Reply To: Talking Political Philosophy with Family


Thanks nyokodo. Yes my father seems to be very much an adherent of mainstream moderate-left political ideology.

In one of our conversations he described what he called “political movements masquerading as legitimate political parties”. He didn’t say it but I knew he was talking about tea party-oriented groups. I then asked him to define what it means to be a “legitimate political party”. I got nothing but crickets in reply.

It’s one thing to to be willfully ignorant of politics, but it’s just so frustrating because he presents himself as a seeker of knowledge, is constantly reading, and has a library full of books. If he was just ignorant and was holding views based on that ignorance, it would be easier to accept futility of further conversation and walk away.

Another thing that is vexing to me is that he is a huge fan of Henry David Thoreau, who from what I’ve understand is much more in the libertarian camp than in that of moderate leftism. I read “Civil Disobedience” (at his request!) and was quite pleased with most of the ideas presented. Dad travels to Concord, MA every year to attend the Thoreau Society annual gathering. He has Thoreau coffee mugs, t-shirts, and bumper stickers. I remember quoting to him “A government is best which governs least” and his reply was something to the effect of “…well Thoreau was a complicated man…”, which seems to be his and other mainstreamers default answer to any difficult question (“it’s complicated”).

So what does Henry David Thoreau offer that would appeal to someone of a left-wing persuasion? How is it possible to love the writings of Thoreau and at the same time be a supporter of Obamacare? Have I just not read enough Thoreau?