Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Scenes from my father

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.


Anonymous said...

My uncle is the one Republican among 4 liberal brothers and sisters. Political discussion is taboo. Three years ago, when we had a family BBQ, I wound up crying because he wouldn't just stop an argument with his sister and everyone was hating listening to it.

Another family BBQ last summer, and I discovered he had printed out some emailed BS describing Obama as the Messiah to satirize liberal views of him, AND HAD DELIBERATELY LEFT IT LYING AROUND SO PEOPLE WOULD READ IT in an otherwise immaculate, uncluttered house.

I was ready to kill.

Anonymous said...

I have your solution:

For Christmas, have a black friend come along as your new "significant other." The blacker, the better. Wearing a dashiki, even better. Before every "pass the potatoes" request, a black-power salute. Terrorist fist-jabs all around after caroling.

Oh, and canoodle often. You're in love!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought of going on the offensive? You don't have to send crazy conspiracy theory emails, just actual accounts of right-wing idiocy. For example, if your Dad's a Rush fan, send him copies of blogs eviscerating Rush whenever he says something particularly stupid.

Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

You could just tell him that it's considered good manners to keep some sorta order in ones pictures: family in one folder, lolcats in another, pr0n somewhere deep down with an innocuous label.

Captcha: "pences" - is that a double plural?

The Ridger, FCD said...

I was going to say - my father's pictures folder has a couple of dozen subfolders and some of those also have subfolders. Set it up for your father over Christmas. Oh, wait. You'd have to look at the photos to sort them. Never mind.

William said...

"You'd think being an ethnic minority ourselves that we'd be a bit more sensitized to racial humor."

Portuguese, right? I think you guys count as "white" nowadays, though probably not when you were growing up. Just like my whiter-than-white Irish ass, although I'm young enough to have missed out on being considered a minority (yea).

Old "white": Northern and Central Europeans, excluding Irish.

Today's "white": All Europeans, except Turks.

Tommorow: Who knows? Race is a social construct, so it's always a moving target.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least the comic is trying to make a political point---offensive and wrong, but political nonetheless. The other picture---that's just pure racial abuse fantasy. Ugh.

Pieter B said...

I looked at the comments on Ted Szukalski's website, which has the suffix "" [Australia] Ted had written "This is quite a low act as it involuntarily involves me and my photographic work in American presidential campaign, which I honestly do not know much about nor do I follow it."

Believe it or not, some twit posted "What a dumb thing to admit about your right to vote. Go live in another country try it, try to be as free with your lens as you care to be." Dude, FAIL. Do you think that only the USA has intertubes?

Digital Photo Ted said...

The image shown here is an unauthorised and unlicensed plagiarism of my original, copyrighted photograph, which you can see here<
I am an Australian photographer, and the original photograph was a positive story on a man who down on his luck offers shoeshine service to make a living instead of begging. This is not a common sight and he may be the only street shoe shine service in the whole of this country.
Sadly, some unscrupulous character altered this image to create the highly controversial plagiarism shown here. This anonymous coward went further and often kept my name and name of my website on the distributed image thus implying I have created this alternation. I have not.
I have stressed on my website I have no interest or opinions on American politics or social issues. However, many people who assumed I was the author of the image have called me racist. I am not.
This post is to distance my name from this plagiarism based on my original photograph and from the views it may portray.
My preference would be that is image is not shown, as without clear captioning and attribution does not distinguish between me as the author of the original photograph and the plagiarist. However, I accept due to social commentary you may want to keep displaying it. In which case I would like to ask you to caption the image using wording to the meaning “This image is an unauthorised alternation of original photograph by Ted Szukalski” linking the words “original photograph by Ted Szukalski” to
Ted Szukalski

Zeno said...

Ted Szukalski: Sadly, some unscrupulous character altered this image to create the highly controversial plagiarism shown here.

Thanks for your comment, Ted. However, I specifically did not reproduce the unauthorized alteration of your photograph. I show your original version (with a link to your professional website) because I wanted people to see what the plagiarized Obama-Palin alteration was based on. I will certainly remove it if you wish, but please note that I commented on the altered version without further propagating the image.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you for posting Ted's original image. I really feel for this man. Not only has he been ripped off, he's had his good name sullied, and he's taking a lot of flack for something out of his control. I've followed his story and he really has been a class-act throughout. He has far more patience and understanding than I probably would in the situation.

What's worse is what little regard some people have for the intellectual property of others. Not only that, he's been told by several to "shut up and enjoy all the exposure."

And let's not forget that the alteration was a racist piece of garbage created by a warped mind. I don't know Ted, but I wish I did. I think he needs a hug. He's also a fantastic photographer.

Very nice post by the way. I feel for you. My mom still believes in the "death panels" and "secret Muslim" nonsense. I really do love my parents, but it's hard to fathom some of the things they really seem to believe. They didn't used to be like this. I don't know if it's the political climate or effects of aging, but the older the get, the less rational and more reactionary they become. I don't know why, but it's sad, and can make for some ugly conversations. Like you, I avoid them now. It's just not worth it.