My father and I talk almost daily, with roughly 50% of our conversations focusing on weather and traffic, another 25% on updates such as my daughter lost her first tooth or my son got an A on a French test, and the last 25% of real life stuff like how many more rounds of chemo for my aunt who has ovarian cancer. Sometimes I ask him about tools, renovation projects, and whether he tried the new dark chocolate covered mangoes from Costco? Rarely, the conversation veers towards politics. Last week it did.
I avoid discussions centering on religion or politics much like I avoid games like Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft. I have enough to discuss in this great big world without having to dip into topics in which I lack expertise.
My father is a logical man, liberal even. He is married to a woman 30 years his junior and became a father for the third time at age 57. He lives without age or society as constraints to his happiness. When I was 19, he had no problem allowing my first serious boyfriend to sleep over in my bed – and within a few months, to essentially move into our basement, where I slept with him nightly – for about 6 months before we moved out into our own apartment.
My father was understanding and open minded when I married a man from a different culture and religion. My father was also supportive and helpful when I got divorced, was a single mom, moved in with my artist boyfriend, had a second child, and five years after that got married again when he proudly walked me down the aisle and tearfully toasted us. When my husband serenaded me with three songs, he was his biggest fan. My dad is vegan, takes great care of his body and at 67 can still lift double his weight. He’s pro life, pro gay marriage, pro everything I thought I was pro … until we had this phone conversation.
It went something like this, “Blah, blah, blah, beautiful weather, blah, blah, blah, and that’s why we have to vote for Donald Trump.”
“Wait, wait. What?” I started laughing. Truthfully I didn’t catch every word of the rant leading up to the having to vote for Donald part, but it didn’t matter. I thought he was joking at first; typical sarcasm from the pragmatic Russian.
“But we’re immigrants!” I’m insistent, raising my voice, outraged. “In fact, we’re refugees!” We defected from the former Soviet Union and did not have a home to which to return. My parents didn’t leave Kiev, the only home they ever knew, thinking they’d try out New York City and if not, settle back into their one bedroom apartment. They fled because of the communist regime, antisemitism, and the constant waiting in line for toilet paper. They came to America for freedom, for the pursuit of happiness, and so their daughter can go to any college without having to worry she would be declined because she was a Jew.
“You’re OK with Trump telling the immigrants to stay away?” This was hypocrisy with an exclamation point. Yet he is one of the thousands in the Russian Jewish community who are Team Trump.
“They have to keep the terrorists out of our country. This is ridiculous what has happened to this country. We have to put an end to this.”
It’s hard to see your parents close their minds because of fear or PTSD or even old age. There was a filthy stench of hypocrisy in the air between our conversation. He was retroactively changing his morals to fit his needs. It was OK for him to enter without climbing over a wall, but now, “Build That Wall!”
Our first apartment was in Queens, a diverse immigrant hub; New York City is the quintessential American microcosm. You can find every nationality and religion here with a coordinating food and clothing store. That’s the essence of what makes America majestic with its red, white and blue glory. It’s why we tear up when we hear the Star Spangled Banner. Because what else makes it the land of the free and the home of the brave? Because this country accepted us with open arms and gave us healthcare when we needed it and food stamps when we couldn’t afford bread and milk. Because this country allowed their daughters go to any college they wanted (two each, thank you very much).
I don’t remember much more of our conversation. Nothing seemed to make sense after my father said I had to vote for Trump. His words sounded like baby talk. Goo-goo, ga-ga. His nonsense was just as ridiculous as the stuff Trump was spewing. My father seemed possessed.
He sounded like an idiot. 37 years ago he was a refugee with a wife and a four-year-old daughter, two suitcases and a bucket of dreams. How quickly he turned into an entitled American who is now a grandfathered-in immigrant. Did he get brainwashed by Fox News? For years, my father’s predominant news source was Howard Stern, now he’s only on SiriusXM. Father’s Day is coming up and I am getting my father a subscription just through the election!