Americans love to mark specific days to celebrate and honor important American achievements and various members of society, and cynics often state the obvious that days honoring children, grandparents, mothers, and fathers are promoted mercilessly by commerce to guilt consumers into spending their hard-earned cash. In 1910, as a complement to the day honoring mothers, a day celebrating fatherhood and to honor male parenting began humbly in Spokane Washington, and after a slow start, it has become a commercial success and for many, the one day each year they express gratitude for their fathers. There is little doubt that fathers play a crucial role in how their children grow and develop into adults, and it is true that one can learn a great deal about a father through their children’s attitudes, work ethic, and morality whether for the better or worse, and after recent revelations two Republican legislator’s sons posted vile bigoted remarks on social media, it informs they are, if not their fathers’ sons, they are certainly Republican Party sons.
First, it is important to acknowledge that not all Republicans are racists, homophobes, anti-immigrant, and sexist sycophants, but there is no denying the Republican Party made great use of coded, but glaringly obvious, references to lazy African Americans, dangerous immigrants, and homosexuals ripping apart the moral fiber of America before, during, and after the campaigns in the 2012 election. None of the references were accidental, and they catered to the significant number of bigoted voters Republicans counted on to win their respective elections whether it was for state or national legislatures or the presidency of the United States. It cannot be disputed that Republicans would not risk alienating minority, immigrant, women, or gay voters if they were not certain their supporters would have little trouble decoding not-so-subtle bigotry and show up at the ballot box to support candidates that shared their bigotry. Subsequently, Republican politicians’ children learned to recognize GOP dog whistles to racists, homophobes, anti-immigrant, and sexist voters and two examples are Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Representative Joe Heck’s (R-NV) sons.
Jeff Flake’s son, Tanner, chose the moniker “n*ggerkiller” for an online game, made comments on YouTube freely using the n-word, referred to Mexican Americans as “the scum of the Earth,” and used “f*ggot” and “Jew” freely on social media outlet Twitter. Heck’s son, Joey, revealed he learned from Republicans’ coded bigotry and used words such as “f*ggot” and “n*gga,” and demeaned Mexican Americans claiming New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez “can hop the border faster than he can throw the ball.” He also parroted Republican anti-gay rhetoric that, “there are gays everywhere. Maybe that’s god’s way of thinning the population because faggots can’t have babies.” The young Heck also assailed presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz as unqualified because of her gender, and that Willard Romney “made Barack Obama his ‘slave.’” He also asserted President Obama was “promoting the sports of spear chucking and rock skipping; sports they do in his home country.” Now, it is impossible to know for sure whether Flake and Heck’s sons learned their bigotry while campaigning with their dad’s or in the backyard playing catch, but they certainly noticed the dog whistles the fathers’ party used during the 2012 campaign.
Republicans made frequent use of terms their constituency understood to demean African Americans and minorities with words such as “illegals,” Newt Gingrich decrying Obama as the “food stamp President,” Romney claiming Obama supporters want “handouts,” and “welfare;” especially during the Republican primaries in Southern states. Although not repeated openly by Republicans in Congress, GOP leaders never tamped down claims by right-wing conspiracy theorists questioning the President’s citizenship, or assertions he was a “Muslim, power-mad socialist, dumb affirmative-action baby,” or that he won the presidency because of promotion by “a race-crazed, condescending liberal elite.” In a more direct form of racial animus, Republicans at all levels have been exposed for sending racist emails they dismissed as “politically inspired jokes” and never racially insensitive. It is likely that after four years of Republican propaganda, the racial hostility targeting the President did rub off on Flake and Heck’s sons, and it seems obvious they failed to condemn the racial animus at home or their children would not feel comfortable spreading hate on visibly open social media forums that were sure to be exposed.
It is entirely possible that Senator Flake and Representative Heck are not bigots in Republican ranks, and it is true their supporters do not define the politicians, but it is curious they never condemned the racial animus of their supporters. Republican fathers must understand that every time they address supporters decrying the gay threat, lazy African Americans stealing wealth from white people, immigrants polluting America, and the African
American President who “needs to learn to be an American,” their children standing behind them absorb every word as gospel. Perhaps men like Flake and Heck spent quality time teaching their sons that part of campaigning is repeating bigoted rhetoric and just politics as usual and not their true sentiments, but based on their sons’ openly bigoted remarks, it is doubtful they were doing anything but parroting what they spent their short lives learning at home and on the campaign trail.
It is truly tragic that the majority of bigotry both adults and children express openly was passed down from father, and mother, to children over generations. Children are not naturally bigoted, prejudiced, or full of hate, but they are natural sponges and they pick up every bigoted remark their parents utter whether it is demeaning gays, minorities, or a religion other than Christianity. Politicians’ children are not immune from their fathers’ rhetoric, and neither are children of parents parroting demeaning remarks made during the long and perpetual campaigns Americans suffer through. The Republican Party is guilty of perpetuating racial animus, anti-gay sentiments, and the hateful intolerance toward immigrants to garner support from the current and next generation of bigoted voters. Fathers cannot control what Republican politicians do in words and deeds, but they can shield their sons and daughters from their bigoted rhetoric; unless they are Republican politicians themselves and in that case, they have already programmed the next generation of bigots. Happy Father’s Day.