Almost four years ago I wrote a piece titled ‘The Andrew W.K. Conservative: Scaring elitists everywhere’. While I don’t know his voting history, I said then and still maintain that he is “rugged, witty, down and dirty, but dangerously intelligent.” I do not necessarily use ‘dangerous’ as a pejorative, either. Blessed with top-shelf raw material in the smarts department, Andrew appears to use it to build others up instead of tear others down.
In a recent “Ask Andrew W.K.” for the Village Voice, the artist was sent a letter by “Son of a Right-Winger.” His response is classic.
First, the letter:
I’m writing because I just can’t deal with my father anymore. He’s a 65-year-old super right-wing conservative who has basically turned into a total asshole intent on ruining our relationship and our planet with his politics. I’m more or less a liberal democrat with very progressive values and I know that people like my dad are going to destroy us all. I don’t have any good times with him anymore. All we do is argue. When I try to spend time with him without talking politics or discussing any current events, there’s still an underlying tension that makes it really uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I love him no matter what, but how do I explain to him that his politics are turning him into a monster, destroying the environment, and pushing away the people who care about him?
Thanks for your help,
Son of A Right-Winger
Now, the response:
Dear Son of A Right-Winger,
Go back and read the opening sentences of your letter. Read them again. Then read the rest of your letter. Then read it again. Try to find a single instance where you referred to your dad as a human being, a person, or a man. There isn’t one. You’ve reduced your father — the person who created you — to a set of beliefs and political views and how it relates to you. And you don’t consider your dad a person of his own standing — he’s just “your dad.” You’ve also reduced yourself to a set of opposing views, and reduced your relationship with him to a fight between the two. The humanity has been reduced to nothingness and all that’s left in its place is an argument that can never really be won. And even if one side did win, it probably wouldn’t satisfy the deeper desire to be in a state of inflamed passionate conflict. …
When we lump people into groups, quickly label them, and assume we know everything about them and their life based on a perceived world view, how they look, where they come from, etc., we are not behaving as full human beings. When we truly believe that some people are monsters, that they fundamentally are less human than we are, and that they deserve to have less than we do, we ourselves become the monsters. […] This is the power of politics at its most sinister.
Some people might say that Andrew is putting forth a kind of moral relativism that says “there is no point to having a debate.” I do not believe that is the case. I think that he’s tapping in to a mentality that used to go “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” We all have our own ideas on what constitutes “right” and what constitutes “wrong.” We tell people they “ought” to do this, but “ought not” to do that. However, we used to be able to have spirited discussions without letting politics poison our souls — and by extension our relationships with family and loved ones.
Regular readers know that this very blog has undergone a shift in tone and the type of content I tend to favor in recent years. That is because, like Andrew, I believe that it is very easy to allow “politics at its most sinister” to take root and grow like weeds resistant to the best pesticides.
Here is what I said in June, 2013:
The world’s elite would rather have you playing XBox and looking at pictures of animals on the Internet than looking into “God” or “Source” or “Enlightenment,” because when you do that everything melts away (perhaps literally, but that’s a discussion for another time). The sickest thing may be that the elite even enlisted many of your friends and family to do their dirty work for them. Is it possible to convince a prisoner to lust over his own chains? Yes.
Someone who looks within and then turns that eye back on the material world can see the charade. You have been trained to play with the anger and hate and resentment that resides on some level in all of us like a kitten with string.
There are many ways to break free from the mind-forged manacles we’ve willingly fastened in place. Without much effort, you can find many inspirational figures online who are willing to discuss this journey. I happen to believe that real change only comes from looking inward, so here now is my challenge to you:
For one year — every day — actively look for ways to give of yourself. If there’s a man on the street corner asking for change, give it to him. If you think he’s scamming people, give him some money or food anyway. If you have an opportunity to give someone a genuine compliment, do it. Call up (or text if you must) an old friend and remind them of something nice they once did for you years ago; tell them you still think about it and are thankful for what they did. Make someone feel good. Be the light in your office environment or at school or in your immediate family. There are any number of ways you can give of yourself or perform a kind gesture. The key is to make a conscious decision every day to take advantage of — or create — such opportunities.
It is possible to create a world that is more in tune with God’s plan for all of us, but all too often individuals become devils trying to make it happen.
I do not know if Andrew W.K. is a religious man, but what he is essentially getting at (whether he realizes or not), is what Christianity has always done: to balance, as G.K. Chesterton once said, “furious opposites.”
G.K. Chesterton wrote in “The Paradoxes of Christianity”:
“Thus, the double charges of the secularists, though throwing nothing but darkness and confusion on themselves, throw a real light on faith. It is true that the historic Church has at once emphasized celibacy and emphasized the family; has at once (if one may put it so) been fiercely for having children and fiercely for not having children. It has kept them side by side like two strong colors, red and white, like the red and white upon the shield of St. George. It has always had a healthy hatred of pink. It hates that combination of two colors which is the feeble expedient of the philosophers. It hates that evolution of black into white which is tantamount to dirty grey. In fact, the whole theory of the Church on virginity might be symbolized in the statement that white is a color: not merely the absence of a color. All that I am urging here can be expressed by saying that Christianity sought in most of these cases to keep two colors coexistent but pure.”
A Christian understands the importance of balancing “furious opposites,” and as such he should be able to find a way to live in peace and harmony with a father who is a “right winger” or a “left winger,” a Democrat or a Republican. It can and should be done. While my own blueprint for achieving that end comes from the Catholic Church, in this instance I readily acknowledge that we can all learn something from Andrew W.K.’s response to this Village Voice reader. I will not, however, be petitioning my local church to play its own rendition of “Party Hard” during mass.
Kudos to Andrew W.K. for imparting good advice to a young man who needed it. I look forward to reading future installments of “Ask Andrew W.K.”
Editor’s note for regular readers: As many of you know, I have been working on a book in addition to juggling personal and professional responsibilities. If you are a fan of “G.K. Chesterton” or the idea of balancing “furious opposites,” then I think you may enjoy my project when it is complete. I will continue to keep you updated on its progress. It is coming along quite well. Some of the research needed in order to create credible characters has slowed the process down, but I believe the investment in time will pay off.