I'm not exactly hiding in the liberal closet. I've been “out” since I bought myself an ACLU membership in high school. Richard Nixon had just been elected president and I was already looking forward to Watergate. Since Nixon was never a popular figure in my family (we had all been Kennedy Democrats at one point), my acting out of my leftish tendencies was tolerated. No doubt I would grow out of it.
Nope. No such luck. I even supported McGovern in 1972. I suspect my parents didn't vote that year, although they remained nominal Democrats for a few more years. They were just waiting for Reagan and Bush to sweep them off their feet. Mom and Dad have been supine dupes of the right-wing spin machine ever since. I, meanwhile, voted for Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. My vehicles sported bumper stickers for all of them. While my parents were admiring closeted Republican Michael Huffington as he campaigned against Dianne Feinstein, I was holding banners at Feinstein rallies. (Later I graduated to the harder stuff, participating in the campaign events of of Barbara Boxer.)
Therefore I think my family suspects I'm a liberal. So why do they send me egregiously offensive stuff? For a while, it seemed that no wingnut rant was stupid enough to prevent my family members from forwarding it to me as soon as it came to their attention. Presumably some of the forwarded messages were intended to educate me, while perhaps others were supposed to amuse me and feed the prejudices they assumed I shared.
My practice of responding to right-wing spam-mail with detailed refutations and reference links did eventually discourage my correspondents, but every so often my family members can't help themselves and they swing back into action. In recent days I've been surprised to receive two idiotic and offensive messages in rapid succession from the family. One is an inane defense of George Bush that carries my father's stamp of approval and the other is a racist and sexist compilation of campaign slogans from my sister-in-law.
My father's already suffered the crushing disappointment of having spawned a liberal. I hope my sister-in-law's children grow up to be liberals who marry minorities (by which I mean minorities other than the one we already belong to!). Perhaps then she'll rue ever chuckling over a sophomoric campaign button that refers to Sen. Obama as “Half Honkey, All Donkey.” Despite its tastelessness, racial insensitivity, and offensive message, my sister-in-law saw fit to send the image to me in an e-mail message.
What is wrong with that woman?
Making fun of Barack Obama is not enough, of course. If you're going to indulge in some petty racism, why not also toss in some good old American misogyny? The message forwarded by my sister-in-law also delighted in insulting Sen. Clinton, variously calling her a whore (that's sweet) and a bitch (how witty!). And it's just winsomely amusing to refer to her presidential campaign as “Tits & Ass 2008.” I pause to dab the tears of laughter from my eyes.
Hello, Brandeen. Send stuff like this to people who appreciate it. Not me.So far she hasn't forwarded anything further. Will she think twice before doing it again? I'd be happy if she bothered thinking even once.
Your liberal brother-in-law,
Recycled wisdom from Dad
The address headers identified the usual suspects from my father's circle of Central Valley right-wingers, people who forward each other nuggets of nonsense as if they are chunks of the true cross. They especially enjoy shocking facts (We're winning in Iraq!) from the likes of Fox News (The weapons of mass destruction were smuggled into Syria!) and Rush Limbaugh (My friends, the liberals want us to lose!). Dad sent me a message titled “You aren't going to like losing...” He added his own preface:
This is so hard to take, But it is so true! I remember all that as if it were yesterday. SO TRUE!What is this great truth that my father is about to share with me? It seems that George W. Bush is today's version of FDR. Well, Dad has tried to equate Bush the Lesser with JFK in the past (“They both cut taxes!”), so it stands to reason he should be susceptible to other ridiculous comparisons:
President Bush did make a bad mistake in the war on terrorism. But the mistake was not his decision to go to war in Iraq.That's right. It's not. This is the country that learned some sad lessons in Vietnam, the war in which George W. Bush refused to fight as he bravely shirked his responsibilities in the Texas Air National Guard.
Bush's mistake came in his belief that this country is the same one his father fought for in WWII. It is not.
The people stuck with the President because it was their patriotic duty. Americans put aside their differences in WWII and worked together to win that war.So true! Unless, of course, you were ordered to take a flight physical that might reveal your cocaine habit, in which case you could ignore the mandatory physical and just lose your flight status. Everyone pitched in, except pampered children of privilege.
Everyone from every strata of society, from young to old pitched in.
You never heard prominent people on the radio belittling the President.That's certainly true. No one would even dream of saying bad things about the president back in those days. Except for Charles Lindbergh and the America First people, who said FDR was a warmonger. And Father Coughlin, of course. And Henry Ford. But nobody important or famous or significant. Not a one.
Interestingly enough in those days there were no fat cat actors and entertainers who ran off to visit and fawn over dictators of hostile countries and complain to them about our President. Instead, they made upbeat films and entertained our troops to help the troops' morale. And a bunch even enlisted.
No, President Bush did not make a mistake in his handling of terrorism. He made the mistake of believing that we still had the courage and fortitude of our fathers. He believed that this was still the country that our fathers fought so dearly to preserve.Bush made no mistakes in his war on terror except for (a) attacking the wrong country, (b) using too few troops, (c) demolishing the Iraqi government when nothing existed to replace it, (d) disbanding the Iraqi army and turning its members into highly trained insurgents, and (e) saying “Bring it on!” to the insurgents and terrorists, just like the inane frat-house bully-boy he is.
I replied to my father:
The president's big mistake was to attack a country that didn't attack us. And to take troops out of Afghanistan before the job was done. Now we have problems with our soldiers stretched thin in two places. That's what incompetent leadership will do for you.My father has not seen fit to respond.
The stab in the back
My family is a known quantity: namely, a lost cause. I expect a little better, however, from my former comrades-in-arms at the state legislature. Therefore it was a grave disappointment to open an e-mail message forwarded by Jolting Joe, who was one of the senior staffers to the liberal state legislator for whom we both worked. Jolting Joe's message carried the subject line “This explains it” and offered as its content a Parker & Hart cartoon:
I was mightily displeased and promptly told Joe so:
Beg pardon, Joe, but what the hell is wrong with you? What makes you think I would appreciate an anti-Democratic cartoon by the late Johnny Hart? He was a narrow-minded right-wing creationist who thought nothing of mocking Jewish symbols for supposedly comic effect. I don't need lessons in politics from bigots like that.Jolting Joe was taken aback and quickly replied:
Sorry, Zeno, I think the cartoon is funny regardless of party. Politics is a contact sport.To me, the comic strip in question is about as creative and clever as children calling each other names on the playground, but who can account for taste? Furthermore, Joe was unaware of the cartoonist's controversial reputation. And, frankly, it's difficult to stay angry at a man who knows how to use appositional commas. I did not fire back.
Jolting Joe, however, nursed just a bit of a grudge over my treatment of him, as he noted the next time we were both at one of our regular lunch groups: “You cursed me, young man! You damned me for my taste in humor. You shouldn't be so sensitive!”
“Don't worry, Joe. I've forgiven you. Anyway, politics is a contact sport. You shouldn't be so sensitive.”