For many people this is a very simple question with a very easy answer. Yes, of course I would. I feel the same way and so I found myself rather perplexed and confused after an event that transpired recently. I was contacted via the comments section of a piece that I had published here a few weeks ago. The person who contacted me was inquiring about the possibility of cross-posting the material on another website. Of course I was flattered and excited and my first instinct was to say yes without hesitation. The post in question was titled “Fox News, Can I Please Have My Parents Back Now?” It is a decent work in my estimation and I was satisfied with it for the most part. However in it my parents are reflected in a fairly negative light and I did not make it clear enough at first that it is a work of fiction. As I thought through the implications of the work being posted elsewhere I became uncomfortable with the idea to say the least. I did not want my parents tarred unfairly. I felt I needed to amend a disclaimer to clarify things and came up with the short paragraph below.
The preceding is a work of fiction. While the essence of the story is true and the majority of the particulars are sadly accurate, some of the facts have been exaggerated for effect. My parents are not racists, closet or otherwise. The statements I attributed to them with respect to race/racial relations are exaggerations/fabrications. Most importantly no matter their particular political opinions or beliefs my love for them is total and unconditional.”
If that disclaimer could not be included than I would not allow any reproduction of the work elsewhere. I added an addendum to the original Medium post as well that I hope was even more clear. Feeling satisfied I sent my response and promptly moved on to other things.
Something continued to nag at me though. What if my parents really were racists? or weren’t racists at first but slowly became racists over time for whatever reason? Would I still love them totally and unconditionally? This is not intended to be one of my typical philosophical think pieces where I dissect the meanings of “total”, “love”, and/or “unconditional” and then try to use the minutiae of language and technical applications of various philosophical traditions to theorize a possible answer. I want to examine the question as it is understood in the most simplistic and straightforward way by the vast majority of people who might read it.
So what about it then? Would I still love my parents if they were racists? Yes, I would. Of course I would lose a lot of respect for them as people and I would make sure they understood how vehemently I disagreed, but at the end of the day I would still love them as much as I do now. Fine then I guess we are done. That wasn’t so hard was it? But wait a minute let’s take this a little further. What if my parents were Nazis? They believed in Nazi principles and acted on those ideas in their everyday lives. They espoused their Nazi beliefs publicly and were proud of them. Would I still love them then? It is getting harder to answer but still ultimately upon reflection I would have to answer in the affirmative.
I could go on an on in this manner making my parents into ghastlier and ghastlier people. At what point would I stop loving them? This question is, unfortunately, a real one for some people I imagine. It doesn’t have to be one’s parents, it could be any person that one loves who has done a terrible thing or become a horrible person. Ultimately the question becomes one of the meaning and power of “love” and what it takes for that love to “end” or to be freely or forcibly given up. Is it even possible to do such a thing or have such a thing done? Can love just “go away” under the most vile and dire of circumstances.
For me the answer ultimately is still no. I would love my parents no matter what they thought or did and no matter whom was hurt in the process even if it were me. What does that say about me as a person? Does it make me a bad person? Or perhaps does it make me a great person? Does it make me a normal person or an unusual one?
I would love to hear your comments….