Generation Gap

February 12, 2019
An elephant and a donkey sitting at opposite ends of a table
Art by Kirsten Hemrich

My dad is sitting across from me eating Eggos. He doesn’t eat them gracefully. They are stuffed into his mouth, loudly chewed, sugars clinging onto fat as they enter his bloodstream. I imagine my dad’s body is made of all the unhealthy things: corn syrup, GMO’s, candy bars. He’s had cancer already, but it’s no fault of ambiguous FDA regulations or the orange soda he sips casually as he watches Fox & Friends. “It’s inevitable,” he says.

He views the world through a different lens than I do. This became more and more apparent as I grew older. My perception of him as an easygoing lover of World War II documentaries and biographies was challenged when we began to have discussions at the dinner table. Discussions about what it felt like to be a woman in America today, in a body that never felt safe or secure. Discussions about immigration and universal healthcare. Staring at him across the table, I couldn’t understand how my own concern for my body didn’t give him a new perspective on Roe v. Wade. It invalidated the glances over my shoulder as I walked home in the dark. My own body and the choices I made with it didn’t seem to concern him. In fact, none of my opinions seemed to concern him. Instead, my thoughts were bullets ricocheting off a wall. 

When Donald Trump announced his bid for presidency, it was as if my father was finally turned inside out; his organs, his internalizations, and his true thoughts as a middle-class white man in America were plain to see for the first time. It was a look behind the curtain at a man who had raised me. A man I thought I knew. I could never have imagined that my goofy, cake-baking and Eggo-loving dad didn’t believe in climate change (he doesn’t). I could never think he believed abortion is murder (he does), or that he wrote a letter to Donald Trump, asking for employment in his administration (he did).

So began the phase of attempted conversion. My dad and I watched An Inconvenient Truth and countless other documentaries. (“The facts are there. Scientists are saying it’s true. It has to be true. The icebergs are melting,” I said. “But look!," he said, pointing. “Climate fluctuations are normal throughout history!” He later walked out, claiming that watching Al Gore describing climate change was like a battering ram to the head.) We had long talks in the car and at the dining room table. I tried to convince him that my side was the right one, but this led only to frustration for both of us.

“I can’t stand Alexandria Ocasio-Whatever-Her-Name-Is,” he announced one night at dinner.

“Ocasio-Cortez? I love her. She’s making politics accessible for everyone. How do you not like her?”

My dad muttered, “Don’t tell me you’re a socialist now too,” and kept eating his microwavable pizza bagels.

It became tiring, trying to convince my dad of things he himself was convinced not to agree with. I began to realize my dad would never be swayed, much less by his twenty-one-year-old daughter. His views are ironclad. My views, and those of my generation, are still being rounded out. Our views are buoyant, eager to be shaped by the world around us. They will shift and eventually settle somewhere on the political gradient, somewhere that may be far from home.

I now understand that there’s a difference between loving my dad and loving his views. Yet it still hurts me to know that he would abolish Roe v. Wade--and my own rights to my body--if he could. It hurts me to know that he doesn’t support universal healthcare and that he’s unconcerned with my generation inheriting the environment as his has left it. Yet this hurt--and the resentment that comes with it--is present in many households in America today. The best we can do is acknowledge it and work towards understanding.

As my dad chews his Eggos, I sit in silence. For a moment, everything between us is still. Humming. I know that soon we will discuss something else, something that will make one of us rise up from our chair in frustration, hands flinging about.

Yet I will continue having these political conversations with my dad, even if they always end with someone leaving the room in anger or tears. I will not do this in the hope that it will change his mind, but to offer him a new perspective. My perspective. In a political climate such as ours, aren’t we all entitled to one--to share it in the hope that we will at least be heard?

           

           

 

 

 

           

           

 

 

 

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