Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fathers & Sons

I haven't read Turgenev, but I have read Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov which is as much about the various relationships the brothers had with their troublesome father as anything else. I highly recommend that book. It includes the best definition of Hell that I have come across:
“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” 
This isn't intended as a literary criticism post, but more of a psychological analysis for which I am equally unqualified. But I am a son and a father and have a father and sons. And I read political history.

George & Mitt 1964
Barack & Barack about  1971

Mitt Romney's odd behavior in his campaign has already sparked me to comment on his father, George. It seems to me that Mitt may be overcompensating for his father's failures to win the presidency back in the 1960s. George was part of the Stop-Goldwater movement among moderate Republican Governors in 1964 (moderate Republicans---sigh). And he ran for President in 1968 but didn't make much progress after his flop on the whole Vietnam brainwashing thing.

George was appointed to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by Richard Nixon. He took the job seriously, promoting housing programs for the poor and to further desegregation -- a champion of Civil Rights in the Republican Party. He was occasionally at odds with the Nixon administration and left after the first term (Good for him!) Basically a good guy, he could have been a good president. I mean, our presidents of the mid to late sixties were the severely flawed Johnson and Nixon. I think George would have easily bested the both of them.

Mitt used to be somewhat of a moderate to progressive at least when he was running against Ted Kennedy for the Senate and then as Governor of Massachusetts (the whole Health Care Reform and squishier positions on some culture war issues). Now he's abandoned all that for the presidential race and even hired neo-con advisers maybe so he doesn't make another slip like his dad did on Vietnam? It just makes me feel as uncomfortable as Mitt often looks (even as a kid - look awhile at the picture above.) I sincerely hope he is not like W Bush trying to vindicate his dad by winning elections and defeating his enemies as in Sadam "He-tried-to-kill-my-Dad" Hussein.

President Obama is another interesting study in father-son relationships even if there wasn't much of one. There are all kinds of wild and contradictory conspiracy theories about the President and his family background including, of course, where he was born (for the record, Hawaii USA). The funny thing is, what sense is there to believe in any of those wild theories when the President's own story is odd enough and not very positive. If you were going to conspire to create a new identity for political advantage, wouldn't you want to do a better job at making it more normative and uplifting? I mean, the President wasn't hiding much about his philandering polygamist father in that book he wrote -- Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Times Books, New York 1995).

What the future President did was to confront his background in a soul-searching sense. Sure, certain characters are slightly disguised and hidden in his autobiographical work as we all do to some extent in discussing our personal histories (and on this blog). And if only from my perspective, the book seems to ring true in a personal psychological sense. Once again, why express so many difficulties and negatives if you're trying to promote your own self interest? Honesty, in the sense of charitable revelation of self and relationships with others, does not require cold cruel facts out of context that sometimes twist like a knife in the gut of others involved in the story.

The point of the book is that in the inheritance of dreams from his troubled father, the future President committed to himself and the world that he would be a better father and family man and make a difference as his father tried to do and failed so abysmally. Judge for yourself, but I think Barack Jr. has done a pretty good job.

Mitt's a good family man making a difference in the world too. Massachusetts Health Care Reform was a good thing. I've said before, and I'll say it again, he wouldn't be a terrible president. He has a great heritage and potential. At the worst, the country would somehow survive just has it done with eight years of W and four of Barack. I don't much like the current philosophy of the Republican Party that Mitt seems to have adopted in his flight from moderation. And I just wonder who the real Mitt Romney is. Does he know?

1 comment:

  1. (Anonymous/M) About George Romney's disastrous comment about having been "brainwashed" by the military brass in Vietnam...Sure, it was naive and he should have known that you never tell the truth, if not politically expedient. But it was the truth, clear and simple.


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