Posted by: Amelia | July 17, 2007

Goodbye, Garrison

My dad happened to be visiting DC this past weekend. I had a nice Sunday afternoon with him, brunching at Old Ebbitt and showing off my veggie garden. When I was growing up, my dad and I would listen to Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show. I downloaded dozens of old Keillor monologues (his ‘tales from Lake Wobegon‘) and listened to them when I went off to school. It made me feel at home to listen to them, and even until recently I used the monologues as a sleeping aid (set to low volume, they helped shut off my brain better than silence or white noise).

Keillor is becoming increasingly crotchety with age, and not in a charming way. His stories are becoming ever more repetitive, but that’s not even my real complaint. He’s been injecting more politics into his shows and especially into his essays, and while I appreciate that he considers himself a Democrat, his whiny and often hypocritical rhetoric is becoming intolerable. I remember listening to the following passage in a monologue from a few years back, in which he describes his befuddlement at being a father of a young girl in this day and age. Bear in mind that he is, at the time, 60 years old and married to his third wife:

I had a boy under the old system of parenthood… where men were out busy hunting and fighting heathen savages and we were just brought into villages for breeding purposes and then we wandered off again and we’d come back to see the child… And now to have a child under the new system of parenthood, in which parents are assumed to be vitally involved in every step of their child’s life and arrange their children’s social life and read every book available on the subject of childrearing which is like having a second unpaid job… makes me nostalgic for the old way that I grew up under, the Lake Wobegon way, in which children were free and wandering around like coyotes.

Really, Garrison! You’re nostalgic for the days when you didn’t have to do jack and that unpaid job – which was still a pretty large duty even in those old coyote days – was entirely taken care of by your first wife? I can’t imagine why. I could give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was just parodying this attitude, but his essays have proven otherwise. A Father’s Day column in Salon last month, titled “Fathers get no respect,” was a lot of whining over everyone’s failure to congratulate him and handwringing about the day when “genetic engineers find a way for eggs to fertilize themselves and women can satisfy their lust for children without bothering with us and our noise.” Unlikely, Garrison, but thanks for doing your part to make that scenario more appealing.

Earlier this year Keillor was rightly criticized for another Salon piece in which he extolls the virtue of lifelong monogamy and heterosexuality (only one of which he practices).

I grew up the child of a mixed-gender marriage that lasted until death parted them, and I could tell you about how good that is for children, and you could pay me whatever you think it’s worth. Back in the day, that was the standard arrangement. Everyone had a yard, a garage, a female mom, a male dad, and a refrigerator with leftover boiled potatoes in plastic dishes with snap-on lids. […]

Monogamy put the parents in the background where they belong and we children were able to hold center stage. We didn’t have to contend with troubled, angry parents demanding that life be richer and more rewarding for them.

Because parents demanding to be the center of attention – like, say, wanting a parade on Father’s Day – is bad for the kiddies. And don’t even get him started on the gays:

And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife’s first husband’s second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin’s in-laws and Bruce’s ex, Mark, and Mark’s current partner, and I suppose we’ll get used to it.

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men — sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That’s for the kids. It’s their show.

Needless to say, the liberal blogosphere erupted. Dan Savage’s scathing rejoinder is worth reading in its obscenity-laden entirety. Feministing and I Blame The Patriarchy also chimed in. I’ve defended A Prairie Home Companion before to people who say it’s boring. But I can’t defend Keillor here. He’s bigoted, hypocritical, and wrong, and irritatingly cranky in the process.

So, goodbye, Garrison. You say you’re a “homegrown Democrat,” but don’t be surprised when the party leaves you and your folksy, homegrown sexism and homophobia behind. I’ll find something else to babble me to sleep.

And just for the record, my awesome, parade-worthy dad doesn’t listen to you anymore either.


  1. I’m afraid you are right, but I hope you aren’t. BBC works for me too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: