Brother of a Right-Winger

by Shaker Anonymous

[Please note: I'm a longtime Shaker who has requested anonymity for this post because it discusses family and I'd like to preserve the privacy of all involved.]

[Content Note: Discussion of dehumanization; stalking.]

My older brother is a Tea Party "conservative"—that is, a right-wing radical, Glenn Beck admiring, self-proclaimed "patriot." His wife is too, and so are his kids. I have hidden the posts of some of these family members in order to keep my Facebook feed tolerable.

Recently, one (unblocked) nephew posted to his Facebook feed a link to an article apparently being approvingly shared among young conservatives. The original article appeared in the Village Voice, which once might have been surprising. (The Independent Journal Review, linked here, touts itself in neutral language as an outside-the-beltway, independent news platform and publisher, but a look at the site makes its right-wing slant obvious.)

You can follow the link but I'll recap here: Some hard rock musician I've never heard of has an advice column each Wednesday in the Voice, called Ask Andrew W.K. Recently, he received a letter from "Son of a Right-Winger" that reads in part:
I'm writing because I just can't deal with my father anymore. He's a 65-year-old super right-wing conservative who has basically turned into a total asshole intent on ruining our relationship and our planet with his politics. I'm more or less a liberal democrat with very progressive values and I know that people like my dad are going to destroy us all. I don't have any good times with him anymore.
And the link-sharing, head-nodding, right-wing approval in the Independent Journal Review comes courtesy of Andrew W.K.'s response, which I quote in part:
Go back and read the opening sentences of your letter. Read them again. Then read the rest of your letter. Then read it again. Try to find a single instance where you referred to your dad as a human being, a person, or a man. There isn't one. You've reduced your father — the person who created you — to a set of beliefs and political views and how it relates to you. And you don't consider your dad a person of his own standing — he's just "your dad."

You've also reduced yourself to a set of opposing views, and reduced your relationship with him to a fight between the two. The humanity has been reduced to nothingness and all that's left in its place is an argument that can never really be won. And even if one side did win, it probably wouldn't satisfy the deeper desire to be in a state of inflamed passionate conflict.

The world isn't being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world. The world is being hurt and damaged by one group of people believing they're truly better people than the others who think differently. The world officially ends when we let our beliefs conquer love. We must not let this happen.
Here follow five paragraphs of increasingly nebulous "advice," which essentially boils down to, "Both sides do it." There is no right or wrong, only Love, or something like that. "Live with a truly open mind—the kind of open mind that even questions the idea of an open mind," whatever that means.

Now, taken in bits and pieces, some of this "advice," which seems to be striking young right-wingers as wisdom, seems indisputable. But it's all banalities and bromides.

As has been said in posts here at Shakesville fully eleventy biebillion times, this shit doesn't happen in a vacuum. Politics leads to policy, and many of the policies pushed by the reactionary right-wing hurt people. The politics used to push the policies dehumanize people. Most progressives aren't arguing that, say, the Koch brothers aren't human beings. But they're terrible human beings whose shitty priorities are literally damaging to other human beings.

Any progressive who has far-right relatives, who has hidden those relatives' Facebook posts or blocked them entirely, who has avoided said relatives at family gatherings, can probably identify with "Son of a Right-Winger." Surely a better response than, "He's your dad, so love him," could have been offered—especially as "Son" had professed his continued love for his father. Perhaps keeping oneself safe from any harmful outbursts and staying true to one's own values in the face of them would be the way to go.

A word about Andrew W.K.: He's apparently best known for songs about partying, one of which was featured in a Girls Gone Wild CD. (He also released a track a few years ago that he wrote and recorded at 17 about stalking a girl on which he had a crush because he "was advised by my personal manager and life coach to finally let people hear it, to resolve the nightmare [of having had a juvenile restraining order put on me, which lasted until I was 21].") He's a self-styled self-help guru and motivational speaker. As is the case with all too many "advice" columns, he's pushing easy solutions and can't be bothered to examine the actual, serious issues brought up by his correspondents. He supports the status quo, which is more often than not hostile to many of the humans he claims to care about. As a consequence his "advice" is useless.

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