I’m sitting on a ridge in the Flinthills, watching the turbines on a wind farm do their thing. On the slope below some cows, probably Black Angus, graze on the spectacular shades of green still present after a spring and early summer of plentiful rain. Why this scene would be lauded if I witnessed it in Ireland but gets derided because I’m in Kansas, I’ll never understand. Location, location, location, I suppose.
Driving home from my parents on the 4th of July, I’m turning over a conversation I had with my father. “Do you have lots of immigrants where you are?” he asks out of blue. “Yes,” I say, wondering where we are going. “Do you have problems?” I know he means people with brown faces running rampant in the streets, stealing our hard earned possessions and defiling our daughters. “No, not at all.”
He then has a fascinating argument with himself. Surely we can figure out a way for people that work hard and have been here for years to get legal status. On the other hand, you can’t reward people for not following the rules. Yet again, most immigrants work incredibly hard and do things other Americans won’t (In the strangest aside of all, he briefly speculates whether granting legal status would suddenly make everyone lazy, unconsciously asserting that’s what’s happened to the rest of us). But finally the whole things falls apart, and he assures me Trump is right to a build a wall, and it will solve the problem.
Even though he didn’t quite get to the finish line, it’s the most compassionate thing I’ve heard my father say in a long time. The sort of thing he used to say all the time when I was growing up. Because back then his success did not depend on another person failing, or lately, being punished.
But for the last twenty years the voices my father trusts have told him that anyone that looks different, or thinks different, or believes different, doesn’t want to exercise the same opportunity and freedom he enjoys but rather wants to take something from him, and that any gain by someone else means nothing but a loss for him. The marketplace of ideas and democracy become transformed into a threat that must be suppressed in the name of protecting the marketplace of ideas and democracy.
But maybe he is having second thoughts. Perhaps the isolation and anger required to maintain that view of the world has started to exhaust him. Perhaps the contradictions have become too difficult to hold in his mind. Perhaps I just think all of this for my own solace. I often acknowledge he must wonder how I lost my way just as I do about him.
We both love America; we have been told we cannot love each other for America to survive by both sides of the political spectrum. That will eventually destroy us all.