Tuesdays With Daddy: A Look Back on Being a Child of Conservatives

by: Alison Bartlett

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. A time when robocalling is so frequent you think it’s those hooligan kids down the street. A time whe mild-mannered, and for the most part well-intentioned, polititians morph into robotic, vehement, smarmy assholes. This year, it’s the 99% versus the 1%. The Jedi versus the Sith. The Sharks versus the Jets. And aren’t we a fortunate bunch, that we get to revel—nay, wade through—the pomp and circumstance that is the Republican National Primary.  How bad has it gotten, you say? How atrocious are the accusations and the rhetoric and the doublespeak? This year’s presidential race and the rise in obtuse partisanism over the last 12 months has caused one of my closest friends—my dad—to rethink his staunch conservative ways.

Growing up, I really didn’t give a rat’s ass about politics. Even in high school, I think I barely knew the difference between Republicans and Democrats. I even called my very conservative father a Commie once — because I didn’t really know what it meant. He almost beat the living shit out of me. I would have rather died.

After graduating high school, I chose to go to college at Ohio university and moved to Athens, Ohio. This lovely patch of land in Southeast Ohio is a very small town whose mottos are things like: “We’re a drinking town with a football problem” and “Our BAC is higher than your GPA.” [1] [2] Athens is not so unique for a small college town, in that it has a huge university with intellectuals and young people and not much else. I got really into politics just like every other ambitious pre-adult, reveling in that time when you just discover things like Intro to Theology or Philosophy 101.

In 2004, President Bush was up for reelection, and I had just turned 18. Since this would be my first ever election, I watched a lot of news coverage, read papers and even went so far as to try talking to my aforementioned father, who hated my liberal teachers and thought they were teaching me to revolt against the government. (They were not.)  About five minutes into our conversation, he was boasting about a “Thank You” card he received from the Bush administration congratulating him for his donation to the campaign. Sigh.  After the election, I told him how excited I was and that I voted for what I believed in and my vote cancelled out his vote. He three-way dialed my grandpa, and they had a mini-intervention for my liberal ways.

Since then, I’ve been very active in politics not only for the passion I have for the issues, but also because it is a right not all people in this world have. Women as well as men and young people and all races and religions have the ability to vote here in the U.S., and we should always use that privilege to take the chance to educate our communities about our elected officials. Millions of people have died to express their opinions of their own government and take part in its development and our youths are throwing that away.

However, in my early collegeate years, I wasn’t as active in speaking out, and I never discussed politics much with my family. Right after I started college, my mom became a born again Christian, and she suddenly thought everything was wrong. People who swear? Our openly gay cousin? Total sinners. She suddenly had a judgement for everybody, and it got really old really fast. A few years later, when she moved to Alaska (where people apparently don’t give two shits), I tricked her with logic and when she couldn’t answer my questions rationally, she gave in, because common sense always prevails. My mom was a Democrat before and will be a Democrat till she dies.

However, my dad is still a different story. Never has he claimed to be a Republican, only “conservative,” as if anymore the twain weren’t ‘twined. Through the years though, my dad has consistently said one thing and done the complete opposite. My dad hates abortion, hates it so much he’s willing to risk the mother’s life just to make sure that baby’s born. However, he loves the death penalty — because it’s okay to kill an actual person who lives and breathes as they stand but if you terminate the gestation of a zygote, you’re a right bloody monster.

My father once actually said this phrase: “I think Rush Limbaugh is the most intelligent man in the media.” This is a direct quote. He’s a little bit racist, but he also lives in Florida, and that’s America’s wang for a reason.  The same man who wouldn’t even sign a get well card for my grandpa because it had Obama on it — it was supposed to be a joke — is the same man who works for a union, makes less than 50,000 dollars a year, is a single parent, receives food stamps and collects unemployment for part of the year. He works on a Welder’s Union drilling to make room for gas pipelines and they can only work when the ground isn’t frozen, you see.

Since then, I have participated in a groundbreaking election, of which my father had/has nothing but disdain. I went door to door, talking about voting, calling voters and getting opinions. I even went on to work on behalf of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the NRDC and other well-known organizations with Grassroots Campaigns. [4] During that time, I truly fell in love with politics, so much so that I was willing to have those all-out screaming matches with my father, if it meant he would hear me. I would goad him to talk about abortion, gay rights, healthcare, the welfare system—anything.

My dad is a single father, and he was incurring a lot of extra expenses from flying my brother from Florida to Ohio where our family lives or paying an Au Pair while he was working. Living in a motel, driving 50 miles to work and back every day, basically spending a whole lot of money just to get paid. He saves some for when the work’s gone, but it never lasts completely until the next job. He collects money to keep he and my brother safe and healthy.

A few weeks ago, we talked about it on the phone, and he told me how the unemployment office was trying to say he wasn’t eligible for any more funds, as he had used up all the total months allotted to him.

I replied, knowing it would start a fight, “Look, the Republicans chose to cut off your unemployment, and you’re even working most of the year. You voted for these people and didn’t even know what they were talking about! You just picked the ones in red and stuck by it without so much as a thought as to how it would affect you and now that it has, you’re complaining.” He paused for a few seconds and said, “Maybe.”

Baby steps.

Alison Bartlett is a 2007 Graduate of Ohio University. She has a BA in Social Work and is a former Campaign Director for Grassroots Campaigns Chicago.  Alison is an avid singer and is a member of the alt-country duo “Dead and Lovely”. Alison loves to spend her time watching sports, reading The Daily Beast and nurturing her three cats. Yes, three.  She has a loving spouse who enjoys debating politics or social justice issues whenever possible. She recently met George Lucas and felt the force within her, allowing her to die a happy Jedi.  She loves to read and loves TV and movie trivia.

—————————————

[1] “Blood Alcohol Content”

[2] These were — no kidding — printed on shirts with Ohio University’s logo. Go Bobcats!

[3] However, the real sin was her poly-cotton blouses. Zing!

[4] Where I met our co-editor, Nico.

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