Ask Andrew W.K.: My Dad Is a Right-Wing Asshole

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[Editor's note: Every Wednesday New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or -- no surprise here -- a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]

Hi Andrew,

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. All we do is argue. When I try to spend time with him without talking politics or discussing any current events, there's still an underlying tension that makes it really uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong, I love him no matter what, but how do I explain to him that his politics are turning him into a monster, destroying the environment, and pushing away the people who care about him?

Thanks for your help,
Son of A Right-Winger


See also: Ask Andrew W.K.: My Boyfriend Treats Me Badly

Dear Son of A Right-Winger,

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.

When we lump people into groups, quickly label them, and assume we know everything about them and their life based on a perceived world view, how they look, where they come from, etc., we are not behaving as full human beings. When we truly believe that some people are monsters, that they fundamentally are less human than we are, and that they deserve to have less than we do, we ourselves become the monsters. When we allow our emotions to be hypnotized by the excitement of petty bickering about seemingly important topics, we drift further and further away from the fragile and crucial human bond holding everything together. When we anticipate with ferocious glee the next chance we have to prove someone "wrong" and ourselves "right," all the while disregarding the vast complexity of almost every subject -- not to mention the universe as a whole -- we are reducing the beauty and magic of life to a "side" or a "type," or worst of all, an "answer." This is the power of politics at it's most sinister.

At its best, politics is able to organize extremely complex world views into manageable and communicable systems so they can be grappled with and studied abstractly. But even the most noble efforts to organize the world are essentially futile. The best we can usually achieve is a crude and messy map of life from one particular vantage point, featuring a few grids, bullet points, and sketches of its various aspects and landmarks. Anything as infinitely complex as life, reality, and the human experience can never be summed up or organized in a definitive system, especially one based on "left or right," "A or B," "us or them." This is the fatal flaw of binary thinking in general. However, this flaw isn't just ignored, it's also embraced, amplified, and deliberately used as a weapon on the very people who think it's benefiting their way of thinking.

Human beings crave order and simplicity. We cling to the hope that some day, if we really refine our world view and beliefs, we can actually find the fully correct way to think -- the absolute truth and final side to stand on. People and systems craving power take advantage of this desire and pit us against each other using a "this or that" mentality. The point is to create unrest, disagreement, resentment, and anger -- a population constantly at war with itself, each side deeply believing that the other is not just wrong, but also a sincere threat to their very way of life and survival. This creates constant anxiety and distraction -- the perfect conditions for oppression. The goal of this sort of politics is to keep people held down and mesmerized by a persistent parade of seemingly life-or-death debates, each one worth all of our emotional energy and primal passion.

But the truth is, the world has always been and always will be on the brink of destruction. And what keeps it from actually imploding is our love for life and our deep-seeded desire not to die. Our love for our own life is inextricably connected to our love of all life and the miracle of this phenomenon we call "the world." We must give all of ourselves credit every day for keeping things going. It's an incredible achievement to exist at all.

So we must protect and respect each other, no matter how hard it feels. No matter how wrong someone else may seem to us, they are still human. No matter how bad someone may appear, they are truly no worse than us. Our beliefs and behavior don't make us fundamentally better than others, no matter how satisfying it is to believe otherwise. We must be tireless in our efforts to see things from the point of view we most disagree with. We must make endless efforts to try and understand the people we least relate to. And we must at all times force ourselves to love the people we dislike the most. Not because it's nice or because they deserve it, but because our own sanity and survival depends on it. And if we do find ourselves pushed into a corner where we must kill others in order to survive, we must fully accept that we are killing people just as fully human as ourselves, and not some evil abstract creatures.

Love your dad because he's your father, because he made you, because he thinks for himself, and most of all because he is a person. Have the strength to doubt and question what you believe as easily as you're so quick to doubt his beliefs. Live with a truly open mind -- the kind of open mind that even questions the idea of an open mind. Don't feel the need to always pick a side. And if you do pick a side, pick the side of love. It remains our only real hope for survival and has more power to save us than any other belief we could ever cling to.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.



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1057 comments
snoobeagle
snoobeagle

Disagree.  It's not Conservatives BELIEVING the Liberals are ruining the nation that's doing the ruining.  Actual liberal policies being implemented are doing it, regardless of any conservative's opinion of them.  Ask the average person what changes he's seen happen to his health care coverage.  I guarantee it won't be a positive report.  Flooding the nation with illegals?  Again, opinion doesn't matter here, their presence will do all the ruining on its own.  Placing the country into what will probably be about 22Trillion dollars in debt by the end of the president's term?  No amount of positive attitude and acceptance of it by the right will make that financial issue a non-issue!  So the original writer was semi-correct.  His error was in stating the wrong party behind the demise of USA.

jennjenn
jennjenn

"Have the strength to doubt and question what you believe as easily as you're so quick to doubt his beliefs. Live with a truly open mind -- the kind of open mind that even questions the idea of an open mind."

This is wisdom, and the mark of a mature, adult mind. It never ceases to stun me how few people are even aware they should be doing this, much less managing to make it practice.

robinlauraxyz
robinlauraxyz

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mik661
mik661

Or maybe he just is a right wing asshole and it dominates every discussion and permeates every visit Andrew. Most right wing assholes cannot be quiet about it but have the desperate need to voice their opinions 24 7

mik661
mik661

Or maybe andrew he is just a right wing asshole and that is his defining trait.

marmalade
marmalade

I think the main issue is the painful feelings that arise when people closest to us don't share our views. It's an identity shaker that's for sure.


This is happening within many families here in Scotland because of the recent referendum on independence. I'm having to deeply analyse my own feelings about this and how they affect my close relationships. All over the country parents and children, also friends, are finding it tough to be around those who differ radically in their views. It's threatening to family bonds in myriad ways. 

It's tough if someone who's supposed to love you becomes utterly scathing toward you and treats you as if you're an idiot because of your politics. I've recently been informed by my mum that I've been brainwashed because I joined a centre left independence party, then a few minutes later she tells me it's great I'm politically active! (Great I'm being brain washed?!)


I've seen people agree with me completely, then go and agree with other people completely, whose views are completely different from mine, simply so that they can avoid conflict


I think the subtext of the original letter is the sense of pain this produces. We want to relate to those we love, and speak with enthusiasm about the things that matter dearly to us. When that possibility is taken away it's harsh, and, I'd venture to add, it can reveal some very messed up family dynamics. My dad for example, is fairly right wing at times, yet I enjoy his company and can mostly laugh at his views, he's quite comfortable with himself and laughs when I say 'but I won't discuss that with you, since you're a facist'! He doesn't tell me I'm an idiot re my views, rather he'll happily get into a heated debate. Not afraid of conflict at all.


My mum and I, on the other hand, get quite emotional about politics, she gets angry if I want to discuss it, then, if I encourage her to, she completely agrees with me, then two days later begins to insult my views. I ended up questioning her rather harshly, on her birthday, which I'm not proud of. This is because we have an unhealthy relationship. We always have had.


So therefore I'd suggest that the person who wrote the letter, has an unhealthy relationship with his dad. Well, now's the time to analyse it! Good luck with that, I'm experiencing nightmares about insects at the moment, it's going really well:)







djohnson34
djohnson34

Much of this is beautiful, but it's also simpleminded and posturing.  Yes, the son should love his father and people shouldn't demonize each other.  But no, love and mutual empathy won't save the world if we continue to pollute the air and the oceans, and we won't have peace if liberal American sons and conservative American fathers see each other as human, but we continue to have an imperialist foreign policy.


It'd be nice if Andrew had tried to write a truly balanced and nuanced post, but all he did was set himself up as the fountain of wisdom here.  

TruthSeeker
TruthSeeker

Andrew,


While eloquently written from a deeply sincere and loving heart, and beautiful in theory, your perspective ignores the fact that there are some truly evil monsters in this world that must be defeated for the very sake of love.  Adolph Hitler was a human monster.  The Nazi party was an ideological monster.  Both had to be destroyed so that love (and life) could prevail.  Ultra-conservative movements like the Tea Party are also monsters of a sort because they value money over love and individuality over community, and it is that kind of selfishness that has the greatest chance of paving a path to destruction for everyone.

iaml3j0
iaml3j0

That's beautifully phrased but it doesn't really address the fact that all the empathy in the world won't stop the Bastards from stomping on your face forever. Sympathy won't stop militarized police from gunning down black children. Patience won't stop David Koch from destroying the planet we rely on for life and eviscerating the political system needed to protect it. Ghandi was wrong about Hitler and you're wrong about this. Bill O'Reilly and Dick Cheney don't care if you can see where they're coming from. Nothing will stop them from literally unmaking the society we depend on. The Bastards don't want your empathy and it won't protect us from them. To stop Them, we have to Stop Them.

breamarie
breamarie

They say sometimes people or things are placed in your path for a particular reason, and I can now attest that this is true.  I came across this article by chance (or so I thought) and almost cried when I read it.  Tensions between my parents and myself have increased greatly over the years because of political and social differences..... they are ultra conservative (Tea Bags) and I'm very liberal.  There has been much resentment on either side due to heated arguments over our differences.   The response to "Son of a Right Winger" made me realize that this kind of hate is fueled by people in power who want divisiveness to rule in order to satisfy their self serving agenda.  Thank you Andrew for making me see this issue from a totally different perspective and for reminding me that love is what keeps humanity alive. 

NeonMosfet
NeonMosfet

The son's description is too non-descript. Republican Party? Or Tea Party? Traditional or WBC? If the former, yes, we do have a two party system. If the father can not handle that, best to stay away. If the latter, Get a restraining order. Such persons are prone to violence.

dblain47
dblain47

Way to lay out the case for laissez faire and an negative universal ethic system ;)

kakistocraphobe
kakistocraphobe

"If you're not a liberal when you're young, you don't have a heart. 


If you're not a conservative when you're old, you don't have a brain."


-this has been attributed to both Mark Twain and Winston Churchill.

cl22602
cl22602

The kids sounds like the typical closed minded low information progressive. 

centurion20000
centurion20000

The root cause of the problem is that the son has distinct lack of respect for his father. This is WHY he has been programmed by external forces. If I had to guess, he probably comes from a divorced family and was raised by mom. From the article "I'm more or less a liberal democrat with very progressive values" .... my question is WHO taught him this?? [schools or mom?]

Wondering1
Wondering1

Great answer to a tough question. When we remember that the people we are dealing with are people/ individuals, we open the space for common ground. This won't mean you will ever agree on all things. That isn't the goal. The goal is finding the things you can agree on. These things may be small ex what to have for dinner or large ex we do love each other.
 There was a time that my mother and I were at odds. When she would get on my nerves I would say "I love you" . After a while she would ask "what am I doing now? " I explained that I was feeling attacked and dismissed and wanted to focus on the fact that I loved her instead. Over time she started to give my thoughts more consideration. She did not start agreeing with me , she just stopped dismissing my input. Now when I say "I love you " , I mean "I'm so glad we are stubborn enough to keep loving each other." 
This won't work in every situation, it is worth trying in many.

adhi
adhi

Wow!!  I love this.  What a perfect response.  Andrew is right.  Ideologies — nay, concepts of any sort — can only divide.  Once you step outside of the mind, all concepts drop, and the only thing that remains is a feeling of intrinsic oneness.  It's that feeling of oneness that will save the day and save ourselves from ourselves.

jandarable
jandarable

I love this article, my son sent it to me.  The key is loving acceptance.  My son and I don't agree on many issues/personal beliefs, but we love each other and that is our main focus.  Thus making other issues secondary to our friendship.  We have little to no contention between us, and if we disagree or are hurt by something, we share it peacefully.....knowing that the other will listen with kind respect.  My son came to much of this way before I did, kudos and gratitude to him.  

WNYSinger
WNYSinger

We can all acknowledge that it is very difficult to co-exist with a close family member whose fundamental political beliefs are the opposite of yours.  All we can do is try to do what is suggested.  All any of us can do is to at least try.  But ..... there are other easy things we can all do in general -such as not posting or sharing or liking these ridiculous political posts that make their way on to Facebook and Twitter.   There is nothing intelligent or substantive about any of these posts that are usually memes or pictures designed to appeal to our base instincts.  We all need to stop supporting these posts.

themistaken1
themistaken1

Sorry, but if you have the opinion that it's ok to destroy our environment that pretty much makes you a monster in my book.

Natasha_Tralalala
Natasha_Tralalala

@mik661 Do you not see the irony in interjecting your political opinion into this discussion? 

spacegeek
spacegeek

@djohnson34 I think you completely missed the point. You've still painted yourself into a corner. This article was not about drawing lines in the sand and advocating for a cause, any cause. It was about why none of those causes advance. Gridlock and meaningful discourse are lost because your mind, and many others are closed. You have already determined your point of view is the only valid one, and that everyone else who disagrees with you is an idiot.  As he said, you've become the monster.  Your response says, yeah  but we need to save the world!  I would be that we're complete on the opposite ends of the spectrum, but I have an open mind and I will listen to opposing views.  I change my mind over time, as my knowledge and wisdom grows, and also as my point of view changes.  What is important today, may not be important tomorrow.  All he was trying to say is don't trap yourself with this mentality, not wrap yourself in a cloak of moral superiority and then set out to make the Unabombers manifesto a reality. 

I--W
I--W

@djohnson34


Are love and your idea of saving the world mutually exclusive? 


I doubt you believe that hate can end pollution, or imperialism. To me Andrew W.K doesn't seem to be asking us to forsake our principles or even hold the charge. He's asking us to respect those whom we disagree with as humans, an to question our beliefs as we hope everyday that they will question theirs.

byrongostop
byrongostop

@djohnson34 @TruthSeeker 

We will, if that American father or American son or American daughter or American mother is the Secretary of State, the President of the United States, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  True and lasting transformation and change comes from the inside out, and can take longer than our humans in our short, special lives perhaps would want.  But ideas, like seeds, can take time to truly take root and bloom.  The only way to stop the pollution, to create the peace, to at the heart of it create the space for real transformation, is to have those choices come from those who are in the position to make the difference.  


This isn't at all saying that it is ineffectual to check and balance one another, to hold each other in the highest regard.  It is to say that this will make a difference in the short term, and through love and empathy and the realization and sharing of our humanity, and the safe space to really express it with one another will we realize it as one, all together.  


There are no monsters, only humans feeling unsafe and fearful and terrified and making choices in the name of survival, in the name of that safety they crave.  And some of those humans make those choices on the street, and others in the board room, or in the halls of our government. Any ideology is nothing without humans to embrace it.  Now do they embrace out of fear?  Or out of love? 

Someone
Someone

@TruthSeeker The Democrats in 2014 are very much similar to the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party, Nazis) in 1932. They came to power, acted like the opposition (Republicans) was oppressing them because they had no single party rule (This is accurate of Democrats before 2011, when the Republicans took the House after the 2010 elections.) and they believed in an extreme view of equality that involved oppressing and (as WWII got rough) enslaving and later even killing the people who were better or worse than their fellow man. They were the most radical supporters of things like abortion (contraception at the time) in the entire world, mirroring how Democrats today go beyond the extremes of all other abortionists around the world, with the exception of Canada (which is basically USA Lite). They subsequently attacked the rich class of Jews and began systematic exterminations as they continued to blame them for all the problems that Nazism had experienced as its war against the world of inequality they believed to be so horrible began to collapse due to lack of popular support in occupied countries. Yes, they actually expected that occupied countries would support them and indeed quite a few occupied nations (Croatia, Austria, Czechoslovakia, etc.) became supporters of the Fascists. Countries that did not support the Nazi cause, such as "Supercapitalists" in many Slavic countries (Poland, Serbia, Russia, etc.) and Western Allies, were placed directly under military administration or annexed into Germany. Many people in countries where Fascism was unpopular or banned, such as the United States or Britain, later adopted the confused belief that Nazis were against "inferior people" -- often due to their belief that people are not equal. However, Nazis supported a radical view of equality that all people must be forced into equality, much more radical than any Communists of the time, who believed that leaders and followers should be of equal importance and have balanced wealth according to amount of skill instead of what skill it is.

That said, Nazis exterminated Jews for being BETTER than Germans, not the other way around.

ScottyRoberts
ScottyRoberts

@TruthSeeker You are certainly absolutely free to believe what you wrote, but your statements are not based in fact. Andrew's got the right idea about seeing things from the other perspective.

sjones581
sjones581

@kakistocraphobe Not said by Twain and definitely not said by Churchill. He was a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35.

MrWhimsical
MrWhimsical

@cl22602 Did.......did you even read the entire article? The type of close-minded (which is actually how it's spelled) thinking that you displayed is exactly what Andrew was talking about. Spending so much time instantaneously creating insults for people we don't even know, just because we feel like we're "in the right".

david.poland
david.poland

@centurion20000 wow, you must hate your mom, or ex wife. When did his mom get into this? Why are you pointing fingers at her? What if the dad was widower?? Wherever he got his beliefs, he chose to accept them. Just like you did. Your mom is only one who influenced your beliefs?

johnomenon
johnomenon

@adhi I don't believe he was saying ideologies "can only divide". Instead, he was focusing on what they do have in common, and always in every case, we have in common our humanness, our desire to survive, and our ability to love.

lisaramsey
lisaramsey

@themistaken1  Protecting the environment is important.  But when did it become more important than loving the people around us?

cl22602
cl22602

@themistaken1 The kid put forth no evidence on how the dad wants to destroy our environment.   

holoh
holoh

@themistaken1 You are destroying the environment with every breath you take, every sip of water you drink, every piece of food you consume, every kilowatt of electricity you use, etc.  We are all destroying our environment - people just differ on what is the acceptable rate at which we are doing it.  Your narrow, ignorant view that someone who thinks that rate should be higher than you is a monster because someone like Al Gore said so pretty much makes you a mindless fool.

louisevirchardson
louisevirchardson

@themistaken1 I see you read the article with rapt attention and soaked in every word, lol.  NOT.  What's your definition of "destroy"?  I assume you're not living in a cave eating elderberries cooked over an open flame.  So... as a human being you are complicit in the "destruction" of the environment just by virtue of your existence on this planet.  Can't help yourself.  So have some integrity and recognize your part.  Don't be a hypocrite, at least.

mik661
mik661

@Natasha_Tralalala @mik661 Nope. I have a different word to describe Andrew's advice: enabling. Putting up with an right wing asshole, related to you or not, is enabling their antisocial behavior.

djohnson34
djohnson34

Good grief. It's funny how little of your own philosophy you use in your message to me. (Harder to actually practice saintliness than to preach it.)  You're doing precisely the opposite, ignoring the part where I agree with Andrew because it makes it easier for you to paint me as completely wrong.  I agreed with part of Andrew's point, but also said that he doesn't really address what to do when a loved one really does adopt views that are flagrantly wrong--I'm not talking about marginal tax rates or something like that, but outright racism.  Of course I don't know what the original writer's problem was with his father--it could have been anything.  But there is the possibility that the father held genuinely awful views by any rational standard.  I agree with Andrew that one's love for one's father should be unconditional, but that doesn't fully address the problem.

Anyway, this doesn't matter.  You can have the last word if you want to "win" the argument. 

djohnson34
djohnson34

Yes, they are mutually exclusive.  Hatred will show us the way forward.

The point is that Andrew's advice to love the father no matter what is correct, but then he goes off the rails.  There are two possibilities--the father really does hold noxious views (he might be a racist, for instance) or else the son only thinks he does. The problem here is how to interact with a parent or loved one who really is a vicious bigot or has some other view that is genuinely noxious--I agree that one should continue to love one's father, but Andrew gives no useful advice here beyond that first point. Worse, he gets on his own high horse and not only gives no useful advice on how to deal with loved ones with genuinely awful views, but sounds self-righteous in the process.

Someone
Someone

The Democrats of 2014 are very much comparable to the Nazi Party between when they first came to power and when they solidified power within a single party. They hold new elections to show off how good their party is for the people. They are realistically a racist single party, but in reality, the Nazis saw themselves as extreme believers in EQUALITY to the point where they killed Jews for being "unequal" through superiority. The belief of the rest of the world in inequality led to a belief that Hitler killed the Jews for inferiority, screwing with the whole meaning of "Nazi".

pwal24
pwal24

@MrWhimsical - It's actually "closed-minded", genius. And yes, the kid is a stereotypical closed-minded progressive. Are there closed-minded conservatives, too? Absolutely. Neither side has a monopoly on closed-mindedness, but the side that currently sells itself as being open-minded and "tolerant" is particularly insidious in their closed-mindedness.

themistaken1
themistaken1

@lisaramsey @themistaken1 Can we at least agree that people are the reason we need to protect the environment? So let's do the math: no environmental protection = no people.

themistaken1
themistaken1

@cl22602 @themistaken1 Wow, just listen to yourself: "...no evidence on how the dad wants to destroy our environment." Honestly, does the method really matter when the result is the destruction of the environment?

themistaken1
themistaken1

@cl22602 @themistaken1 Wow, just listen to yourself: "...no evidence on how the dad wants to destroy our environment." Does the method really matter if the end result is still the destruction of the environment?

themistaken1
themistaken1

@cl22602 @themistaken1 haha, just listen to yourself: "...no evidence on how the dad wants to destroy our environment." Does the method really matter if the end result is still the destruction of the environment?

themistaken1
themistaken1

@holoh @themistaken1 Actually my world view is "pretty much" informed by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. And every wise person like yourself knows that not one of their followers would ever be considered "a mindless fool."

themistaken1
themistaken1

@holoh @themistaken1 Actually whatever Fox News and Rush Limbaugh say "pretty much" form my world view. And as every wise person knows, not one of their followers would ever be considered "a mindless fool."

tjr11
tjr11

@pwal24 @MrWhimsical This is completely off topic but, since it's "closed-minded," shouldn't it be "opened-minded?"

Shayz
Shayz

@tjr11 @pwal24 @MrWhimsical


His mind is open. He is open-minded.

His mind is closed. He is closed-minded.


CLOSE-minded would be if his mind was near something else OR if his mind was focused on the action of closing something.

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