Summer 2012 : Fight
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Summer 2012 : Fight
Oregon Humanities: Summer 2012
Beth, you shouldn’t use that word! It’s dangerous to use that word if you don’t mean it!” My father slammed his utensils down. I had just called George W. Bush’s Patriot Act “fascist.” It was 2006 and my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary.
My father and I always fought about politics at the dinner table. A healthcare lobbyist for a major insurance company (his image appears in a flash in Michael Moore’s Sicko), he believed in free markets and the right of corporations, as persons, to petition the government according to the First Amendment. I didn’t. I supported a single payer healthcare system and claimed to be slightly left of Dennis Kucinich. And while I disagreed with my father’s choice of career, I had to admit that it paid for my college tuition and the down payment on my house.
When I was growing up, our first dinnertime debates covered the issues of the day: nuclear weapons, Communism versus capitalism, the death penalty. We would civilly discuss our differences until one of us became obstinate. My father’s patience would wane and our heated discussions would lead to angry outbursts (his) and eventual tears (mine). The rest of the family would sit in silence, quietly eating though all had lost their appetites.
As the sun set and our food grew cold, my family waited to see which way this particular debate would go. I felt my bottom lip quiver and couldn’t stop the tears that welled up. Here I was, an adult, my husband of three years at my side, and my father still made me feel like a thirteen-year-old kid. We finished our meal as we had so many times before, in silence.
The next day, we gathered for dinner as we did every night of this celebratory weekend and every night of my childhood. My husband and my father started talking politics. I squirmed in my seat, not wanting a repeat performance of the previous evening.
“Barbara Boxer? She’s a socialist!” my father declared. I jumped at the opportunity.
“Dad, you shouldn’t use that word! It’s dangerous to use that word if you don’t mean it!”
The table waited. My father looked straight at me. Everyone remained frozen, forks in midair, waiting for a response. He started laughing and the rest of us followed. We laughed harder than ever before.
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Oregon Humanities magazine examines topics of broad public interest from a variety of perspectives and approaches. Recent issues of this publication have focused on stuff, nostalgia, and civility. Through good and thoughtful writing, Oregon Humanities magazine enriches our understanding of important subjects and stimulates conversation and reflection among readers, their friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors.
For more than a decade Camas Davis has been a magazine editor and writer for national magazines such as National Geographic Adventure and Saveur, and local publications such as Portland Monthly, Edible Portland, and Mix. In 2009, she traveled to France to study butchery. Upon her return, she founded the Portland Meat Collective, a traveling butchery school.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland.
J. David Santen Jr. has written about books, business, the environment, and communities for the Oregonian, the Portland Business Journal, and other publications. He lives in Portland.
Jill Owens works in marketing for Powell’s Books, where interviewing authors is the most interesting part of her job. She’s originally from the South but has lived in Oregon for eleven years and is here to stay.
Photographer Jim Lommasson received the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for Shadow Boxers: Sweat, Sacrifice & the Will to Survive in American Boxing Gyms. Previous publications include Oaks Park Pentimento. His photographs have been widely exhibited in museums and galleries.
John Frohnmayer is chair of the Oregon Humanities board of directors.
Margot Minardi is an assistant professor of history and humanities at Reed College, and the author of Making Slavery History: Abolitionism and the Politics of Memory in Massachusetts (2010). She is currently working on a history of the nineteenth-century American peace movement.