There it is, you guys!
For anyone who happened to catch my piece about my 86-year old dad a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to post an update.
After that piece ran, Pajiba was contacted by two documentary filmmakers who wanted to shoot a short film leading up to the election: specifically, why would a decent man, like my father, ever vote for a man like Donald Trump?.
The Pajiba owners and I met with the filmmakers over the phone, and they were awesome. Like-minded. Smart. We got along with them immediately. It’s nice when that happens. And so we decided that how we’d approach it is that we would just film him and me watching the final debate on October 19th.
I would then hammer him with questions and call him a deluded old goat and he would rip me to shreds and mock my trusting, foolish nature and we’d laugh our asses off. This is seriously what happens every time we get together. Ask my kids.
I didn’t clear the plan with my old man ahead of time. Why?
Because after the original piece ran, I read it aloud to him and he didn’t like it at all. He thought that the comments section where people praised him was the saddest thing he’d ever heard because he DOESN’T DESERVE PRAISE. People should do the right thing, period.
And helping other people is ALWAYS the right thing. It’s a binary issue. There’s no grey area.
You help whoever you can, however you’re able, for as long as you can.
And that’s it.
He was concerned that self-directed volunteerism and an innate sense of public duty seems to be so rare that it merits notice, and he fears for our country in the face of so many people who always think of themselves first.
So when I asked him casually what he was doing for the final debate he was suspicious.
“Why?” He asked. “Because you want to make fun of me during it?”
“Yes, actually.” I said. “And I’d like to come over to your house and record it for posterity, and broadcast it to the whole goddamn planet so your lasting legacy can be an excuse-making, apologist donkey.”
He chuckled at that.
“It’s the only thing I’m actually GOOD AT, my boy.” He said. “But you know I only get the four channels.” (He didn’t want to pay for cable anymore and doesn’t have a lot of money, so I bought him an HD antenna and he only gets what he can pull from the air, which is usually four or five channels).
And then I told him about the doc filmmakers, and that they enjoyed the piece and found the dichotomy between his actions and his politics intriguing. I laid out how this would work, that we’d need to follow him around and get some B roll of him actually picking up and delivering furniture. Interacting with refugees. Sitting in a pew at church. And so on.
He just listened, kind of shocked.
“You’re telling me that a grown man wants to follow me around with a camera all day?” My dad asked.
“Yes. Two grown men, actually. And possibly a sound guy. I don’t know yet. That’s their job.”
“That’s not a job.” My dad said. He’s 86.
I did my best impression of his voice (which I also do every time):
“Carrying stacks of pressure-treated 6x6’s from one place to another in the Autumn sun — THAT’S A JOB! Changing your brake pads in the middle of the winter, your fingers so cold you can’t bend them — NOW THAT’S A JOB! Throwing open the door of your landing craft and charging straight into the teeth of the German guns for your country, now that’s A GODDAMN JOB!!”
“You’re goddamn right it is!” My dad laughed.
So he agreed, reluctantly. And I said, “listen, as with any creative endeavor, lots of pieces have to fall into place. Maybe this will happen, and maybe it won’t, but that’s the tentative schedule.”
And then something happened. He started to think much harder about his decision. He started to take it more seriously because people who saw him might feel the way he felt, and then his position —yea or nay — might inform the position of others.
And maybe somewhere in there, he started edging closer to seeing the Republican candidate for who he really is.
And as he was thinking about all of this, the video of Donald Trump talking about sexually harassing women broke.
That was it for my dad. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Because although he has a lot of cultural misogyny built into him that he’s not even remotely aware of, on his worst day, he’d never grab a woman by the vagina.
And he’s spent more hours in locker rooms than Donald Trump, and he’s never heard a man not only utter something that repugnant, but to brag about it? Good Lord. That, to him, is the hallmark of a sick mind.
And he’d never be able to lie to himself about supporting someone that was not only capable of that, but brazen about it.
And, so, on one fine October day, that was that. One more lifelong conservative tucked his presidential vote back into his pocket with a sigh.
My dad is angry about the direction of the Republican party, and angry that the Democrats are the only home for ‘young people’ like me.
He laments the fact that strong democracies should be rooted in an informed, intellectual, polite exchange of ideas.
He’s worried about a civilization where one party demonizes learning, and how that specific choice means that the other party will probably surge forward without another party to balance it.
He thinks it’s great to have one party pushing a socially progressive agenda of growth and change, as long as you have another party reining them in with an agenda of fiscal conservatism. “You can have all your toys, as long as I don’t have to PAY FOR THEM.”
He’s sick to death of the obstructionism displayed when Senators sworn to uphold the laws of the country refuse to just do their job and vote yea or nay on the Supreme Court Justice nominated by a sitting president. He thinks NO WAY this happens to a white president.
He’s sick of both the rampant racism he sees every day and the out-of-control entitlements in this country, and a system that he feels just plain cannot survive with that kind of spending.
He hates how we, as a country, seem to baby everyone and give them free money instead of teaching them accountability and a trade and empowering them to rise up and take control of their lives and get off the goddamn government teat.
He hates the idea of children feeling confused, or misunderstood, or hungry. He hates thinking about kids in the winter without proper coats. He hates that some kids don’t have a dad to sit next to them and do their homework with them. He hates that so many single mothers don’t have someone to just pop over and say “I’ll watch the kids. You take a nap.” (He does this for people all the time.)
He’s sick of being lied to about climate change and wishes he could trust one party, one way or the other.
He can’t believe how easily everyone lies these days. Without shame of any kind.
He’s fed up with politicians lying to constituents and the government engaging in heinous shit that no decent human could ever justify.
He thinks the type of person attracted to public office is EXACTLY the wrong type of person for public office. He thinks this is only getting worse and that flashy people with great sound bites will become the norm, and intelligent, thoughtful, considerate and compassionate people would never run for office these days. He wants a bunch of principled, shy, bean-counters in congress. Not the blowhards on both sides we have now.
He’s worried that as a gun-owner, the national agenda about gun ownership seems to be trending away from his position, and highlighting the worst 0.001% of its members.
He thinks that any group would have difficulty defending themselves if they were judged by the craziest and most destructive members.
He can’t stand that the youth of America doesn’t rise up and DEMAND term limits, because for him it’s the one thing that could make sure that a congress with an approval rating in the SINGLE DIGITS doesn’t get so entrenched that a certain number of incumbents (from either party) could do too much damage.
He’s pissed off at all of these things, which seem so OBVIOUS to him and anyone with half a brain, and he quotes Voltaire to me all the time, except he credits the quote to Mark Twain.
And in general, he’s disappointed as hell that after eighty-six years in this country, paying taxes loyally and serving his country in the U.S. Navy, that he doesn’t have a presidential candidate who he feels personally comfortable casting a vote for.
That’s what he would call “a damn shame.”
So in the wake of the Trump video, he called me and said “I’m not voting for Trump. I thought you’d be happy to hear that, my boy.”
“I love you, dad.” I said.
“Oh shut up.” He laughed.
Now, he’s not going so far as to actually cast a vote for Hillary. For him that seems to be a bridge too far.
But he’s not going to give his precious vote to a “sleaze,” as he calls him. And in this election year? Well, that’s good enough.
Thought you all would like to know.
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