I Once Was a Republican, But Now I Know Better
It is difficult for me to explain why I decided to live with my father until age 26. He definitely wanted me there, but it was a bit like how victims of emotional abuse or domestic violence often do not flee, even when they have the opportunity to. Although never politically active until now, I am a former Republican who now knows better. Republicans talk of the “silent majority” who are for Trump, but don’t speak out because they don’t want the attention or ridicule. But, I think many young people share the experience of being ridiculed by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, bosses, even friends—for not supporting Trump. My mother is also a fervent Trump supporter and part of the religious right, and both of my parents believe in Pizzagate and a host of other insanity. I believe there is an often-silent majority that is baffled and appalled at what is going on in our country.
For me, the turning point in my switch to the Democratic party came in March 2019, which I realize is profoundly and embarrassingly late. In politics, people who change their minds about something are branded as liars, flip-floppers, and all other manner of insults. In education, however, most definitions of learning center around change. If you condemn people for changing their beliefs, you may as well say that education is pointless.
In June 2018 as Kristy and I found out she was pregnant, my parents both launched an onslaught of anti-vaccination messages, warnings, and threats. As a graduate student at University of Central Florida, it was always difficult to reconcile what I learned from my professors, peers, and research with what my parents were telling me. However, becoming a parent myself was different—I was now being not asked, but commanded to willfully endanger the life of my son and others by refusing vaccines. I turned to the academic literature to find the truth, and was also fortunate to be supported by Kristy, who was already a Democrat and pro-vaccine. My parents continued to tell me not to listen to the research—that it is funded by Bill Gates who just wants to kill and maim as many people as he can with vaccines, and by the Illuminati whose mission is purportedly trickery, mass murder, and keeping the “sheeple” trusting and stupid.
Kristy left it to me whether to invite my father to the hospital, and in hindsight I was so foolish. While my wife was in labor, my father was screaming at doctors and nurses outside the maternity ward about how they are poisoning and killing people with flu shots. He has the unusual distinction of having a criminal record and jail time only for direct criminal contempt of court (which is another caper in and of itself), so I worried that he would be arrested or worse, tased or shot for fighting back. I conspired with our midwife and nurses to administer the Hepatitis B vaccination and pretend we only had the vitamin K shot, which even by itself was objectionable, but to a lesser extent. We were quite tired three days later leaving the hospital, so I had my father meet us when we arrived home, ostensibly to watch the baby so we could sleep. Instead, he pressed me into admitting we vaccinated Baby Ricky, launching an hour-long tirade ending with him saying he never wanted to see any of us again. That was the last conversation (if you can call it that) we had. He never even held his only grandchild. A week later, I changed my voter registration.
It didn’t matter that under two months later, Trump came out saying “they have to get the shots.” Trump’s followers have blinders on. They ignore or explain away any of his actions they don’t agree with, thinking he is their friend and is continually persecuted by the “deep state.” They chant “lock her up” even while Hillary Clinton roams free; meanwhile many of Donald Trump’s associates are now felons convicted by juries of their peers convened by his Justice department. George H. W. Bush and son were blood-drinking child-raping Satanists, but somehow Donald Trump is righteous and pure. (Yes, I am aware of Dinesh D’Souza’s argument that courts railroad defendants and that taking a guilty plea shouldn’t be seen as an admission of guilt because going to trial is so dangerous for defendants. I’ve listened to more Alex Jones than anyone should, and I know many of the alt-right’s talking points better than they do themselves.)
As a child I was told I received less than half of the vaccines, and I would have received none if only the Internet was available to my father in the 1990s. In August 2018, Kristy and I took the efforts of getting our vaccine records, where I found this was false—I had all the vaccines except two booster shots. I then received the TDaP, MMR Part 2, and 6-month series of 3 HPV vaccines prior to our son’s birth, with no ill effects. Later, I was told by my parents that this was meaningless because an infant is far different, smaller, and more developmentally fragile than a fully grown adult. Frequently, I run into children who had their vaccines yet don’t have autism. It just doesn’t matter. Faith trumps facts, and humans are wired this way. Using reason and science is like trying to turn the tide of an ocean.
I’m a pessimist, geared to focus on the negatives. I could get 1,000 supportive messages but I will hone in on the few that will call me a hypocrite, a liar, a weak person, a shill, or a moron for posting this. I have a lot more I could write, and I will write it all eventually, but this will do for now. I know there are countless other untold stories like mine, and many do not have the luxury of broadcasting them like this. You can’t really speak out if your partner, parent, boss, or others controls the roof over your head, the purse strings, or emotionally and physically abuses and manipulates you. In the end, you have to work through it and endeavor to treat others better, such as I hope to treat my son as compared with how my father treated me and compared with how his father treated him. For a time, you may even be bamboozled into oppressing others as part of such a regime, and although such actions are not excused, that does not mean that learning, changing, apologizing, forgiving, and becoming a better person is a fruitless exercise. This is why I am now a Democrat.