by Alex Lee
I can't really recall my dad being political when we were growing up. However, as time has passed, he's definitely become more conservative. After a career of working in the predominantly black District of Columbia, having his home broken into, having his wife mugged in broad daylight, this hardworking man from China became quite vocal against other minorities including non-Chinese Asians, Latinos, and African-Americans. He watches that conservative news network that was ruled to be not news but entertainment, primarily for the blondes.
I'm thinking about how this all came about.
My dad is retired now. His home is paid off and, while it's still in that same Maryland suburb, he's got that security company sign on his front lawn.
I suppose you could say that he's worked his whole life and now his priorities have changed. He's not working to support the family anymore, he's living to preserve what he's accumulated. Instead of being proactive about building wealth, he now has to be defensive about retaining it. I believe a lot of retiring baby boomers have this exact same outlook. Some have summarized it as "I got mine, f*ck you." This mindset seems to evolve into a "paranoid vigilance" where any drains to the economy or any measures of welfare programs are seen as direct personal attacks on the retiree's nest eggs. My dad pays his taxes every year and, although nobody can tell you exactly where each and every dollar is spent, he's quick to conclude that *some* of those dollars are going to unemployed minorities. But instead of being happy about that, he along with many, many others who view that same news channel feel threatened.
We all age and we are all susceptible to this exact same progression. One moment, you're feeding an infant at 2:30 a.m. and before you know it, you're shoving them out the door to college so you can transform their bedroom into a reading nook. When the children have moved out and you are now identified as "grand" instead of just "mom" — everyone will tell you to refocus. You are inundated with AARP brochures full of other elderly people trying to entertain each other. Daytime television is full of commercials asking you about your health every 10 minutes, whether you have enough life insurance or if your investment portfolios are too aggressive in between ads for cyberthieves that can take your entire identity so sign up for this expensive program and by the way, we'll throw in a free wallet with a handy magnifying glass. As you've become older, the world has become faster and scarier. Let us help you with that fear for just nine monthly payments...
That doesn't seem attractive to me right now.
I have built a career on helping people every day. I originally wanted to be a doctor at age nine — wanting to help people. I soon realized that computers are a lot more forgiving but people are just as thankful for recovering their mp3 collection as they are for an MRI scan. Social media keeps me engaged in the lives of so many friends. I see diversity each and every day.
In contrast, my dad only socializes occasionally. He's done with the workforce. He doesn't need to take orders from any more supervisors and he doesn't have to manage any more unqualified underlings. He is free. But there isn't a whole lot of dialog between him and the mostly-liberal family members. We're not as entertaining as Megyn Kelly.
Conservative news doesn't need to make logical sense, it just needs to make quick sense because my dad has exhausted his patience. He wants a quick solution to everything. If we're poor, then get rid of poor people. If there are terrorists, then drop a giant bomb. Companies provide jobs so give companies more. If his granddaughter is talking smack, then... get grandma. This election cycle brought all of this to light. I knew my dad was republican but I just didn't know HOW Republican until now. It seems to be a common thread across social media - Trump's victories have illustrated how pervasive the hate and desperation is and how a campaign can be incredibly successful if you tap into fear and anger.
He said he's worried that Social Security may not be around for his granddaughter and grandson. Neither of us are geopolitical economists so we agree to disagree on this point: I say it's not worth worrying about while he wants to vote for the egomaniac who might do something (positive or negative, who's to say?). But it's this motivation that often gets lost when I read about Trump supporters. My dad really does care for us, it's just that we disagree on the solution. I can't attack him like any other Trump supporter because he's my dad, and it’s particularly hard for him to accept when so far he's been so great at solving problems on his own.
So, how do we stop this seemingly inevitable slide into the Red? Election after election, it seems the elderly consistently vote Republican in greater and greater numbers.
- Stop being afraid: Fear has catapulted Donald Trump to the Republican ticket nomination. He tells you to be afraid of Mexicans, Syrian refugees, North Koreans, China, African-Americans, and several other demographics. Learn how to not be afraid — I find the best method is through Google.
- Recognize what you can't control: Social Security may very well dry up. Gas could skyrocket to $5 a gallon again. These are outside of our control so worrying about it doesn't help the situation. If something sensible can be done, then work toward that. Just don't blindly blame the brown person.
- Make more connections: The more you know about a person or a people, the better. Talk or chat with people. Build friendships. Don't isolate yourself inside huge, expensive walls. You might learn that people are just as American as you are. They do want to get off of welfare or unemployment as soon as yesterday and just need a little help.
- Value people over stuff: Engage your neighbors. Listen to their music. Invite them over for dinner. Be part of a community again. If they like you, they're less likely to rob your home and you don't need to shoot anybody. If they do rob you, try to help them in some other way, but don't hold an entire ethnicity to one individual's bad decisions.
- Put the research in: Like leg day, don't skimp on this. Keep that mental energy high and verify your facts from multiple sources. Looking at blondes is fine, but also listen to what the lesbian has to say.
Dad: "How's work?"
Me: "Work is great. I helped a black lady today."
Dad: "...here, talk to your momma."
Alex Lee is a 45-year-old father of two and was THIS close to becoming a doctor. He loves science, drums, making cakes of his best friend, and liberalism. He is also a full-time IT Specialist and part-time Technical Writer.