I come from a strong and proud moderate Republican tradition. I asked my father once why we were Republicans and he said it was because Republicans believe in fiscal restraint. I didn't question it, and I was a Republican too.
I grew up on a steady diet of Pat Robertson and Focus on the Family from my mother and pride in the family from my father. We are Filipino, an Asian cultural group that is frequently looked down upon because we are the Philippines' major export. I didn't know that until much later though.
My father has told me the story of the egg since before I can remember. When I was little, I thought he was joking that he had shared one fried egg covered in banana ketchup with his seven siblings and called it a good breakfast. I thought he was joking about the stories of rice and salt being a good meal. He tells it as a funny story, but at the end he always says that we shouldn't forget where we came from. He says they were lucky because they had an actual house to sleep in. He has always stockpiled food in the house, and I find that I do too. I know the stories are real because the I've talked about them with his siblings and with my grandmother. I have never been hungry.
My father left the Philippines to join the US Navy. He had a comfy government scholarship to University of the Philippines that would have led to a comfy government job. His father, my grandfather, was not amused at this flight of fancy. My family at one time was rich, but after a fire everything was lost. But my dad persisted, and he enlisted because he knew that it would be better for the rest of the family and for his future if he lived in the US. It caused a rift with my grandfather, but my father was right. I do not know sacrifice like that.
My father is a highly intelligent man. He plays chess, and he was competitive. He graduated valedictorian, like I did. Only he did it hungry. He left the Philippines a semester short of graduating. In the Navy, at first, he says that he didn't plan for the future. He started over on his bachelor's and aimlessly got through classes. He met my mother, got married, and at 22 or 23 (I can't remember) had a first born daughter. Suddenly he was a man without a plan.
My first memory is when I was 3 or 4, and I was playing soccer with my dad. I kept kicking at the ball and trying to get it into the net, and my dad stopped it easily every time. I was mad that I couldn't win. He tells that story and still laughs. I do not tilt at windmills as an adult, and even though I am very liberal I prefer the politics of the possible to the politics of the ideal. My fiance sometimes wonders how I can have so many opinions, but be so flexible in pursuit of an ideal. Results matter.
I was 4 when dad told me I was going to Harvard. I agreed because I was 4. Later, he told me that he knew that it would be harder for me as a woman so he wanted me to reach for the highest goals possible. He told me not to be like him because he only shaped up and started reaching for A's in his bachelor's after I was born. He told me that we have a family tradition of intelligence and excellence - that there was no reason that I couldn't achieve anything I wanted as long as I was willing to work hard. The first time I said I was average my father looked at me in disbelief. I know I am not.
I was 3 or 4 when my dad bought our first computer. It had a green screen monitor. There were no graphics in the sense that we know them now. It ran DOS. I played Jeopardy on it, and I couldn't win. The darn dog laughed at me in 8 bit every time. So I told my dad to play with me, and we won. I learned the strength of cooperating, and I started down the road to becoming a developer.
I can remember when my dad got his first masters. I cried because it was hot and I was hungry. I can also remember when he became a commissioned officer in the US Navy. He went on to have a long career and retired as a Lieutenant Commander. We moved a lot, but no matter where we moved he still held the same high standards for me. In the intervening years, he brought my grandmother to the US. She worked in a factory that had something to do with golf so she could bring over her other children. She did it too, but I was something like 10 or 12 by the time they all came over. They still had hard work to do as most of them had had children back in the Philippines so they all worked, saved, and bided time until their families could be reunited. When people talk about how immigration should be harder than it is, I think about all the time my uncles and aunt lost with their children and wonder how much harder they think it should be.
My family is a matriarchy in some senses, with my grandmother at the head. She lived apart from her husband for a few decades. She only returned a few years before he died. Sometimes I wonder if that bothered him. In other senses, my family is ageist. As I am the eldest of my dad's children, I am responsible for my younger siblings. I am the second-eldest of my generation in the family, and I have always been told to be a role model. I have always been responsible for my younger siblings. I will always be responsible.
Whenever I complained about my mother growing up, my father would reply that she is my mother. It didn't matter that she is religious - fanatically religious in my opinion. Probably his as well. It took a couple years at Wellesley (yes that Wellesley) before I turned my back on my Focus on the Family upbringing. He was Catholic, and she was Evangelical, and even if she drove us crazy it didn't matter. I was not allowed to hate. Family is family. We take care of each other. There are no qualifiers to that statement.
My dad is a Persian Gulf War vet, and I remember wondering where he was. He has PTSD, and when I was angry I would turn up the stereo bass in my room so the entire house shook. I was an awful child sometimes. When I asked him questions about his war service, he would tell me just the funny stories. I heard about his Marine unit; he was a corpsman then. He has some medals from the War, but he dismisses his actions that saved lives. "You never leave a man behind."
Once he told me about friendly fire. I asked him a hypothetical - what would happen if an officer refused to follow an illegal order. All officers are required to refuse an illegal order. He said that it didn't matter - that officers like that would be found insubordinate and court martialed anyway. You should stand up for your principles, but accept what is coming. That was the first time I understood damned if you do and damned if you don't, but you do it anyway.
My father believes this is the greatest nation on earth, but a week ago he knew that his military pension and his paycheck as an essential VA employee were both in jeopardy. He sent me a text "I'm becoming disillusioned with the party that I support. The minority has a stranglehold on the rest."
I wanted to say but Dad I'm a Democrat because of you. Because I believe in family - the kind that helps each other when one person is down and the kind that celebrates when times are good. Because I understand the sacrifice that the military makes means that some spouse, some daughter, some son, some mother, some father loses something - time or life or moments - so that we can all prosper. We have a responsibility to take care of our Vets. I understand that being a civilian comes with an inviolate responsibility to do as best we can because the sacrifice is dear. We should do the best we can so we can pay it back in some form later. Because we are all interconnected. Because people can really raise themselves out of the depths of poverty if they have opportunity. Because education is a universal right, and we all have a responsibility to become educated citizens. Because we cannot be like the Philippines where money is law. Because religion is a personal choice like he thought, and not a club like my mother's denomination thinks. Because we should remember where we came from, and honor the sacrifices that have been made for us to be what we are - to be more than they were. Because a little help for someone else that comes with a little sacrifice from me can help me later. Because government has a role to play in all our lives to enhance and not to harm. Because no one should be hungry. Because we never leave a man behind.
But I didn't. Maybe I will show him this instead.
UPDATE: Since some of you were curious if I sent it to my dad, I did. He loved it, but he's still a moderate Republican. Old habits die hard. :)