How I Survived My Father's Hateful Right-Wing Extremism
The following is an excerpt from the new book Hate or Be Hated by JG Daniel (2016):
I was twelve years old, lying face down on my belly in the prone position in front of our old doublewide trailer which was situated in the woods of Western Washington. The nearest neighbor was nearly a half mile away. As usual it was wet outside and the ground was cold and soggy. The muddy driveway had a bend in it about fifty yards away, where at any moment the enemy could be coming right at me. In my hands was one of Dad’s converted, full auto AR-15’s and it was loaded.
The excited warning coming out of his mouth was, “Russian jeeps coming up the driveway!” This meant pull the trigger. I held my breath. I was poised on edge, my finger on the trigger, ready to fire. “Kill ‘em all! Kill ‘em all!” he yelled. Dad asked if I killed ‘em all. I said “I did. I killed them all.” The thirty round bullet clip was empty. Dad was happy. And so was I.
I was thirteen when I wrote my first “Letter to the Editor” to the local newspaper. It was my patriotic duty to correct the editorial board of The News Tribune regarding what form of government we had in the United States. Often the newspaper used the word “democracy” to describe America’s form of government and not only was this wrong, it was misleading. Democracies lead to dictatorships I was taught, and we were being duped by the media on a daily basis.
The United States was a “constitutional republic” — a government based on the principals of laws and it was my absolute duty to inform them of this. My letter was published.
The Editorial Board and all of their readers now knew the truth. Dad was happy. And so was I.
I took a copy of my published letter to school and showed it to my friends. You can imagine how awesome my classmates must have thought I was. I glowingly showed it to some of my teachers as well. Yes, I was that kid.
A year later I decided that I wanted to be a mercenary after I graduated so I could kill commies and dictators to ensure that America would never perish. I revealed this in my high school Careers class. My report discussed the pros and cons of killing people for a living. The only struggle I had with writing the report had to do with whether or not I could kill anyone. I concluded I could if the price was right. Killing a liberal would be easy. I got a C- on my report. Dad was happy. And so was I.
It was only a couple of years later when I received my formal “training” during the summer of 1985 at a John Birch Society summer camp located at the YMCA Campgrounds in Lake Wenatchee, WA., about three hours east of Seattle. I would be one among hundreds of teenagers sent to your not-so-average summer camp to learn the secrets of the Grand Communist Conspiracy. I would also learn how my own high school teachers were trying to brainwash me into becoming a liberal like them and then eventually a full-on commie.
The John Birch Society summer camp featured daily lectures about how rock and roll was going to make me love Satan and how the United Nations was created to take away our freedoms and ultimately destroy America with their New World Order, among other topics. I was taught that democrats, liberals, bankers, the government, celebrities and the media were all working together to trick us into becoming communist slaves. Most importantly, however, I was taught that the John Birch Society was the only organization which could ultimately save America from the communist threat and preserve our freedoms. I learned they were our only hope to make America great again. I didn’t believe everything I was taught, but a lot of it I did.
In a nutshell, the John Birch Society is by far the most radical anti-communist and anti-government organization on the planet. It was created by a few wealthy Americans who wish to preserve their wealth and their interpretation of the American Dream by putting the fear of totalitarian slavery and misery into the hearts and minds of gullible and illogical American fools.
While other kids were having fun in the early eighties, I was stressing out that America was going to be overrun by communists. Educating friends and others with the truth was awkward. To keep my mouth shut meant that I was “sitting on the fence,” as Dad would say, and that meant I was assisting the Conspiracy in its quest. Most American teenagers aren’t that concerned about the end of the world so my warnings often fell on deaf ears. Many times I wouldn’t say anything just to try to fit in and be somewhat normal, though when I did this I always felt like I was letting Dad down.
During these years of my upbringing we were prepping before they called it “prepping.” We were readying for a fight — an invasion from enemy troops, martial law, nuclear or chemical war or some other disastrous threat. It didn’t matter what the fight was or how or where it was coming from — we knew that the shit was going to hit the fan real soon and we’d rather fight and die than become communists.
Dad always said we’d be lucky to survive another year before something would destroy America. He’s been saying this every year for as long I can remember and of course still does to this day. For most of my early teenage years, due to the brainwashing and my naivety, I struggled against allowing myself to have any reasonable thoughts as I shared Dad’s sentiments.
Dad was the smartest person I’d ever known up to this point in my life, and he said the truth was always hidden, twisted or covered up by liberals, communists, the government or the media. No matter what obvious and reasonable facts were presented in any given situation, Dad always sided with the extreme right-wing conservative stance — even if it wasn’t true. The truth was irrelevant. Whatever he was told by the John Birch Society, the National Rifle Association or any other extreme right-wing organization was the absolute truth in his mind. He’d read their propaganda like a preacher reads his bible and nothing could ever be questioned.
If the John Birch Society said there were five hundred million Chinese soldiers hiding near the US/Mexico border getting ready to invade us, he’d believe it and would be warning you about it, without any proof or evidence. If you didn’t believe him, he’d think you were an idiot. His mind has been lost for decades to the propaganda of the extreme right which seeks nothing more than to scare the shit out of all of us by using conspiracy theories and deceptive ideas.
Dad’s a confused Vietnam Vet who hated the war and our government for sending him over there. He’s only alive because he came back to say goodbye to his dying father. While he was home his platoon back in Vietnam got wiped out. The Army didn’t send him back to Vietnam. It’s a horrible story that I can’t even begin to imagine. As war protests increased at home with the long hairs and intellectuals taking the lead, and with Dad’s unfounded hatred for hippies, smart people and anyone who didn’t share his thoughts, he began to defend the war. His failure to comprehend that these people were protesting the senseless deaths of his buddies is yet another manifestation of his hatred-driven actions.
Dad’s had a serious case of survivor’s guilt since the war, which has shaped his miserable existence. Many times when I was a kid, he’d tell me that he wished he was dead or wished he’d never married my mom. I always felt bad when he’d say that. I used to believe that I was the reason he was so lost and felt his life was wasted. This was in the eighties. He’s still alive today, still miserable and still wasting away.
I’ve tried so hard to make him happy that it consumes me. I’ve overachieved with most of the things that I’ve attempted in order to let him know that he was in some way successful with me. Making Dad proud of me has been the main motivator in my existence. My complete feeling of being a failure to him, however, came with the realization that there’s nothing I can do to make him proud of me. Anything I do that doesn’t replicate his own miserable existence is a waste of time in his eyes. By not being him, I’ve failed him.
He has accomplished little, if anything at all, in dealing with his survivor’s guilt from that stupid war. That, combined with his deep hatred for our government and his own personal shame, made him a horrific father and person. He was a scary, psychopathic husband with a wife who feared him and was careful not to do anything to upset him.
His distorted view of the world, much less America, is based upon his closed-minded fundamental belief that “they” are out to get us. “They” is everything and anything that has to do with destroying America: blacks, Jews, gays, communists, socialists, Marxists, humanists, liberals, democrats, environmentalists, educators, equal rights proponents, foreigners, people of color, rich people, happy people or anyone else who contradicted him. His anger made him a natural fit with the racist, right-wing conspiracy-minded militant nut jobs who believed Joseph McCarthy to be an honorable American while John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were commies set out to destroy America.
Dad is a poor man who hates welfare and government, yet would be homeless without his disability pension, Social Security check, VA benefits and the under-the-table cash he receives for leasing out his property. Those who truly know him and aren’t like him see him as a self-righteous, racially bigoted man who lies, cheats and steals and is the biggest hypocrite they’ve ever known. He’s a miserable person and has been since the day I was born.
My dad hates me. He trained me to be just like him. He hates me because I’m not like him. He hates me because I’m open-minded and compassionate. He hates me because I don’t hate others. He hates me because by failing to program me he has assisted the Communist Conspiracy in its quest to overthrow America.
I’m not my dad. I’m an American and a veteran and not totally proud of either.
Mom says to me, “your father loves you, but just doesn’t know how to show it.” She’s been saying this for decades. She only says this because deep inside she knows that he’s never loved anyone including her, except perhaps his mother and Claymore, his dead Rottweiler. Mother is in complete denial that she wasted over forty years with a man who never loved her. By claiming “he just doesn’t know how to show it,” even years after divorcing him, she is still lying for him, to herself and me.
Since I was seventeen, I’ve worked hard to not be anything like my dad. I’ve countered much of the ideology and negativity that was ingrained in me, but it’s been a struggle overcoming the lack of reasonable and honest judgment that was omitted from my upbringing.
Had I stayed the course, been loyal to his ideals, there’s no question in my mind that I’d likely be dead or would have demonstrated a similar moronic and catastrophic terror like that of Timothy McVeigh, the “good son,” for example. If I hadn’t wrenched myself out of the deep end, I imagine I would’ve had some significant role with the Tea Party, Trump, and the current wave of right-wing extremism eroding and trying to take over this country. These are the only scenarios in my mind where I can think my father would actually be proud of me.
I am angered and embarrassed by who I was and how I was raised in an environment that didn’t value empathy, honesty and caring. I am angry and embarrassed that I still struggle with the impact of my upbringing. I am angry and embarrassed that on some level, I still want my dad to be proud of me.
Some might call the brainwashing I experienced a form of child abuse. For decades I thought I had a somewhat normal childhood. No child should experience the paranoia, despair and isolation that Dad instilled in me. No child should be taught that the only options in this life are to “hate or be hated.”