The Brainwashing of My Uncle: A Review of The Brainwashing of My Dad

I posted this on Facebook today:

I don’t know what happened to my uncle. He used to be the most empathic person I knew. And now I see all this fear and anger.
Regardless, I am not okay with racists, Nazis, or those that enable them. I hope that some day the uncle I remember fondly will return.

And maybe that’s not entirely true. Because a while ago, I backed – and later watched – the documentary “The Brainwashing of My Dad”  (Amazon link). 

Jen Senko, a documentary filmmaker, looks at the rise of right-wing media through the lens of her WWII vet father who changed from a life-long, nonpolitical Democrat to an angry, right-wing fanatic after his discovery of talk radio on a lengthened commute to work. In trying to understand how this happened, she not only finds this to be a phenomenon, but also uncovers some of the forces behind it.

Ms. Senko’s experience kind of mirrors my own mystified experience with my uncle.  He went from running a new age store and strongly influencing me toward compassion, empathy, and non-violence to – at minimum – being a jingoistic militaristic presence providing a kind of vichy support for racism and fascism.  The straw that broke the camel’s back? Back to back postings complaining about protesters not being more like MLK in the street, then complaining about Browns players protesting silently during the national anthem.  (If you can’t see the hypocrisy in telling people that the only acceptable protest is nonviolent civil disobedience, then raging against nonviolent civil disobedience, then I can’t help you.)

Because I don’t see him that often, I don’t know for certain what caused this change in the compassionate, kind man that I remember.

Ms. Senko’s documentary (which I highly recommend) might hold the key.

But in the meantime, I miss the man I knew.  I miss the man who wouldn’t get me a sword at Sea World, who encouraged me to play with action figures in a non-violent way, who did his level best to turn me toward empathy and caring about others.

I don’t know who the man occupying his body is anymore.

I reject the toxic, selfish thing that has taken control of him.

I hope that the man I remember is still in there, somewhere.

I hope that one day that my uncle will return.

And for all those who have reached out to me with similar stories since I posted that on Facebook, I hope the same for you as well.

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