Like many people, I spent my summer vacation with my large and fiercely loyal extended family. Unlike many people, my family is mixed. No, I don’t mean mixed race or mixed class, although we are that too, but mixed politically. There are plenty of lefties among us; there are also plenty of conservatives. During the Bush years, I often found it incomprehensible that these people whom I love and respect could vote for a man who got this country into wars they didn’t believe in and cultural battles over gay rights that they actually opposed. Among the Essig Republicans, there are no homophobes or hawks, just people who genuinely believe that the fiscal policies of the GOP are better for this country than the Democratic ones.
Like many people in mixed-political families, I more or less ignore it and focus on what ties us together: eating, eating, and more eating. This month, as I sat around the family table, enjoying the beautiful meals we who can agree on nothing but food conjure up, I felt a certain amount of bitterness in my mouth. Like the jokes about Chik-fil-A tasting ever so much better before it was full of homophobia and hate. It is a sad thing to look around at my clan and realize once again votes will be cast and monies given to a political party that seems to hate women, gays, poor people, immigrants, and the environment.
I would like to believe that the choice of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate would be enough to make not just my family, but all reasonable Republicans stop in their tracks and turn their back on the GOP. After all, Ryan is a favorite of the Tea Party, a man so far to the right that he:
1. has said no abortion should be allowed even in cases of rape or incest or the mother’s life being at risk;
2. believes same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry or adopt children and that gay Americans should not serve in the military;
3. is opposed to equal pay for women (he actually voted against the Lilly Ledbetter act for equal pay for equal work);
4. would cut food stamps, education funding, health care, and more while at the same time lowering taxes for the wealthy;
5. voted against the Dream Act and for more extreme legislation in Wisconsin that would have made immigration violations felonies;
6. seems as opposed to the protection of habitat and species as he is dedicated to protecting every fertilized egg in women’s wombs. In fact, his voting record indicates an opposition to most environmental legislation, like cash for clunkers or Amtrak rail improvements.
And so another election year is spent swallowing some serious grief with the family meal. These people who love me would happily see me lose nearly all of my rights as a woman and a lesbian parent. They would deny opportunities to immigrants even though they are but one generation removed from immigration. They would vote for a party that funnels tax breaks to big oil even as it withdraws money for protection of the environment.
I cannot pretend to understand why they do what they do. Nor can I even fully explain why it is that we gather each year like some oddly masochistic group of birds, flying south, to forage for food together. But I guess we gather because deep down we don’t want politics at the family table. After all, nothing ruins the taste of good food like knowing the people around you would force you to have a baby you don’t want, allow your employer to pay you less than male colleagues, take your children away, and tie your dog to the roof of the car.