My father and I used to be each other’s arch nemesis when it came to politics. When I think back to the endless hours I spent in the back of my father’s taxi as we declared political war on each other I still smile thinking because my father continues to live in my memory where he is not present in the present moment.
To be honest, I give credit above all to my father for pushing me to seek knowledge continuously and my ability to debate with anyone. There was a time where my father would eat my lunch and school me continuously when it came to debating. But over the years, I began to hold my own and it went from uneven battles to spirited debates that never ended.
The thing about my father, he was an arch conservative. He loved Ronald Reagan and hated all things “liberal”. Now me being his son and rebelling against all things that resembled authority, I became the complete inverse of my father Fikremariam Million. He loved Reagan, I decided to loath Reagan. He hated Bill Clinton, I decided to idolize Bill Clinton.
I still remember to this day my early teenage years where I would be sitting in the front seat of his cab and he would torture me by making me listen to Rush Limbaugh. There were times I had ideations of escaping from the cab by jumping on to the trailer truck next to us as if I was Indiana Jones just to get away from Limbaugh’s laughter.
But the thing is, as much as my father and I disagreed about politics, at the end of the day I loved my father above politics. Politics was not a blood sport because the blood that I inherited from my father was more valuable than the bond of politics. We disagreed but we never became disagreeable, we had contentious moments but at the end of the day, I was not about to let my fondness of a politician or my affiliation with an ideology overwhelm the love and connection I had with my father.
I think back to these times and thus try my hardest to not fall into the zeitgeist of the era we live in. Politics has become poisonous and more and more perilous. We are devolving as a society into fractured islands of ideological warmongers, each side convinced that their side is right and hell bent on “destroying” the other side. Politics is no longer about debates, it’s about dismissing and dehumanizing others.
Dissent is disavowed and all we seek are people who think just like us. This is not progress, this is an annihilation of reason and the destruction of logic. There is nothing to be gained by attracting a flock of sheep who think just like you and in the process eviscerating anyone who does not echo your dogma. This is not enlightenment, this is burying yourself in abject darkness of ignorance.
And in the process, we are bringing up a generation of people with a sense of utter entitlement and fostering in them a sense that offensive speech is oppression. No actually, someone who disagrees with you or hell even says hateful things is not oppression, oppression is oppression. By throwing around words like “racism”, “bigotry”, “sexism”, and endless other words that are now being used as a bludgeon to silence those who disagree, in the process we are obfuscating the true perniciousness of those practices.
We will never get to a point in society where we all agree when it comes to issues of politics, ideology, and the best forms of governance. But can we at least coexist and agree to disagree without bringing out the butane torches and incinerate anyone who does not nod to every word that we utter? Is it possible for us to disagree politically and yet still work together for a common solution to the most vexing issues that lay at the core of human suffering?
The truth is that our lives are being made more and more unbearable the more we revert to this petty form of political warfare as a society. We live in the media age and all levers of the media are being unleashed on us so that we can constantly fight each other instead of realizing the common enemy that is making our lives miserable. We are all being mugged by a concerted and avarice corporate agenda that has hijacked our government and the mass media and in the process taking more and more from us through hidden taxes and monetary policies. But instead of uniting to terminate this terminal cancer that is metastasizing and swallowing hope for endless people, we are feeding upon ourselves and insulting ourselves into the abyss of apathy, insolvency, and poverty.
You know, thinking back in hindsight, I no longer rebel against my father. To be honest, it was the label that made us disagree all the time because a lot of the principles he believed in I believe in as well. Take away the labels “liberal” and “conservative” and both of us were at the core arguing for the right of people to pursue their purpose without infringing on the rights of others.
It was politics that made us declare political jihad on each other. But at least my father and I knew that we were at the end more important to each other than the points we were trying to make to each other. I hope society gets to a point where we get to this understanding that we are all in this together irrespective of our differences. I mean is it not possible for us to just come to an understanding, “afford people the right to pursue their purpose without infringing on the rights of others to do the same”.
I have evolved on my politics, no longer do I fight my father about his beliefs, I just miss his presence in my life. Beyond that, I stopped rebelling against my father, no longer am I a liberal in order to oppose his conservatism. I have arrived at my own ideology, I now disavow all politics and seek instead humanism above all. It is this message that I speak, I don’t push it though, I just speak it and let others pick up on it if they choose to. Or if not, if their politic is different than mine, I just respectfully disagree and try to build bridges irrespective of our differences.
I guess what I’m saying is this, don’t push don’t judge, if we get to this point as a people maybe just maybe we can arrive at a common understanding of how to address injustice without being blinded by politics and political differences.
RIP Fikremariam Million, you were right about Bill Clinton but I still disagree with you about Reagan. But I love you as my father, our blood is thicker than politics and I hope one day humanity understands this about all of us.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.