"Nothing is more important than family."
NOTE: This entry is extremely long. Please read it anyway. If you're short on time, at least read the beginning and end, before and after the blockquote. Thanks.
I spent much of Christmas afternoon and evening at my parents' house. As dusk turned to night, I stood in their darkened living room, lit only by the lights of their tree, and watched my dad and brother play with my stepkids out in the street, just as he'd played with me when I was a kid.
My mom walked over to me, and after we watched them for a minute she said, "We read your essay."
She didn't have to say anything else. Her tone of voice sent a chill down my arms and the sinking feeling in my stomach told me that something was very, very wrong.
I turned to face her, and her eyes were filled with tears. "You were totally correct about the Tookie Williams thing," she said, "but you really misrepresented me and your dad." The tears spilled down her face. "I never listened to Bill O'Reilly," she said, "and I have never listened to Rush Limbaugh. I want to move to Montana because I'll feel safer there than I do in Los Angeles, I can ride horses again, and it's more like the America I grew up in when things were simpler. It's not because I'm a racist or a bigot, which is the impression I got when I read that. Did you forget that I am the child of immigrants? I'm a first-generation American! You made us sound like we are crazy wingnuts, and we're not."
When I was just sixteen, and I had my first car, I saw two doves pecking at something on the ground. I thought to myself, "Boy, it sure would be funny to scare those birds and make them fly away!" I pointed my car at them, and accelerated. One took flight, but the other didn't move in time and was crushed beneath the tire of my car. It was the first and only time I've ever killed another living thing on purpose, and the guilt stayed with me for years. When I looked at my mom, who has given me so much, and saw how disappointed and betrayed she felt, I felt a guilt and regret that was even worse. I really screwed up when I didn't show them my essay before it ran, so they could comment to me about it, and correct anything which they felt was inaccurate. All of my instincts told me to do that, and I didn't, because I was afraid of how they'd react. In other words, my cowardice has hurt my family in a way that I may never be able to repair.
When I wrote my story, I hoped that it would spark a dialogue about the nature of discourse in our country, and comment on movement conservatives who voted for Bush even though he has (in my opinion) abandoned most of their values. What I did not intend was for my parents to be hurt, embarrassed, humiliated, or misrepresented. While they both do not dispute the accuracy of the Wheaton Family Christmas Incident, they took great issue with the way I described and portrayed my father. My dad isn't a Talk Radio Wingnut; in fact, I've learned that he's a proud conservative, whose values have remained consistent (and far more moderate than I understood,) even as George Bush's Republican party has abandoned him, and people like him.
While my mom and I stood in the living room, I promised her that I'd do whatever I could to set the record straight, and correct the editorial cartoon caricature of my dad that I'd created with my essay. In letters to the editor at Salon, and in comments on my blog, I've seen people make lots of assumptions about my dad, and call him all sorts of names which, if if spoken in my presence, would result in an immediate cockpunch from me. I know that my dad has read some of these comments, and I'm really upset that people would say things like that about my father, who is the kindest, most supportive, and loving man I've ever known. However, it's entirely my fault, for allowing an impression of my dad to be created without thinking through the consequences of that impression, or giving him an opportunity to at the very least respond to it.
I take full responsibility for bringing this grief upon my parents. I was unfair and irresponsible, and this is my effort to set things right.
On the day after Christmas, I drove up to my parents house, sat with them in their kitchen, and had a long conversation with them about politics, where they stand on various issues, and why. I felt that I owed them a chance to set the record straight, in their own words. Over a couple of hours, I learned that my parents are both pro-choice and pro-family, oppose the Iraq war (my dad said that at least they knew why they were fighting in Vietnam -- a war he also opposed as he served as a medic in the National Guard -- but it's become "too muddled" to know why we're fighting in Iraq, thanks to the Bush administration's changing rationales and lack of credibility.) I learned that my parents still hold the values of compassion, tolerance and charity which they instilled in me as a child, even if the politicians they support do not.
But more than anything else, and most importantly, I learned that my impression of my dad as a screaming-head blowhard, which I shared with the world, based on one incident and a bunch of irresponsible assumptions, was just plain wrong.
This is my parents, in their own words, transcribed from a conversation I had with them on December 26th, 2005:
WIL: Okay, on the record: my motivations in writing my story were not -uh- I didn't have mean ulterior motives. I wasn't trying to misportray you guys, or misrepresent you guys, or anything like that.
MOM: We knew that.
W: But that doesn't matter. What matters is how you guys feel. And that's why it matters to me.
M: Because life is full of good intentions.
W: Yeah, and that's why it matters to me to, you know, fix it. I -- just so you know a little history of how this came about: Like I wrote, it's not that big a deal that we don't see eye-to-eye on things.
M: And I love it that we don't see eye-to-eye on things.
W: That doesn't matter to me. I don't subscribe to this "winner takes all" theory that seems to be --
D: Neither do we.
M: We didn't raise you to agree with us.
D: And mom told me that when you talked with her, you said that you felt I would yell at you whenever we'd have a political discussion --
M: You said for about two years --
D: -- and I don't think that's the case.
W: Okay, that's totally my recollection since the period preceding -- whatever the campaign was during the first George Bush administration. But that didn't particularly matter to me. It profoundly hurt my feelings, and embarrassed me in front of my wife and kid, and I was just surprised. I was totally surprised.
W: And I understand that it is a seriously emotional issue and stuff, and, uhm . . . It came up in conversation with some of my other writer friends, who run the spectrum from liberal to conservative, and virtually all of them said, "You know, this has happened to me with my parents over the last few years, also." As the country has become so polarized, and as the news media and the talk radio audiences have become so polarized, and especially -- and a lot of them, regardless of political ideology, laid a lot of blame at the feet of Karl Rove and talk radio, for doing this 'divide and conquer' thing.
So everyone said I should write about it, because everyone has had an experience similar to this, and maybe it will start up a dialogue, about talk radio, and it will start up a dialogue about where political discourse is. And it did, and the only negative feedback I got -- other than from you guys -- was from people who called me a wimpy liberal for not supporting the death penalty. So my goals were not to, um, defame you guys, or to do anything like that. It was to write a story that I thought a lot of people could emotionally connect to, about an experience I'd had that I thought a lot of other people had had, and --
[My dad's pager goes off, and he has to deal with some important work things. I am struck by how calm he is, even though, whenever my dad's pager goes off, it's usually a life-or-death moment. My stomach is still in knots, but I'm really glad we're talking.]
M: Hang on for a second.
W: Okay, I'm going to pause this.
[Dad comes back to the table.]
W: So, you know what my goals were, and if I haven't made it clear, I am so so sorry. I am so sorry, and I feel terrible, and my gut told me to call both of you before I turned it in, and talk with you and give you a chance to do things, to --
W: To, to do things --
W: And to prevent, uh, you know,
W: It was a combination of having to make a deadline, and just being pre-Christmas overwhelmed, and also feeling really afraid that you were going to freak out at me the same way you freaked out at me on Family Christmas . . . and it was quite obviously a bad choice to not trust my instincts.
D: Okay. Let me try to address the three things you brought up right now: First of all, when you called me to say "I've got something that's going to be online," I figured there was a reason you put me "on alert" as it were, but I didn't think it was going to be as overboard as it turned out to be in my opinion. Second of all, I apologize -- I asked mom for a reality check, and I said, "Did I really turn into a monster and really unload on Wil?" and she said, "Yeah, well, kinda."
M: Now, wait a second. I said -- what you wrote was very accurate. It was an excellent reporting of what went on, if we're talking about family Christmas.
D: Except Jeremy hadn't put the things on the tracks, yet, in the Christmas village, but I understand you needed to --
M: Oh, come on! I knew what you meant, and I'm really glad you wrote that.
D: Yes, I'm really glad you wrote that. Anyway . . .
W: Well, there goes my credibility.
D: Anyway, in thinking about it after the fact, I was so tired of hearing the Mike Farrells, and the Jamie Foxes of the world trying to excuse Tookie Williams and what he had done, and as I said to you, completely ignoring the families of the victims who were left behind. And I do believe in the death penalty, and . . . uh, there was some uncertainty about what Arnold was going to do, if he was going to roll over to his Hollywood friends and gain the liberal vote, if he tries to re-run, or if he was going to stand true to what he believed. And as it turned out, he did, and he gave eloquent reasons why he did.
W: Didn't he campaign as a death penalty opponent?
D: I don't remember that coming up.
W: I recall him -- well anyway, I could be mistaken.
D: Anyway, so, I realized that, when mom said, "Yeah, you were a jerk," [he laughs] that I was disagreeing with you, but the over the top was just my frustration with your peer group -- your former peer group -- "the Hollywood crowd" [laughs, harder].
W: [laughs] The Hollywood crowd has never been my peer group!
D: [laughs] I know! I know! Okay . . . that's why I said that in quotes . . . trying to excuse this man because he's written some books. And I was truly concerned that they were going to hold sway, which was, I believe, totally wrong. So, I didn't mean to embarrass you, or Anne, or Nolan, okay? And that was not my intent. And we can talk about politics -- and you and I disagree more than you and mom disagree --
M: Which is to say that your dad and I disagree --
W: But you know, my whole thing about the death penalty was not that Tookie Williams was some great guy who should get off, absolutely not. I don't believe that at all.
D: I know that. And I told mom that I knew you were not defending Tookie Williams. That was not my understanding at all.
W: And my disagreement with the death penalty is that if the state makes a mistake, it can't be undone.
M: Unless the state hasn't made a mistake in the first place.
W: And the states that have it, have the highest homicide rates, so it doesn't work. It only exists to exact some sort of societal revenge.
M: And in the case of Tookie Williams, it created a martyr.
W: And maybe it will end up dissuading kids from entering gangs. I don't know.
D: I doubt that, based upon --
M: And they compared him to Rosa Parks!
W: And I was never saying that this guy was a good person. My whole thought was that, any time a case arises that makes people think, as a society, should we support the death penalty, there should be a dialogue, but because of talk radio, there can't be. And it's not possible, and I believe that it's not possible, because in my experience, supporters or capital punishment almost always base their support on emotion, and opponents base their arguments on statistics and logic. But the emotional pull is so strong -- and I am definitely guilty of this where my kids are concerned: when emotion and logic conflict where you feel strongly about something, emotion always wins.
D: Well, I don't know about the nationwide statistics, but since the death penalty was instituted in California, there have been twelve executions, and eight of them have been whites. So this blanket statement --
M: And where was Mike Farrell then?
D: --that it's only Blacks and poors are singled out is just wrong.
W: Maybe not in California, but absolutely in the rest of the country.
D: Right. And I've heard of cases where the defense attorney has been asleep at the table, or they get a public defender who decides that the guy is guilty, so they're not going to mount a vigorous defense.
W: Would you agree that there's a problem with the legal system where your class affects your chances of getting a truly fair trial.
D: I don't know. Ask OJ. [laughs]
W: Well, there you go. So that's one of the reasons I don't support the death penalty. If it's -- I don't think there's any problem with putting people away from the rests of their lives without the possibility of parole, and I don't think that prisons should be a vacation. Oh! And I got lots of letters from prison guards who were very unhappy with me for saying that inmates were beaten, and they said that was something I saw on TV, and they were right. I should have talked to prison guards before I wrote that, too. The point is, it shouldn't be a good time.
D: But it's not a bad time, either.
M: Did you hear about the guy from San Quentin who had been there for 28 years?
D: He's the public relations officer now.
M: He said that Tookie Williams was still connected to the Crips from inside prison. And one of his books was dedicated to a current big wig of the Crips. So even if he's in prison, he can still wield a lot of power, see, and that's the truth with organized crime, too.
W: So he deserves to die because of that?
M: No, no. But, when -- it makes it sound very final when you say they are locked away without any possibility of parole, that they still can have sort of this outside life, you know.
M: They have a lot of freedoms.
D: And they are alive when they have taken an innocent life from someone who did not deserve to die. That doesn't seem fair.
M: But you're not here to debate the death penalty. You're here so --
D: Let's, let's move on.
D: You really mischaractarized me about Rush and Bill O'Reilly. I rarely listen to either of them, and --
[The phone rings. It's my sister, telling my dad that the surf is so huge in Ventura County, they are towing surfers out using wave runners. As long as I can remember, if any of us needs an excuse to call dad, all we have to do is look at the surf report.]
D: Anyway, I don't listen to Rush, and I don't -- and if I do, it's just in channel surfing, because he is way over the top. And he forces everything into a certain perspective. Much like I feel the people on Air America do. Mom and I listened to Air America once, on our way up to Sacramento [to deal with my grandmother's house after she died earlier this year -- when my dad said that I was reminded what a horrible and tough year he's had, and how the last thing he really needed was public humiliation at the hands of his idiot son.] -- and this was when Bill Bennet said that thing about Blacks and about abortions, and he gave the analogy that if --
W: Yeah, I know what you're talking about.
D: And it was Al Franken, and I forget who else, and they were completely twisting what he said, to bend it to their purpose, to their agenda.
M: They kept playing the same sound bite over and over again, and we kept listening, you know, to see if they'd get to the bottom of this, to the meat of what it was about, but they kept playing the sound byte over and over again, and it was edited, and it wasn't true.
D: It was inaccurate.
M: It wasn't true.
W: I remember that, and I agree with you. It was taken out of context, and I wish you'd listened on a different day!
D: I do listen to Dennis Prager, and Dennis is conservative, but middle-of-the-road conservative, and I believe that he thinks out his positions very clearly, and he is more interested in truth than a political agenda.
M: He's interested in the morality of things. The moral consequences of behavior.
W: What is his position on the Bush Administration?
D: Uh, that they've done some things good, and some things bad.
M: He doesn't talk that much about it.
D: And Sean Hannity: I listened to Sean more during the election, but since, uh, Sean is, in my opinion, a notch or two below Rush. He is well-meaning, and he believes what he says for the most part, but again he is bending things through his own prism to bring things into his point of view. I do a lot of reading in the Sunday opinion section in the Times, and I try to get multiple points of view, so . . . I don't rely on Rush and Bill to tell me what to think. That, that was what really hurt me. I felt that I was really mischaractarized.
[I looked into my father's eyes as he said, in effect, "you really hurt me," and I felt a shame, and a regret, and a disgust with myself that I've never felt before and hope to never feel again.]
M: And we don't form our opinions based upon FOX News.
W: I wrote those observations based upon coming up here during the election, and FOX News being on in your house all the time.
M: You know when FOX News was on? During the hurricane.
W: During the 2004 election, I saw FOX News on in your house all the time.
D: No! You're mistaken! It was never on.
W: But I remember it being on.
D: [laughs] You have to stop smoking the crack.
W: I saw it. I'm pretty sure John Gibson is on FOX News.
D: I don't even know who John Gibson is. Your mother is the news junkie who will watch the news for three hours straight.
W: If that's the case, I don't know how I made such a glaring error, and it's a terrible terrible mistake, because it's almost like there are two kinds of conservatives: rational conservatives, and then you have the FOX News, Rush Limbaugh conservatives, who are -- I think accurately -- described as "Wingnuts."
W: And it was absolutely not my intention to describe you as wingnuts, and I can see now that is exactly what I did. And I don't think that you are!
D: Well, that's a comfort. [laughs]
M: I think of myself as a moderate, and dad is to the Right of me.
D: Yes, I am more conservative.
M: But you have to remember that a lot of that is because of owning a small business, and as I told you the other night, that's our American Dream.
W: I know! I grew up with you guys building your business, and you know that if you tried to start a business today, because of the policies and tax codes and things from George Bush and this Republican Congress, you would have a very hard time getting started. You wouldn't be able to compete with bigger businesses, especially being in the health care industry. You wouldn't be able to compete with bigger health care companies.
D: That's wrong. I disagree.
W: You don't think it would be harder to compete with companies who are huge and have huge lobbies in congress?
D: Not in my business.
[I realize that I've made yet another huge assumption, and I don't have the solid facts to back up what I'm pretty sure is accurate. I realize that I've fallen into the trap I often accuse others of falling into: I've developed a point of view, and all I can remember is the feeling that it's correct. Who would know whether their business could succeed? My parents, who own it, and run it day to day, or their son who has no clue? I am disgusted by my immature, narrow-minded arrogance.]
M: But it is getting harder, this has been a very hard year, because of our worker's comp and malpractice going through the roof.
W: Okay, so during the election, when current events happened, and we talked about them, uh -- I've been trying to recall some specifics, but I can't come up with any, which I guess undermines my credibility on this, but it seemed to me that --
[Dad's phone rings again.]
D: That my phone would ring again?
[Dad takes another call about work, and sends an employee to work at a hospital.]
W: Okay. So During the 2004 election, when current events came up, and campaign things came up in discussion, my recollection is that when I talked about those things with you guys, your responses were the same things that were discussed on talk radio, which seemed to boil down to whatever the Bush campaign talking points were. And based on my apparently incorrect recollection of FOX News being on the television when I came up here -- and I just know that it was --
M: Maybe it was on a few times, and it obviously made an impression upon you.
D: You were traumatized by it. [laughs]
W: And getting into your car when we were going to baseball games, there was always one of those talking guys on the radio.
M: That was Dodger Talk.
D: Yeah, that was Vin Scully.
W: It was 87 something on the radio.
D: That would have been Dennis Prager, or maybe [ominously] "Sean Hannity."
[My dad, even in what is clearly a painful moment for both of us, never gives up his sense of humor. When I was a teenager, and took myself /so seriously/ it drove me crazy. Now, though, I love it. My stomach is still in knots, but they're beginning to loosen.]
W: What I should have done is fact-checked that with you both, to make sure. But during that time, and correct me if I'm mistaken, during that time, when the White House was selling this line that Saddam Hussein financed the World Trade Center attacks, which was widely disproved, all over the world, even then, it seemed to me that once the talking point came out of the white house or out of the campaign, even if if was disproved, that you guys discarded any of the evidence or arguments against whatever the White House said. And, uhm, so, I absolutely made the assumption, which is clearly incorrect, that the belief that you guys formed and adhered to, was supported by hearing it repeated on talk radio, and seeing it repeated on cable news. Does that make sense?
D: It makes sense, but I don't think it's completely accurate. I decided early on that I didn't want to see John Kerry in the White house.
W: Well, John Kerry was a terrible candidate, right behind Lieberman.
D: It made no difference what either side said, I would never cast my vote for John Kerry, so a lot of it is just like water under the bridge for me, the things that were said.
W: I so want to understand this. When I was growing up, the values you instilled in all of us, the strongest one, the one that still drives most of the decisions I make, is based on support for the civil rights movement. And was all based on tolerance and equality, and --
D: That hasn't changed.
W: But it so strongly seems to me that the current Republican leadership in congress and in the state of California, seem so totally opposed to those values: the values of equality and tolerance and civil rights, and, uh, seem to have such an enormous credibility problem. How can you support them?
D: I don't agree with that en todo. My feeling is that the Barbara Boxers of the world want to give everything to people who don't work for what they have. They want to take our tax dollars and your tax dollars and give them away to other people.
W: But George Bush has taken your tax dollars, and given them to people who have so much money already, they don't know what to do with that.
D: See, we disagree on that.
M: See, now that's a Democratic talking point.
W: No it's not, it's the congressional budget office. [That's wrong: I should have said Internal Revenue Service. What I meant was that I didn't form my opinion of Bush's tax plans from Democratic talking points, but from independent research.]
D: Those rich people have already given so much to this country through their taxes, and I agree that, um, there are loopholes where they're able to avoid taxation on some of their money, and I think that something should be done on that. But when people work hard for their money, it's not right for the government to turn around and say, "you busted your ass for all this money, now give it to all these people, because they choose not to work, because they choose to have children without a father, because they come into the country illegally." Mom and I are not happy about what Bush has done with the illegals in this country --
M: We discussed that the other night, Wil. [Where mom and I agreed that business owners who hire and exploit illegal immigration for cheap labor -- especially in California farming -- should be prosecuted, so the conditions which make illegal immigration favorable would weaken.]
W: So redistribution of wealth downward is bad, but redistribution of wealth upward is good?
D: It's not redistribution! It was their money to begin with. It's their money because they earned it.
W: I'm talking about the shifting of the tax burden. The tax burden, under George Bush, has shifted dramatically to middle-class tax payers. So people who are earning between, I think it's 70,000 and 190,000 a year as a household, are shouldering a larger percentage of the tax burden, based upon their income, than people who are earning over 200,000 a year, and they are shouldering a greater percentage of the burden than the people who are earning over a million a year.
D: Of course they are. That's simple percentages. Because if someone is making -- like, to make that equitable, Bill Gates would have to pay billions in taxes a year.
W: Well, of course there should be a cap on taxes, and I'm not talking about Socialism, but under this tax code, we -- and I think we're still in the same tax bracket -- we are paying more of our income in taxes than people who are earning two and three times what we are earning. And if the tax code is in fact a progressive tax code, where the idea is to tell people, "okay, to reach this level of success, you were able to reap the benefits of the society others helped to build, so now you need to help contribute to the infrastructure so that others have opportunities, too." If that's the case, it seems really unfair to me to put so much of the tax burden on the middle class, and certainly not on the working poor.
M: I agree with that.
W: It's gone overwhelmingly to the middle class. Under Bush, the tax burden has shifted onto us, and tax breaks and revenue redistribution has gone upward.
M: And in a similar situation, what do the Democrats want to do with our tax dollars?
W: What do you mean?
M: You said that under Bush, the middle class has shouldered more of the tax burden, and I actually believe that the middle class has always shouldered most of the tax burden.
W: But it didn't under Bill Clinton. And I'm not making that up.
M: So if a Democratic administration was in the White House, how would it be different?
W: We wouldn't have the deficit we have. I don't believe that if the Democrats controlled the government the way the Republicans do, and the Republicans are really in the driver's seat right now, you wouldn't see the tax breaks for the ultra-rich. I'm not talking about people who have worked so hard to have what they have, either, I'm talking about inherited wealth. I don't think we'd have the enormous budget problems that we have, and we'd probably see something like what Clinton did: raise taxes a bit on the wealthiest of people, and give relief to the middle class and the working poor. I don't believe in this idea -- that Ronald Reagan sold so successfully -- that there is an epidemic of shiftless jerks who just want to get rich off of your hard work, and the Democrats are going to help them do that.
M: Well, there are more social programs under Democrats than Republicans. And it seems like there's an awful lot of abuse of those programs.
W: Of course there is, and it's pretty easy to go through reams of data and pull out fifty or one hundred jerks who are breaking the law. You can do that in either direction, rich or poor -- a dishonest person is a dishonest person regardless of income. What is confusing to me is that you guys have worked so hard to have what you have, and you deserve your success, but under George Bush, you're paying more in taxes than we ever have, and it is unlikely that burden will be reduced while the Republicans control things. It seems like you're voting against your best interests.
D: I think that's not the whole picture, and you have to take the bitter with the sweet. And I have a conservative philosophy that's opposed to the liberal philosophy, and I'm not happy about having to pay more taxes, and I'm not happy -- I thought that, under Bush, the government would be made much smaller, but it hasn't. It's gotten much larger than it ever has been, and I don't know how that happened because it runs counter to the conservative ideals. But at the end of the day, I am conservative, and I believe the conservative philosophy more than I do the liberal philosophy, and you have to take the lumps with the sugar.
For the next forty minutes, we talked about the differences between Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, Clinton and Bush. We did it respectfully, quietly, honestly, and openly. It was about as far removed from talk radio as you can get, and the man I was talking with was not the man I portrayed in my essay. When I left, I felt closer to my dad than I have in years, despite all our political differences.
I'm really glad that I talked with my parents, but I still feel that I've dishonored my family, and given the entire world an incorrect view of my father. It was unfair and irresponsible of me to publish my assumptions publicly without giving him a chance to correct them privately. My dad is an incredible person, and I owe him much more than this.
I imagine that this will get reprinted around the conservative world the way my original essay was reprinted around the liberal world, and I will almost certainly be excoriated for this, which I certainly deserve. If that's what it takes for my parents' to have their names cleared, and to correct the impression I gave about my dad, I am more than willing to take whatever criticism I get. I should be boycotted, and if there was some way I could resign over this, I would. I made an incredibly irresponsible choice, based out of stupid fear, to not talk with my parents before my article ran. I can not unring that bell, but I hope that by letting them speak, in their own words, the image I created of them can be corrected. I have learned a valuable lesson, I just wish the cost of that lesson hadn't been my family's honor and my parents' dignity. I am deeply ashamed of myself.
I ran this past my parents before I published it. They expressed some concern that they would be quoted out of context, or attacked for their beliefs, and suggested I keep our conversation between us. But I think they make a great case for their beliefs, even if I disagree with them, and I wanted them to have an opportunity to speak for themselves. I elected to leave it as-is, because I suspect that my parents (both Boomers) reflect beliefs that are fairly common among conservatives in their generation, and liberals of my generation who don't have the ability or opportunity (for whatever reason) to talk with their parents could get a good idea of where people like my parents are coming from. I think it also shows how totally wrong I was in my original essay: we had a long conversation about several potentially-explosive topics, but the bonds of love and family which tie us together are stronger than the differences Talk Radio would use to divide us. My mom said that she doesn't want to feel like she has to defend herself via my blog for anything, and I don't think she does. She also wanted everyone to know that she forgives me, "just like all the other times you did something stupid . . . that's a joke, Wil . . . the part about doing stupid things, not the part about forgiving you." She also said that I was a good writer, which she sort of has to say because she's my mom. My dad said that it means a lot to him and my mom that I was "adult enough, and man enough to care about our feelings, and discuss this with us," and if I was really such an environmentalist, I wouldn't have written something that took an entire tree to print out . . . which was also a joke. I'm glad my parents both still have their sense of humor, even now.