My dad is one of my favorite people to talk politics with. He’s intelligent, he’s well-read, and he has a very broad knowledge base which I find helpful as someone who tends to zero in on more specific sub-topics and at times miss the larger context. He’s one of the kindest human beings I have ever met, let alone had the blessing of being related to. Though he may make mistakes like anyone, he has a strong moral compassion for humanity, and he takes the idea of turning your other cheek and loving your enemy to heart.
He has a way of seeing the best in everyone, and trying to eke out their reasons for why they believe as they do. Which is probably why he is one of the few people who I can speak with about any topic, no matter how uncomfortable, and theorize and make hypothetical points to shape my views, without fear that he will castigate me for it.
I respect him a lot. He is the person who taught me not what to think, but how to think .
He’s also, perhaps unsurprisingly, a liberal – one with a distinct disdain for “bleeding hearts” who proclaim tolerance while being “the most intolerant people on the planet”, but a liberal nonetheless.
He’s also an Eastern Orthodox Christian, so he has a lot of socially conservative views, including being strongly pro life, in favor of the traditional family, etcetera. However, if I had to label him, I’d definitely say he’s a semi social conservative who falls into the liberal camp on all but a few topics.
I know my father’s views pretty well – but I also think that I know him as a person better than almost anyone else. I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours talking to him about the big things in life. Politics, religion, philosophy, society, everything that keeps me awake late at night wondering about this world we’ve found ourselves in. Even as a child, he was a window into a world of deeper thoughts and big questions. And yet, since moving to the right myself, I have been puzzled by his political views. And when something intrigues me, I tend to want to figure it out, even if it’s just to square the information away in my own mind.
My dad will probably read this, he’ll probably disagree with parts of it, and yet, he won’t be defensive. He’ll want a discussion, and I’ll come out on the other side having learned something more.
We had a conversation the other day which made me finally have a bit of an “aha!” moment in understanding my father’s political leanings.
My father is a liberal because he believes that everyone is fundamentally good – or, at the very least, that everyone wishes to abide by the golden rule, at least to some degree.
In that recent conversation (one that did not seem pivotal, but that I now see has changed everything) we were talking about Islam. Not about my view that Islamic culture is fundamentally different from Judeo-Christian culture and that it is antithetical to the golden rule (although that was part of what was said), but about how I approached speaking about the topic more generally.
My dad is a dad. My dad is my dad. He is the patriarch of my family (ooh, scary patriarchy in action!), and for his three daughters to be growing up and going into the world not only in the physical “leaving the nest” sense, but intellectually, is something that I’m sure is new and frightening for him. When my son is all grown up, I’m sure I’ll be the same way. It’s the natural order of things.
He worries. He worries about my other two sisters, but in a lot of ways, I think he worries even more about me. And honest? He has a reason to worry about me. Talking about what I talk about has risks – no matter how small they
may be at the moment. No, I’m not covering a war zone, but dangerous ideas are still dangerous, even if the danger never materializes as any sort of violence.
His point was this: that I should make sure to clarify constantly that though I staunchly criticize Islam, I reject violence and will never encourage others to commit violence against Muslims.
This is true about me. Of course this is true. I am not a violent person. I don’t hate Muslims. I hate Islam, an ideology, a set of ideas. I can say the same for feminism as an idea – I hate it, and I believe it is evil. I could say the same about a number of things, I’m sure.
But having hate in my heart for human beings, even ones I believe to be committing evil, is not something I try to foster within myself. Anyone who reads what I write would likely know this instinctively – but those who would wish me harm, be it social, or legal, or even physical?
No amount of telling them this will ever make a difference.
Dad, you are wrong about how to approach this topic.
You say you believe man is evil, and yet, you think I can avoid their evil by assuming their good?
Virtue signalling can’t save me. And though I will say what I believe, even if it comes across as virtue signalling at times, I will not intentionally pander to those who want harm to come to me by telling them of the good I believe in.
It has taken me time to think of this, let alone to say it “out loud”, because my dad has always, to my knowledge, believed that human beings have a fundamental tendency to be evil, and must always be correcting themselves and actively striving to be like God.
We’ve debated this topic – are human beings good, or evil – many times over the years.
For a long time, I said “good” and he said “evil”, and my little idealist mind couldn’t believe how he saw humanity – why would God create human beings with free will if He did not see them as fundamentally good? I may not know, gun to my head, what “side” I am on today, and I know I have years of learning to do, but at least I am finally beginning to understand the argument.
And I’m beginning to understand that maybe my father is still shaping his views, too.
There have been so many times in my life where my dad’s wisdom has come to be true, and I’ve grown up to understand, and even take, his positions. I am thankful he has always given me the time, and the trust that I would eventually develop my own views, not because they would come to match his, but because they would come to be right.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m diverging from him. Not on a simple issue, like who supports gay marriage or weed legalization, but on something bigger.
I think I’ve found a chink in his thinking, and that’s a scary thing to think about, even as a hypothetical possibility. My dad is right, isn’t he? He understands the world, doesn’t he?7
He is wise, and I am young and wondering. Isn’t that true?
I remember him always saying that though the legal age of majority is 18, you are not an adult until you’re 21.
When I was 18, I thought he was wrong.
When I was 21, I agreed he was right.
And now, seven days before I turn 25, I think he was wrong all along.
Though I may have been competent at 18, and capable at 21, and intelligent at both ages, I wasn’t an adult until now. Not because I’m on the right wing politically, not because of any specific view, but because of the way I have evolved in my thinking.
I have grown up under my father’s intellectual umbrella. I have, at times, stuck a hand out to catch the rain. More times than that, I have put my foot into the mud, losing a shoe in the process.
But today, at 25, as someone who has lived for a quarter century, I am stepping out into the downpour.
Will I be wrong about things today that will be obvious to me at 50? Will I look back and see myself as naive? I suspect I will. But will I ever go back under that umbrella just to avoid the fear that I may be wrong?
I don’t think I will. Even when my dad turns out to be right again, even when he shapes my ideas, even when he teaches me something new, it is different now, and it will be different for the rest of my life.
I can’t go back. I am no longer a protege. I’m on my own, the rain is cold, and my mind is seeking truth.
Virtue signalling can’t save me. But I know I will be okay.