The Daddy Issue

My dad died yesterday.

We had a complicated relationship. He ran an ultra-conservative Catholic magazine out of the house where I grew up, and I…well, here I am. Don’t think there’s much to say about that.

I hadn’t really thought much about my father recently, or his so-called legacy, but upon his death I made the mistake of combing back over some of the Internet archives of his magazine. Damn, y’all…that shit is dark. Upon reading some of the hate-filled gems on that site, I realized: wow, I really, really, really spent the last fourteen years deleting these things from my memory, and accidentally revisiting that shit is making me feel somewhat physically ill.

Here are some of the bullshit ideas that my father propagated in his magazine, that he gave voice to by publishing. These are not things that he himself wrote, but, rather, ideas he stood behind. I clicked on six different articles and already half the shit on there is laughably ridiculous – I really can’t dive any deeper than this.

I don’t doubt that the vast majority of believers who practice Yoga are blissfully unaware of its true nature and purpose, and they probably view it as “simply exercise.” But herein lies its greatest danger. When Yoga is written off as a mere physical discipline with little or no regard for its spiritual underpinnings, we run the risk of being misled about something that could have a significant bearing on our own spiritual well-being.

In traditional monogamous marriage, sacrifice is willingly accepted for the sake of the children. It can be said, then, that anything that is inimical to the best interests of children should, in a good society, be resisted. That includes abortion, homosexuality, out-of-wedlock births, hedonism, day care, “alternative” forms of marriage, and all the rest, including feminism, which obviously tends to marginalize children.

There is a network of people and groups dedicated to helping those with same-sex attractions — and their parents and friends — to face the condition, understand it, and change it or control it. They say that properly handled efforts to change the homosexual tendency — especially in teenagers — have a much higher chance of success than the public realizes. They also suggest ways to prevent the condition from developing in the first place, an approach that can save much heartache all around.

I disagree with all of it. My father considered himself a champion prizefighter in the Catholic culture wars waged against mainstream America, and I’m keenly aware of the tactics that they use to push their agenda. (I never thought I’d live in time where those tactics finally pushed their way into the mainstream, but here I am.)  Reading these vile things reminded me of how I felt when I first started getting my pieces published: a profound sense of duty to counteract Catholic hate speech. And my father’s death is a reminder that I need to re-focus on that goal.

On the other hand, part of me feels like: do we really have to do this. I watched my father wage this war for my entire life, and it was exhausting. Now that he’s dead, I can say with confidence: he didn’t have any friends. His funeral is next week, and my family decided not to invite anyone. Because who would show up? No one.

I know that at one point in my life, I would have showed up to that funeral with a profound fighting spirit in my heart. My brother has taken over that magazine, and while his tone is mollified it still embodies the same ideas. Part of me wants to show up and change them, or educate them, or find some other way to stop them from putting these dangerous ideas out into the world. But it’s exhausting, and, ultimately, ineffective. Rather than letting them drag me into a zero sum battle, I’m going to let them wither into obsolescence. And, in revenge, I will thrive. I have stolen their tools, and I’m going to build something better. I’m going to let them stay in the past and eat themselves.

Despite that, I am still my father’s daughter. I can feel it, even as I try to drown it. Part of me wants to kill everything inside me that is in any way like him – mostly because I’m afraid that I’ll turn out just like him: a bull horn of insanity and loneliness. A wingnut. The perpetrator of pain in other people’s lives. But in a bid to be more optimistic, I’m trying to understand how I can utilize the skills that I have inherited from him – the wit, the ability to write, the cutting humor, the ability to manipulate people with language, the intense sense of right and wrong, the lone wolf mentality, relishing the fight, getting off on making enemies in moral fist fights, a tendency towards extremist dogmatism, a knack for mind control – and make something good with it. Or, can something good be made with that.

Fuck, I’m trying.

There is so much to this that makes me feel physically ill, and I realize that there’s probably only one antidote to all of this: be a more famous writer than my father. 2019, here I come.


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