when i was a teenager, i’d often stay up late, wrestling with this or that, frustrated that i couldn’t find <quote-01>closure<quote-01> with some issue: a fight with a friend, a disagreement with a teacher, or--as was more often the case--a matter of the heart. you can’t solve everything in a day, my father would say.
but dad, there are still votes coming in! <quote-02>the networks<quote-02> are going to call it, i can imagine my teenage self whining as he stomps from the webber family den and off to bed. i imagine him <quote-03>staying awake for hours, secretly monitoring the count on his phone<quote-03>. go to bed, says anthony, the electoral college will still be there in the morning.
watching the initial numbers on election night, i was conscious not to voice any shock on the thread. acknowledging such an untoward outcome felt too much like baiting the baseball gods, like prematurely celebrating a victory or something. what was it max said? that he needed to reexamine his faith in mankind? something like that. i’d scroll back to find his precise wording, but it’s buried too deep in the thread. you can’t be serious, i wanted to say, but i didn’t, because i knew he was.
it is now friday evening. by the time we got up this morning, biden had taken leads in <quote-04>georgia and pennsylvania<quote-04>.
after therapy this afternoon i needed to keep talking. i threw casey under the bus earlier this year for admitting he’d called me after a session; well, that was me now. how was therapy? sarah asked, and that was enough of an invitation. sick of reading about the left’s disappointment in <quote-05>the margin of victory<quote-05> on social media, i embarked on a rant that might have lasted hours when ben began to fuss. this baby is having a tough day, sarah said. oh yeah? i asked. yeah, he cried the whole time you were in therapy. / why, do you think? i asked. i don’t know, she said. i’m guessing it’s because we’re hitting our next development leap. he ate a little bit and then he just, like... fussed and fussed.
she took ben into the bedroom to see if a change of environment wouldn’t help. i needed some air. i decided i’d go for walk, maybe give a friend a call. i didn’t want to take cooper, but if i didn’t take him out now, i’d have to take him out later, so i leashed him up.
you know, i’m struck by sarah’s description of ben’s fussiness as i relate it here. what a tidy representation of growth, both personal and societal: it’s slow, it happens in spurts, and it’s uncomfortable.
bless you, ben.
before reaching the end of the block, i decided to try my father. i was curious what he’d been hearing about the election, curious what his thoughts were. <quote-06>i mean, hey, what better way to celebrate democracy this week than a conversation between the colors, am i right?<quote-06> isn’t this what social media has hijacked? the conversation? we are the products now, bought and sold, <quote-07>our subjectivities objectified<quote-07>. as i’ve expressed many times on the dodger thread this year, i’m more wary of the landscape than i am of the people perched atop it. trump, like anyone who rises to power, is a person of his time. well, what times are these? what type of person might he presage? what dark aspect of ourselves? my thoughts lie here.
unfortunately, i felt like <quote-08>i already knew<quote-08> what my father’s responses regarding trump and the election would be: he’d humor me with minimal engagement then avoid the topic with a slew of anywayses and whatevers. i was frustrated at not having sarah’s ear, frustrated at ben for taking up the space sarah had offered me. perhaps there was part of me that just wanted to pick a fight, a part that knew my father would have to suffer me, same as i had to suffer ben.
just keep your mouth shut and listen, <quote-09>i told myself when he picked up<quote-09>. unlike with sarah, it is not your own thought you are trying to refine. / aha! there’s that true-blue sanctimony! a mouthier side of me responded. / oh, for christ’s sake, your father is not the red before he’s your father. / no no, of course not. the father above all, come now.
he was home by himself. debbie had taken grandma out to get her hair done. after some small talk i brought up the issues at hand. he said he’d kept the televised news off for the most part, favoring the numbers and articles on his phone. i should have asked what publications, but i imagine they are more of <quote-10>the fox news<quote-10> than the q-anon variety. when later in the conversation i offhandedly mentioned q-anon--was he aware of such fringe conspiracy theories? was i aware of the extent to which they’d become mainstream?--he quickly dismissed them with a sharp, “oh, no, no, no.” ok good, i thought.
i let him talk, and talk he did. i was surprised. you want to know why i voted for trump? i’ll tell you why i voted for trump. i voted for trump, not because of his personality, but because of his policies. a rachel maddow advert i’d been seeing on nbc came to mind: watch what they do, not what they say. he went on for thirty or so very inspired minutes, talking about the economy and the rise of the middle class--prior to the pandemic, of course. he mentioned how 401ks were up, unemployment--specifically minority unemployment, and again, prior to the pandemic--was at an all-time low, and how the middle class was six thousand dollars a year richer as a result of <quote-11>tax cuts<quote-11>. not me, i thought to myself, his tax policy fucked me hard. you’re an unincorporated actor with a manager and agent collecting on a w2, that’s twenty-five percent of your income you never get to see, and all of it taxed. this from trump, but i kept it to myself; it was anecdotal.
he talked about trump forcing nato to pay their fair share and about bringing factory jobs back to middle america after obama had sent them overseas. what he promised he’d do, he (pause for emphasis) did. that’s why i’m voting for him, ok? it’s not personality, it’s <quote-12>policy<quote-12>.
when i later said i’d bet the farm he didn’t vote for trump in the primaries four years ago, he confirmed that he did not. no, no, it wasn’t him. golly, who was it i voted for? he wondered.
he went on to mention israel and the president’s acknowledgement of jerusalem as the capital of the nation, something presidents had been saying they were going to do for decades now. he...did... it, my father proudly affirmed. and you want to call this man a racist? he gave funding to black colleges like they have never had before. full funding. how can you say this man is a racist when he does that? again, it’s not the personality, it’s the policy. it’s policy that matters to me, ok? he went on to gesture at abortion, saying i knew his views on the subject and that they were not going to change.
then he talked about the pandemic. he mentioned shutting down the borders and how the democrats were against trump doing it, but how he did it because he knew it had to be done. he cited a third quarter growth this year that he feels confident will be lost under a biden administration. he’s gonna shut the country back down, you watch, and people across the country are going to pay for it.
<quote-13>this is good<quote-13>, i thought. he’s talking, he’s sharing his views, and he’s excited to be doing so.
when i asked him what his thoughts were about the election, he brought up the lack of transparency he was seeing, how republicans were not being allowed into rooms to oversee the count, and how ballots from select areas were coming back one hundred percent in favor of biden, a statistic he found highly unlikely. yes, i said, that is highly unlikely, or--more likely than not--a <quote-14>false claim<quote-14>, no?
i explained what i had heard about these claims of foul play and what i’d gleaned from watching recent interviews with the secretaries of state in nevada and pennsylvania. here were folks who were obviously worn thin, doing their best to communicate clearly and effectively, displaying a deep concern for transparency, just trying to get the job done right. you know what i think about when i see these masked folks on tv tallying ballots? i said. i think about my time working at the census, about all those forms i couldn’t make heads or tails of, forms with simple yes/no questions, and i can tell you one thing for sure, the majority of the uncounted ballots will have nothing to do with foul play. you’re telling me a few thousand ballots were found in a river? this matters not. more care has gone into attempting to properly count poorly filled out ballots than went into filling them out, i’ll tell you what. and in the middle of a pandemic? socially distanced, in masks, and under those fluorescents? god bless these folks.
my temperature was beginning to rise. i was talking for longer and longer stretches without letting my dad get a word in. hell, after listening to his lengthy report on what he felt were trump’s merits, i felt justified in doing so. <quote-15>the wheels started to come off, or maybe not come off, but rattle around on their spokes as they sped over the rough terrain<quote-15>.
any suspicions of foul play should be fully looked into and ruled upon in the courts, no question, i offered, but i can’t imagine trump will accept any ruling that doesn’t go his way. can you? he didn’t respond. perhaps trump has to go because he is a threat to democracy itself. democracy above all, no? / yes, my father agreed. good, i thought. i attempted to qualify the personality that my father claimed he was able to overlook, describing how, despite dispersions from the media, there was something in trump that was indeed rotten, <quote-16>an irrefutable personality disorder<quote-16>. i didn’t want to discuss all the policy details because i didn’t know all the policy details, and while i was surprised by the list of talking points my father had hit on, they felt like just that to me: talking points, claims he’d offhandedly seen come across his news feed. politics is not a sport for which my father is willing to wear a hat; he gives the news none of the attention he gives the crossword.
although, come to think of it, it’s also possible that i’m overreaching here. <quote-17>perhaps he does identify within the sport<quote-17>. i do remember listening to hours of rush limbaugh during long stretches of our family road trips as a kid. hoke’s description of the calvinist ethic is here very useful, although i can see my father disagreeing with the leaders of his church as well, so the locus of the power doesn’t quite fit the bill. we could ask whether it isn’t the wrathful calvinist tone itself that appeals; however, i can see my father disparaging such a tone when used by the left.
what i do have a strong sense of is that there are questions my father refuses to ask, ideas he will not entertain. what scares him the most? i’ve often wondered. what would he <quote-18>sooner die than admit to himself<quote-18>?
to return to our conversation, it was dark out. i was pacing the perimeter of <quote-19>the neighborhood ball field<quote-19> with cooper tethered to my wrist, enumerating the reasons trump was bad for the country when my father interrupted me: i’m not sure what’s going on, but i’m seeing double. / what do you mean? i asked. / if i close one eye, i can see fine, he said, but with both open, i’m seeing double. my vision is not right for some reason. he tried to pass it off as a mere curiosity, but i could hear the fear in his voice. <quote-20>something was wrong, and he didn’t know what it was<quote-20>. he could label the effect but not the cause.
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