The Village Voice has a response article making its way around the internet this week. The piece is a help column by Andrew W.K. in a reoccurring column called Ask Andrew W.K. On August 6, the featured column was titled, “Help My Dad is a Right-Wing Asshole.” I had four Facebook friends who posted the article’s url and several who reposted. Within the post, “Son of a Right-Winger” makes a short plea to Andrew W.K. in regard to his diminishing relationship with his father who does not share his political perspectives. Andrew W.K. makes some good points in his response including relying on love to trump political differences, encouragement to continue to work on the relationship, and to humanize his father. All of these suggestions hinge on the analysis that “Son of a Right-Winger” has “reduced [himself] to a set of opposing views, and reduced [his] relationship with [his father] to a fight between the two.”
I completely agree with the monstrosity of this situation. The polarity within American politics has breached many families especially as a generational conflict. There are many quantitative surveys available online supporting the generational differences within political, religious, and social mentalities. (For instance, check out The Millennials report at the Pew Research Center as one example). Again, let me reiterate that I think Andrew W.K. offers some great advice to “Son of a Right-Winger.” I agree that we cannot reduce our very essence as humans to a nice package of religiopolitical tenets and we should be wary of projecting such statuses on others. Yet, a part of me thinks that the advice is oversimplified. I think, quite possibly, that Andrew W.K. has never experienced what “Son of a Right-Winger” is describing.
What if the people we encounter and care the most about, especially our family members, have developed a religiopolitical identity that dominates every aspect of their very essence? Let me be more specific. What if a family member, let’s say a parent to align with the advice column, creates a religiopolitical home? A home including religious statements on their walls, runs a 24-hour news service literally 24 hours a day, and feels overwhelmingly passionate that their role is to reform all those others that may disagree. Maybe, that’s the crux. What if the family member(s) constantly “others” you and those within your network (friends, colleagues, etc.)?
At this point does love triumph in the situation or is the circumstance beyond the possibility of hope? Some would suggest separation as the only remedy for this situation. They might claim that the circumstances warrant a distancing for the health of all involved. Nevertheless, this is where I agree the most with Andrew W.K. in the sense that I do not think we should simply give up on the relationship. I tend to agree with the humanizing elements of the advice column. But I think responsibility, not an attempt to be right or wrong, demands us to defend and protect those that we have grown to love who might be outside of the acceptance of our loved ones. Should we not set the record straight when it comes to demeaning comments aimed at religious communities, different socioeconomic groups, or political perspectives, even when those insults are hurled by loved ones?
The struggle for me lies in how to fuse the responsibility with a loving approach. Family issues should be handled with intentional love and care, but this can be quite difficult when every interaction, every encounter feels like stepping into an arena where each battle takes on pivotal significance for a perceived war. Even as I write these words, my heart anguishes for those relationships.
Trying To Love
Image from WikiCommons (and it is quite gruesome.)