American pride in the time of hubris
My father and I were not close growing up. A middle-aged man from a poor and fractured family in Ohio (father dead at 8, mother critical and hard) has very little in common with his pampered upper middle class child. A life of hard labor, and ideas of masculinity tied to provision for the family and career, made my father a conservative republican. He didn’t care much about social issues when he had two kids to raise and a wife to keep house with. I never had to work throughout high school but saw the inequality that ran rampant through our suburb: having a roof and family that encouraged me to be empathetic and artistic led me to put my priorities in people.
Hard-headed and opinionated, we would blow steam and billow at each other like two trains passing on the tracks. My mother, trying desperately to avoid conflict would try to change the subject, and after dinner my sister would ask why I had to pick every battle. I didn’t see it as battling; I saw it as trying to widen a world view- if forcefully.
My father was never hateful, never bigoted, but always conservative- in high school I came out as gay, fearing what fresh fight would ensue. Instead my father joined PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays) at work. He made an effort to talk about my life, and fully embraced the new vocabulary of Dad jokes at his disposal.
After college I came out as transgendered and told my parents I had the intention of beginning testosterone. My father embraced his son with open arms. For all of the years of dinner table squabbles, slammed forks, and accidentally spit food, trying to get my parents to ‘open up their world view’, my father opened mine, and given the opportunity instead of forcefully told to, they’ve opened theirs as well. Because regardless of why we’re yelling today, I will always unconditionally love my parents, and they will unconditionally love me. My dad may love his guns, and I may be verging on embracing socialism, but we know that none of it matters because loving someone, and helping someone, doesn’t require agreeing with them.
For the first time in his 60 years on this Earth- my dad did not vote for the Republican candidate. He didn’t vote for the Democratic one either- opting third party, but my dad was able to set aside his party affiliation and love his country more than his party.
Since the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, Americans have, in a rare flash of occasion, actually become united under more than name. The collective American hangover and piecing together of the blackout election process showed us several things:
-We surrounded ourselves (via social media) with people who share our own voices. We didn’t want discussion, we wanted validation and self-congratulation, thus ensuring a confirmation bias and a confidence we had already won.
-We shared false articles from dubious sources that enforced our opinions, rather than fact checking and remaining informed.
-We ignored our minority siblings when they voiced their concern that situations were more immediate and dire than the privileged majority believed or were experiencing.
-We need to do better.
The knee-jerk is to continue to blame: This side did that, that side has a history of this, violence begets violence, pacifism and cynicism help no one etc…and while certainly, there are groups that find squabbling easier than solving, however, many people are opening their eyes and ears for the first time. Realizing that, while they’re proud to be an American, they are not proud of what America is at the moment, and a change is coming.
Many people only change when they are uncomfortable. America is going through some social and political growing pains, and it took until a plague took a hold of our country for people to realize it was sick at all. So, while I don’t believe Donald Trump is the cure, I believe his sickness is necessary to show us that we need healing. Because if we love our country more than ourselves, we’ll realize that the left and the right wing belong to the same bird, and both are needed to fly. I don’t always agree with my father, neither of us voted for Trump and there are still things we disagree on, but if we can agree that there must be change, that WE must change, that’s a start.