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Parents and Politics

Posted 02-13-2010 at 04:24 PM by Kael

Well, it's been more than a year since I posted anything, thought I'd have at it again. Trouble is, I can't think of anything to talk about, so we'll see where this goes.

I'm not sure what to do about my dad and our relationship. Since I got out on my own I've enjoyed going over to his place or inviting him to mine and talking. I've undoubtedly spent much more time in discourse with him in the past 3 years than I had in all the time preceding it. Mostly we talk about the kind of things that are off-limits in polite dinner conversation, religion and politics. Our religious discussions are still interesting, but usually only happen now when one of us thinks of something new. I am an atheist and a strong agnostic, my father is a lapsed mormon. He still maintains his faith in that system of beliefs, though he does not attend for personal reasons. Like many people his faith is deeply bound up with his political ideals, and vice versa. Through years of gradual discussion, demonstration, explanation, and effort I have chipped away at some of those more egregiously ignorant ideas, such as his all too typical distaste for evolutionary biology.

For perspective, my dad is an avid follower of Rush Limbaugh, used to listen to Hannity regularly (he doesn't anymore because he says he finds it depressing, but I have no idea why that doesn't apply to Limbaugh as well), and at one time read and believed every book Ann Coulter wrote, or near enough. When I was younger and more closely followed both the religious and political ideology of my parents, he offered me books by Hannity and Coulter, and I devoured every word of them, to the point where I myself had those 'evilution' arguments with people who knew better. Of course, when I bothered to study the subject I saw all the myriad errors of reasoning and the ignorance required both to disparage modern biology and to presume that it is incompatible with good Christian faith. (more on this later)

The interesting thing that happens with our religious discussions is that my dad often feels compelled to come to the defense of the more fanatical varieties of Christianity when I point out the problems both in their reasoning, or lack thereof, and those caused by their fanaticism, despite the fact that I don't really consider him to be in that category anymore. Though there are times... I've tried to explain to him that denouncing the idiocy and bigotry of other people in the name of Christ does nothing to disparage his own faith, provided he does not give in to the same ignorance and bigotry. Sometimes I think that gets through, sometimes not.

Our political discussions are beginning to reach an impasse, and have escalated to shouting matches on more than one occasion. I would prefer not to suspend such discussions just to keep a civil relationship with my father, but sometimes I wonder if it is possible. Perhaps primarily because of his still wholehearted absorption of Limbaugh et al. and their rhetoric, he constantly assumes that my support of some actions of the current administration equates to support of everything, and constantly repeats talking points that I have already researched and found nothing substantive to support.

He continually tells me, for example, that universal health care of any kind, shape, or flavor will simply not work, and will deny more people care than the current US system does, despite all my efforts to show him the mountains of data that refute such a claim, both from countries that have forms of universal care and from States within our own country that do. He seems to believe that once universal coverage of health care is assumed in any form, suddenly all the hospitals will fold up and all the doctors will flee to other countries where they can make more money, etc., and I'm increasingly certain that he believes this primarily because it's been shouted into his attentive ears every day for years. I don't even know how to approach that one anymore.

Though our talks on the particulars of the modern political arena often reach stalemate, out discussions on the philosophies of politics are usually a little more fruitful. I find it difficult to pin down my own political beliefs in just a few words, but they encompass such ideas as social contracts, universal suffrage, and mixed economics, along with a belief that we are all better off when the least of us is better off, and that one of the functions of government is to assist the least of us. I also believe in religious freedom, and I believe only a secular government can continue to guarantee those freedoms for all of its citizens, a point on which we often argue.

My dad's beliefs are an amalgamation of economic libertarianism and civil conservatism, and he continually repeats the maxim 'that governs best which governs least', though he does acknowledge that it has a lower limit and does not consider himself any flavor of anarchist. Rather, he asserts that government is a necessary evil, and that the less of it we can get away with the better. In many areas we find agreement, but our overall philosophies remain mostly incompatible, and I enjoy discussing those differences and trying to pry both his reasoning and my own out into the open.

Though it might seem odd given how different our beliefs are today, my discussions with him on religion and politics are largely to thank for my current beliefs, values, and philosophies. Such discussions help me see my own reasoning in a different light, spot errors in it, and examine the reasoning of others on the same questions, and most of my discussions on those topics have been with my dad. It has been out of the crucible of our clashing, opposing ideas that mine have taken more substantial and complete form, if you'll forgive me the momentary lapse into purple prose.

I hope in the future we are able to continue those discussions without alienating each other, though I sometimes wonder if that is possible. I will be saddened if we must suspend those discussions in order to have holiday dinners together, as he had to with his parents.

This one is long enough for now I think, but I'll try to get more in before the month is out. I'd like to talk about some of my recent thoughts on religion, and also cover some more light-hearted topics, such as gaming and novels. I maybe be able to pick up a new game in the foreseeable future, and if so you can expect a full review.
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