When I was a teenager, my Dad used to teach the folk at church the new hymns. Every Sunday he’d stand in the aisle before the service started, sing each verse, then get the congregation to sing it back to him.
I would squirm in a pew, hunched over, my legs twisted with anxiety, wishing my hair would magically grow so it would cover my entire face and prevent any remaining scraps of cool I possessed from scampering out the door.
I love my Dad dearly, and I am a little ashamed when I think back to this. But it is a fact that when you’re a teenager and you have a father, he will at some point embarrass you to a level of mortification so powerful it’s like you’ve shit your pants doing a star jump on a trampoline in front of the entire school.
And yet … this.
This is Rick Santorum with his wife Karen and four of their seven kids. Rick’s family have stood beside him throughout his campaign for the nomination, gazing adoringly at him during primary night speeches, applauding his words, smiling and waving.
Rick has made a virtue of his marriage and children during the campaign. His twitter bio begins with “Loving Dad of 7” and he frequently talks about his family in speeches and interviews. Polls have shown that portraying himself as the all-American husband and father has had a positive impact with female GOP voters who strongly identify with family values.
Watching footage of these teenagers with their Dad, it is easy to question why on God’s frilly earth they’d willingly do this. Are they that proud of their Dad? Or are they so engulfed in political campaigning (they were all born following Rick’s election to Congress) that they know of no other life? Rick’s kids have been home-schooled since 2006 so perhaps to them this is just an extended field trip. And I tried. I tried really hard to question and mock and judge. I wanted so badly to take the piss, decant it into a bottle and drizzle it over a nice dish of lightly grilled scorn.
I mean, Rick’s kids should be out with their mates bribing someone to buy them vodka, or watching shit on the television, or getting tattoos or chlamydia or whatever it is kids do for fun these days. I would have been at Mortificado Level Off-The-Fucking-Scale if I’d had to stand behind my Dad as he made a speech in front of huge crowds and television cameras, but maybe that’s just me (oh God, is that just me?).
But I found it rather difficult to criticise these young people who seem so, well, pleasant. Admittedly, they are rather Stepford-like (check out the slightly drugged expressions) and apparently they share the same bat-shit crazy views as their Dad, but throughout the campaign they have appeared genuinely proud to be supporting him, in a cutesy Stockholm-Syndrome way. And who am I to dump on their parade. Even if they are Republicans.
Sadly, for Rick, his kids won’t win him the nomination. Mittens is well on his way to that prize (and apparently about to kick Rick’s nuts all over his home state of Pennsylvania, BOOM).
A tiny part of me wishes that, all those years ago, I’d behaved as the Mini-Ricks do now. Most of me, though, is glad that I was a normal, moody, mortified kid who, during Mass, would pray to the Holy Spirit to lift me up and deposit me in Alan Rickman’s bedroom.