But my folks were raised in Nazi Germany, and this sort of news always causes their wolf ears to stand up straight and their wolf eyes to narrow. Could be trouble….don’t make trouble…..
They were concerned. “Is someone angry with you?” asked mom. She was thinkin’ of silent visits from the Gestapo in the night. That’s just the way she is. There’s nothing to be done about it. My dad isn’t too bad that way. But he’s definitely down on pointless squabblage. I think he thinks all squabblage is pointless. (I do believe he voted for Bush. Twice.)
“Well, it’s like this, see” I began. Communicating with my folks is always tricky, unless you’re just saying “ouch” or “hey!” or you’re dropping to the floor or crashing through glass. With my folks, communication is all body language and movements and attitude—and almost no verbiage. In fact, words just get in the way, especially if you insist on using them carefully, articulately. Do that, and they stare, bewildered, at your mouth. Then they say (at your mouth), “Ach, you’re talking just like a lawyer!”*
So, anyway, you’ve got to make adjustments when you tell my folks a story—especially if the story concerns abstractions. You’ve got to give ‘em a parable or something. Or maybe get some napkins and rubber bands and do a little puppet show. Everything must be exaggerated. Avoid distinctions. Keep it simple. Give one puppet a name like “Asshole” or “Adolf” just to be ultra-clear.
“So it’s like this. In the last few years, all [note the word “all”] conservative political voices have been completely [again, take note] drowned out by LOUTS. That’s essentially what’s happened.”
I then said: “Now, a lout is a guy. He’s the kind of guy who’ll watch you trip and he’ll right away laugh, and he clearly doesn’t care if you crack your head open and die.”
Mom produced a look of intense concern. “Nobody would do that,” she said.
“Like a punk kid?” suggested my dad.
“Yeah. Immaturity seems to be the core of loutishness. Dunno. So, a lout will listen to your thoughtful remark about, say, health care, and then he’ll look a little bewildered; then, he’ll grunt unpleasantly and say: ‘Fuckin’ LIB-TARD.’ He won’t make a point or offer an argument. It’s straight to ‘lib-tard’ or ‘fiberal.’ Or he’ll just start asserting things to the contrary of your beliefs.”
“Like a jerk or a jackass,” offered my mom in her German accent. (She still had that look of concern.)
“Not a jackass, more a jerk. Maybe an asshole or a yahoo,” offered my dad.
“Yeah. This lout thing started a few years ago. You say something that sounds liberal or progressive—it might actually be the opposite—and then, suddenly, people—usually men—show up to basically heckle or sneer or call you names. And they think they’re debating! It’s like sitting down to dinner, prepared for some delightful repartee, and then some guy just lets out an enormous belch. Or worse! Imagine!”
“That vould be awful!” said mom.
Next, I told them about San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Derek Reeve, who recently made a point of telling the world that he named his dog “Muhammad.”
I said: “That’s like finding a Jewish guy somewhere and then bringing ‘im a pig and saying, 'You're a Jew, right? Meet my pal Moses.'"
My folks nodded.
“Claremont?” asked my dad.
—My dad began to speak. Ruthlessly, I cut him off.
—“PLUS, he’s a lawyer and realtor in SJC. And now he’s on the City Council, and he’s making these rude noises—about guns, about Muslims—and he’s getting some attention. So I wrote about this ‘Muhammad the dog’ thing, mostly because Reeve is also a part-timer who teaches Poli Sci at Saddleback College. He’s one of our own!
“Did you attack him?” asked my mom.
“Claremont—” began my dad. (In my head, I heard: "Kumquats!")**
“NOPE," I roared. "I mostly just laid out the facts and let ‘em speak for themselves. That’s always the best way. But the facts pretty much say, ‘Reeve is a lout.’”
“A punk, an asshole,” said my dad.
“So he’s now attacking you?” asked mom.
“No. Some anonymous tea party louts have noticed the blog and they somehow detected its criticism of Reeve. So they’re leaving their so-called comments. It’s like they’re leaving farts.” Mom laughed. “Not vile v’ere eating!” she said.
“It’s no big deal. It’s nothing,” I said. “Forget about it.” I smacked myself upside the head. That ended it.
We ate lunch. I’ve been telling my mom that I’m on a strict diet, low carb. Naturally, she made a huge pile of grilled cheese sandwiches.
“I love this, I really do, but I shouldn’t be eating it, you know,” I said.
“Don’t be silly. It’s all healthy,” she replied. Later, she brought out a big bowl of fruit salad, comprising fresh fruit floating in a vast sea of canned peaches in syrup.
"Wow, that's a lot of fruit," I said. "Fruit is healthy," she said. My dad then commenced lecturing us about the health benefits of eating fruit.
It was no use. I said nothing.
*OK, I'm exaggerating just a tad. Love my folks.
**A particularly hilarious scene from "It's a Gift" (1934).
♥ For an account of my recent adventures with my folks in Europe, go to Pomeranian Pilgrimage