The Soapbox: How Fox News Helped Turn My Conservative Dad Into A Gay Marriage-Loving Liberal
Last Friday, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that same sex couples have the right to marry. What an incredible day in American history. It’s a victory I’m happy to share with my dad. No, my dad isn’t gay, but he his opinion on gay marriage has made a lot of progress. An army veteran, my dad considered himself to be very conservative for almost his entire life up until recently. He voted for George W. Bush twice. When he was in the military, he didn’t think gays should be able to serve openly. (Now he’s happy DADT has been repealed!) Growing up, we never saw eye to eye on most social issues. Starting about 10 years ago, when I was 15, I made it my mission to drive him nuts with my progressive opinions, hoping to at least get him to understand my views. I never expected him to “convert” to my liberal ways.
As a teenager I didn’t get in trouble for all the normal things one might expect, like staying out past curfew or underage drinking. No, I literally got yelled at for watching “The Daily Show.” My dad thought it was “liberal garbage” and he regularly spouted off ill-informed talking points gleaned from Fox News. Despite being on opposing sides of most social issues, there were two we did agree on: we are both pro union and pro choice. He was a union leader, and as the father of three daughters, he understood that a woman’s reproductive decisions are just that: her decision and hers alone.
That we could agree on some issues was a starting point. Part of my strategy in talking to my dad involved really focusing on the topics where we felt similarly. See, the thing is, everyone has some sort of common ground. The people you know who are your opposite politically? You must have some similarities and common interests, even if you don’t want to admit it. We – specifically those of us with privilege who want to be helpful allies – need to get back to working for the common good instead of always being so divisive and ignoring those we disagree with. We should engage them in conversation and debate. In fact, I think millennials have a responsibility to challenge people’s views, including those held by older generations, who are often written off as too set in their ways to ever change. Challenging their views — whether they’re sexist, or racist, or homophobic, or transphobic — is not about disrespecting your elders. It’s about trying to help open minds and hearts.
Okay, so maybe your senile 98-year-old grandfather may not be open to embracing Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity, but if you have a middle-aged, lucid parent I think it’s important to talk to them about the social issues that are important to you. I came out as bisexual at age 19, and that really had an impact on my dad, opening his mind and heart to the possibility that he might be wrong about gay rights. (My oldest sister, on the other hand, stopped talking to me.) But it doesn’t always have to be so personal. Even just having calm debates about your beliefs on a regular basis can make a difference in changing another person’s worldview.
I can’t take all the credit for turning my dad into a more tolerant person. You won’t believe who really pushed him to the left: Fox News. As a veteran, my dad has always believed that the President of the United States is to be respected, regardless of their political party affiliation. When President Obama was first elected in 2008, my dad was very disturbed by the way Fox News and right wing radio talked about him. It was racist and thus too far for my father. He became infuriated with the portrayal of the President, the constant questioning of his birth certificate, his religion. He had enough. Obama didn’t get my dad’s vote in 2008, but guess what? He voted for him in 2012, in a swing state too, so his vote really, really mattered.
So thank you again, Fox News. You helped me turn my dad into an awesome 62-year-old, gun-toting, pro-choice, gay marriage-loving liberal.