My Blog Week: February 14 to February 20
A Word on the Week
My father went through a Rush Limbaugh period.
I know this much. We had a bad family vacation in 1989, and my father wanted to have Limbaugh on the radio while we rode in captivity. I disliked Limbaugh from the first time I heard him speak. I thought he had the voice of an a-hole (Do you know what Valley Girl uptalking is? Well, a-hole speech ends most phrases with a stress on the syllable preceding or two from the last—it’s distinctive and you’ll recognize it, when you start listening for it), and so did the men who called into his show. When my father was alive, my parents lived in a wooded area, and didn’t get cable TV. They were constant radio listeners; generally, when I visited, they would have NPR playing. So I can’t say how much of what we recognize now as Fox-style propaganda influenced my father. I don’t know whether he listened to such scorn-and-contempt punditry, and despite being a professor of interpersonal communication did not catch himself being persuaded. But in the last years of his life I definitely saw changes.
My father was a man who meant well and tried to do well. He had trouble controlling his temper; he had trouble with empathy. He was often a bully, but never an irredeemable bully. I’d seen him change behaviors, care enough about being a decent person to try. But at some point, some time after the start of the 2000s, paranoia seemed to grow, to become a noticeable driver of his decision-making. The attitude I saw was at times defeatist. He and my mother both could show a fatalism that amazed me. I am a fight, fight, and never give up the fight person, and had taken it for granted that this was the only possible attitude. (If I didn’t learn it at home, where did I learn it?) I’d thought that no one, certainly not my parents, could advocate for giving up.
But my father began to attribute bad motives to ordinary actions, or actions to bad character. He started to drive recklessly when I and my mother were in the car. He started to speak in hints, to imply suspicions without coming out and stating them; seemed trying to test reaction with statements occasionally peculiar. He seemed to believe, which is worst of all, that things could happen “offstage”, and therefore that someone’s friends or activities, or lack of friends and activities, were not the evidence that counted. You’ll appreciate how flipped a mind has to be when a thing’s not happening becomes the stronger proof. This is real Fox territory, wholly the world of shadowy conspiracies. At times I had the impression my father worried about being punished by someone, or felt cautious about speaking without someone’s approval. He began to have, which is a strong sign of propagandist-style influence, anger about various things (for example, a restaurant’s mistake with an order), and then complete refusal to have the problem solved in a practical way.
I conceived my novel Yoharie, which I’m still working on, as a way of addressing what I was seeing in my father. It looked so much like he was bending under a steady stream of bad advice. And that this advice was changing his mentality; that this adviser was turning him paranoid, making him see an imaginary alternative to the real world, imaginary versions of real people, and then exploiting a mental state that he/she/it knew had been destabilized. I invented Todwillow, the faux-security man who does the Machiavellian number on Jeremiah Hibbler, so that I could work out the process for myself, of an overall decent person being driven to tragedy by an exploiter. But I don’t know if my father was advised by someone he knew, or if these ideas came from media.
On Monday, a new Yoharie, Kate thinking through her marriage. On Tuesday, The Sword Decides!, with the death of Roberto, and Andreas’s first view of Giovanna. Wednesday, a Jumping Off poem, “Her Day”. Thursday, part thirty-one of Shine! by Mathilde Alanic, Patrice paying a visit to Annie’s temporary home. Friday, Hammersmith‘s chapter six, in which Vic gets a patriotic assignment. Saturday, the conclusion of “Celebrated”, a partnership born.
Images on my posts often have a link to related information (click first image), sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes in answer to a direct reference. Since people can be leery about links, I include them here: what they are, what sites they point to.
My Blog Week: February 14 to February 20
And a couple features from Sunday the 7th’s My Blog Week, that never got put up because that turned out to be a migraine day.
My Blog Week: February 7 to February 13