Dear Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain, You are driving a wedge between my parents and me.
This battle between Obama and McCain is now playing out in emails and telephone calls between New York and North Carolina. It started out harmless enough with occasional emails with subject lines like "535 people" and upon reading you discover that this list of no gooders is actually Congress. Then it started to escalate a bit with photos of certain candidates without American flag lapel pins to references to certain candidate's anti-Christian backgrounds. Then it became really heated when veiled and not so veiled references to Hitler surfaced. I had enough. What the heck happened to my parents? When did they suddenly turn into Jesse Helms and Anita Bryant?
I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania in a household that by all accounts was perfectly ordinary. I don't ever remember politics being discussed, but I do remember as each election passed they would vote with the Republican Party. Not because of any social conservative views, but because they felt that the GOP espoused the same fiscal views. They were fiscal conservatives. I think it rubbed off on me. One of my earliest memories was going to school one day during the re-election campaign of Gerald Ford and his VP Bob Dole carrying a giant inflatable DOLE banana. I used it to beat those Carter-loving classmates of mine into submission. Needless to say that election didn't work out for Ford and to be honest I think I was just more into the theatrics and over sized props.
I always felt I grew up in a well-rounded almost liberal household. We subscribed to the New York Times on Sundays for goodness sakes and made countless trips to the city to see one Broadway show after another. I grew up in a household that appreciated art and music, which I think led both my sister and myself into careers in entertainment. They let me subscribe to Interview Magazine and we always had copies of The New Yorker in the house. Years later, when my mom was getting ready to come visit me in Los Angeles she asked my Dad, "What do we do if Matthew is gay?" And it was my father that responded, "We love him just the same." Needless to say when I picked her up at the airport with a well rehearsed speech about my new life as a gay man set to be given over lunch in a well chosen locale, she was first to put it out there in a nonchalant way. I almost drove off the side of the 405 as she said, "Your father and I already discussed it and we love you very much." When most of my friends were dealing with being ostracized by their families, mine was just about ready to join PFLAG.
I've gone through political changes over the years. I marched and blew whistles in the streets of Los Angeles in opposition to anti-gay initiatives. I went to a few Act Up meetings. I remember spending one Friday night getting on a bus headed to Sacramento to protest at the state capitol. It was the same time that Christo's Pink Umbrellas were up, but unfortunately we left and came back in the dark of night without seeing one of those darn things. I realized that I needed to stand up for my rights even if my other friends were content to sit on the sidelines. I was no true activist by any means, but it was certainly a step up from my over sized prop days.
Fast forward to 2008. I think it's the last eight years of this awful Bush administration that's ramping everyone up. People all over are so tired of these Bush folks and want a CHANGE. Oh Lord, there's that word. To me, I saw it in Barack Obama very early on. It was his speech after winning the primary in Iowa that made me stand up and take notice. Before that it was all about Hillary for me, but as his star began to shine hers diminished in my eyes. I started to read up on his policies and ended up voting for him in our primary here. I was honestly disappointed in his support of that FISA bill, but I understood the politics of compromise in this post-9/11 world. I thought the Democrats did a great job with the convention and was amazed at Michelle Obama and equally blown away and moved by Barack's closing night speech to all those people.
My hopes that my parents might slightly feel the same way were dashed when I called home last Saturday and my mom said, "Oh that Governor Palin. She's so impressive. We are so pleased with McCain's VP pick." I thought, "What the heck? What are they thinking?" I responded as best I could with challenges to Palin's experience and was met with at best disinterest. I followed up days later with a list of things that were revealed about her past including the ethics investigations, her religious views that seem to form her worldviews and her daughter's distraction. My goal was to show how McCain made a flippant choice by paying no mind to his own health concerns in order to appease the right wing. "What if this woman became President?" I said. But alas, no worries from them. They feel that she has the executive background by being Governor to meet the demands of the VP job and I suppose ultimately the presidency. I finally said to them, "You know she doesn't approve of folks like me. She's voted against upholding the rights of Gays in the work force. What if she wants to enact laws against me? What then?" My father responded, "Well she's not going to do that. And if she does, I'll be here to protect you." My father does have a gun, but it's really nothing more than a dusty antique that couldn't be fired. I'm not so sure that's a match against Sarah Palin's arsenal, but I appreciate his effort.
The thing that really gets me is how I see Obama as the right choice to lead this country and they see McCain in the exact same way. I see Obama as ushering in a new era into Washington one that is filled with hope and optimism. Replace Obama with McCain in that sentence and that's my parents feelings. I just don't get it. Was watching too many hours of Fox News to blame? Their unwavering support of McCain has made me honestly take a step back and look at Obama. But instead of making me less supportive or disillusioned, it's only further intensified my support for Barack. I suppose that's the true lesson to learn if any. At the end of the day we can only agree to disagree. It's made me a stronger and more involved person. I'm going to keep fighting the good fight.
They love me and I love them back ten times as much, but until November 4th I say, "Put 'em up!"
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