to end our political conversations. Ever the sensitive guy, he'd always say, "Annie, you're not mad at me about what I said are you?"

"No." I'd say with a clenched jaw and crossed arms.

He'd come over to hug me, "Okay, good. I love you."

Sigh. "I love you, too, " I'd smile, "Even though you're wrong."