See no evil
Dad has tried to commiserate with me about the fate of my generation and those of this grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We're doomed, you see, to live under a communist dictatorship imposed by liberals. He deflates like an old balloon when I shake my head, say “That's completely ridiculous, Dad,” and remind him that his eldest son is a flaming liberal himself. He gets morose and sullen, which is unfortunate, but at least it dams up the flood of right-wing hysteria and leaves us in peace for a while. I go find something else to do while he broods about the remote possibility of being raptured into heaven before President Obama can declare the United States an atheist-communist-Muslim-libertine dictatorship. Yeah, I know. Some of these things don't go together.
I call it my father's “political Alzheimer's,” since he's possessed of all of his faculties and seems to be able to reason rationally as long as the topic is not politics (or, admittedly, religion). Since no political debate between us can go on more than a few minutes before it gets overheated and it's necessary to shut it down, we tend to avoid the near occasion of argument. Or at least I do.
My father and I were mostly on our best behavior during my Thanksgiving visit, so I wonder if his pent-up need to badger me will erupt during Christmas. It's possible. The family has mellowed in many ways—such as not demanding that I attend mass with them—but old habits endure and Dad's pugnacity may recover. We'll see.
It's one thing to disagree with my father, which I do vigorously (though slightly hobbled by filial devotion). It's another to be disgusted with him. That's tougher. Perhaps it first arose when Dad thrust the “Clinton Body Count” under my nose and I realized he expected me to take it seriously. If he could believe nonsense like that, it was clear he could believe almost any crap. This has been amply borne out in the years since and that's been bad enough.
During Thanksgiving, however, I discovered he's amusing himself with racist humor. That's really beyond the pale and embarrasses me enormously. You'd think being an ethnic minority ourselves that we'd be a bit more sensitized to racial humor. Apparently not.
Dad has a relatively high-speed Internet connection these days, which is a great relief from last year's anemic dial-up modem service. It's still not super fast, but it's tolerable. He now leaves his connection active most of the time and he waved me over to it when I asked about checking my e-mail. His AOL account (which he shares with Mom) was open, but I didn't use it, opening a separate browser window and logging into my Yahoo mail account. I was being virtuous by refraining from poking around in my father's e-mail, but I also had no desire to see what right-wing spam he was wallowing in. At least I knew he was no longer forwarding it to me (for the most part) and I wasn't going to be nosy.
But Dad's computer also had the latest photos of the great-grandsons in his picture folder. When he told me about them I naturally took a look and downloaded some cute portraits of my nephews to my data stick. But there were other pictures, too, and some were nauseating. No, not what you're thinking. At least if you're thinking porn. Unless you mean political porn.
Dad has received, and seen fit to save, a photo that depicts Barack Obama as a shoeshine boy kneeling at the feet of a grinning Sarah Palin. How droll. I later heard it was distributed to members of a Rush Limbaugh fan site, which is probably how Dad got it (although I don't know that Limbaugh himself had anything to do with it). I refrained from mentioning to my father that I had seen it and was ashamed that he had saved it.
I won't post the picture, since a description suffices, but I have since discovered the original photo that was doctored to create the Obama-Palin pic. The photographer is understandably miffed at being ripped off, especially since the prankster who modified the photo left the original attribution on it. Ted Szukalski is not amused at being portrayed by a plagiarist as a dabbler in racial humor. He posted a comment on his website to express his dismay.
The shoe-shine gag was apparently not enough. Dad also found it worthwhile to save a political cartoon that depicts Sen. Obama sitting in a pew with a bag over his head while a black minister (presumably Rev. Wright) screams “Kill Whitey!”
Now perhaps it's not supposed to be Rev. Wright after all, since we know that Wright's cardinal sin was to utter a Falwellian “God damn America.” Maybe cartoonist Brian Fairrington was merely exaggerating a little bit for effect, and not really implying that Sen. Obama was willing to condone hyperbolic hate speech. Maybe. Anyway, Fairrington has found part of his audience in my father—and whichever of Dad's correspondents considered the cartoon worthy of saving and passing along.
Next time I think I'll just ask Dad to send me the family photos instead of having me look them up for myself. I don't want to go back into his picture folder. Thanks, but no thanks. Good family relations (at least to the degree possible) require that I refrain.
And if he wanted me to see what I found mixed amidst the family pix, then I'm a bit angry in addition to being disgusted.