How To Survive As A Liberal In A Conservative Family

Conservative family

Liberal In A Conservative Family

My parents have never been happy with my choice to go to UC Berkeley.  I remember when I first told them I was ecstatic.  I was jumping out of my chair and expecting them to do the same, after all, I had friends that told me that had been their experience.  But I have a conservative family.  My mother’s response upon hearing the news was to ask, “but do you really want to go there?”  I’m really not sure why I expected anything different really.  I grew up with them and I know how they think.  To them, Berkeley is just a cesspool of unappreciative hippies living on their tax dollars.

Of course the reality of Berkeley is much different, it is a town of amazingly intelligent people who work their asses off.  Those of us going to school are in one of the most intellectually challenging universities in the world.  The town bustles with energy, and the citizens are among some of the most politically active in the nation.  But when you are a secret liberal in a conservative family, you get used to disappointment.

You get used to their single-minded view of the world, based on pre-conceived notions rather than information or even experience.  I have a suspicion that they believe all my professors do is preach about how evil Republicans are all day long.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The most politically vocal professor I’ve ever had is Conservative.

But I Used To Be Worse

When you’re growing up you tend to think like your parents.  That is my only excuse.  From the ages of about 14-20 I became highly interested in politics, and I followed my parents’ mold.  Unfortunately I took it to a whole new extreme.  Most children go through a period where they rebel, and mine took a very disgusting form.  My parents watch the O’Reilly factor every single night, so I did as well.  But I would also listen to Rush Limbaugh, read Drudge and Breitbart.  I bought every book Glenn Beck wrote, and worst of all, I listened to country music.

It was my country phase.  Not confined to listening to the worst, most ignorant music ever created.  I bought a big pickup truck I had absolutely no need for.  Started talking with a fake accent, using the N word regularly, making idiotic statements about God and the LGBTQ community.  I was a complete jackass.  I had turned into the alt-right before there was an alt-right, a racist, misogynist, climate change denying, justifying it with Jesus jackass.

It would be no stretch of the imagination to think that I would have voted for Trump if it were 5 years ago.  One of my true regrets in life is that the first time I was able to vote in a presidential election, I voted against Obama.  I was such a pain in the ass even my conservative family was tired of my extreme bullshit.  It finally came to a head when, after working as a mechanic for a few years, I realized that It just wasn’t me.  I had to do something real with my life.  That’s when I went back to college.

Fake Country So How Did I Change?

I really don’t totally know.  I guess it was two things that really did it in the end.  My own doubt, and Patton Oswalt.

I had never really believed what i learned growing up I guess.  My parents are Catholic, which means we went to church twice a year and my parents never talked to me about sex.  I always had some doubts in the back of my head about the Christian religion I professed to believe, but I partially bought into the line we were taught in Catholic school that doubt was a sin.  When I went down my bad road I took that to an extreme, professing more evangelical beliefs that i myself had never even been taught outside of conservative media.  My persona was a caricature of a Baptist in 1950’s Alabama, or at least what I pictured that would be.

Here Comes Patton

But the spark that lit the fire for me really was Patton Oswalt.  I had always loved comedy.  I listened to comedy on Pandora radio while at work or while driving, starting with garbage like Jeff Foxworthy.  Luckily Pandora doesn’t just give you what you want, it includes selections occasionally that may be out of your usual wheelhouse.  So eventually I created a Patton Oswalt Station because I heard some of his jokes and had liked them.

Patton does a lot of political and religious humor.  He is an atheist and a liberal, like I am now.  But back then i would just cringe when he made jokes that contradicted my beliefs.  After a while of hearing those tracks over and over, however, I eventually began to separate myself from those beliefs, and admit that if I took a step back and became less serious I could laugh at them.  That was the doorway, the one small step that i was so lucky to be able to take.

Most people never get the chance to completely change the way they view the world.  Oftentimes our beliefs are set at a young age and we are never challenged to look introspectively and question if what we believe is true.  That small step I took in laughing instead of cringing allowed me to begin to think.  From there I started to examine my entire life, everything I had said, done or thought.  It is a process I still have to remember to do today, because all of us are vulnerable to our past convictions.

How Do I Handle Them?

So although I am vastly different from my parents today, they have no idea as far as I know.  When I stay there on school breaks I spend as much time in my room as possible because their place in the house is in the living room, constantly watching Fox News.  My goal is to avoid the topic of politics altogether, but in the U.S. today, I fear that is becoming more and more difficult.

So my absolute best friend in the world has become the phrase, “uh huh”  When my mom exclaims, “Wow isn’t that just ridiculous!” to a report of protests all over the nation over the new Führer, my only response is uh huh.  If they ask me real questions, I pretend either I don’t know what they are referring to, or give the most bland and neutral response possible.

It makes me feel dirty.  I shouldn’t have to lie or deceive my own parents, but in our political climate, when the left and right have grown so far apart.  Now that the amount of animosity and hatred has grown so tremendously over issues of government, I don’t want to alienate them.  They are my parents.  They raised me, cared for me, gave me everything I ever needed.  Growing up I never wanted for anything, my life was amazing.  Not only do I want to risk changing how they treat me, I don’t want to hurt them.  Our lives are so pitifully short, and I know I could never change my parent’s minds on politics, and besides, they live in California where their vote is outnumbered.  So why would I want to do anything that would cause them emotional pain?  I love them, and I’ll never get another pair.

Now What?

There are no real tips i can give to anyone else in my situation.  I have it much better than the atheists or gays, lesbians, and transgender who were raised in fundamentalist Christian homes.  The best I can do is devote my life to trying to make up for all of my past mistakes.  To try, in my own way, to make our small planet just a little bit better for those around me.  That is why I write.  Because I really do hope that maybe someone will be affected by me to take that same tiny little step that made me such a better person.  Do what you can to be happy.  Love whoever you want, do what you love, and love your life.

About Author

Siserough is a writer, political scientist, student, and hockey player who lives in Berkeley, CA. Go Bears!

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