On the basis of a new study, a team of political scientists is arguing that people's gut-level reaction to issues like the death penalty, taxes and abortion is strongly influenced by genetic inheritance.

-- June 21 news item,

The New York Times

Dear Parents:

Finally, your secret is out. I thought about suing you, but that would only make some trial lawyer richer, so what's the point?

Don't play dumb. Knowing your newspaper habits, I'm sure you saw that recent story in the Times -- the one about the political scientists who surveyed hundreds of twins and concluded that genetics plays a role in determining someone's political leanings. I can't stand that liberal rag, but a friend forwarded the article to me because of the twin angle. "Hey, Catie," she wrote. "Turns out there's a reason why you and Liza look alike but can't agree on anything. Nature trumps nurture!" (By the way, just seeing the Times logo brought back nightmares -- you reading snippets of editorials aloud at the breakfast table, me fighting off my gag reflexes as I tried to keep down my homemade granola.)

This study made everything clear. Now I understand why (you say) we didn't get blood tests to determine whether Liza and I are identical or fraternal twins. You wanted us to think that we were identical and had 100 percent of the same genes -- hoping that if you kept up the pretense, then maybe, just maybe, Liza's liberal tendencies might rub off on me. (Can you imagine what it's like handing out recycling flyers every Saturday for the bulk of my childhood?)

I guess you were suspicious from the moment I pushed out of the womb first -- a determined right-to-lifer, wasn't I? Liza was fashionably late as usual, four minutes behind. I quickly demanded control of the baby blanket Nana had made me, as well as Liza's -- instinctively, I figured I had won the race, so the spoils were mine. (Maybe that's why I totally understood when President Bush said he had earned his capital in the last election, and now intended to spend it.)

You struggled to nurture my true nature out of me, and I grew up wondering why everything in me wanted to go right each time you'd urged me left. But now I know it's the gene, stupid, and it seems that I got a lot more of Gran than I did of you guys.

She was always my favorite: I still remember how Gran took me to the polls in her Mercedes (the gold one with the Reagan bumper sticker), how she hoisted me up so I could pull the lever for the Gipper. It was so exciting, my first taste of being part of . . . the base.

Soon enough, you stopped sending me to Gran's for the summer. Liza had returned home enchanted with the pet rock she got from Gran's driveway, but I kept asking for fur slipcovers for our car seats and refused to drink juice unless it was "on the rocks."

When I tried to stand up for what I believed in -- such as turning on the furnace when the temperature dropped below freezing outside and arguing that no kid should have to pay any income tax -- you called me "contentious." I wasn't sure what the word meant. I got my revenge later, though, when I insisted on going to a school miles away, requiring frequent trips to the gas station. Nice try with that car pool, by the way; it took me a while to figure out how to block that maneuver.

You didn't do much to hide your feelings about our science fair projects. Mine attempted to measure the safe level of trace amounts of arsenic in groundwater. But all you could talk about was Liza's "evapotransformation device" for determining the least amount of water needed to grow grass. Just so you know, instead of recycling my containers afterward, I cackled as I threw everything in the trash and ran outside to over-water the lawn.

But I wasn't worried about getting caught. You were always too lenient. When Liza stole a chocolate bunny at the store, you could have grounded her. Instead, you made her write a note to the owner saying "I'm sorry I ate the bunny." And when Matt snuck out of the house and had to be escorted home by the police, I lobbied heavily for the death penalty -- to no avail.

I've been doing a lot of rethinking these days. It's all a bit confusing; I've always thought that the theory of evolution was a bit of a crock, so it's strange to learn that my destiny is in my genes. I've also had to reevaluate my villains and heroes.

It's hard to scorn Justice Souter if he was born that way. By the same token, it's deflating to think that Justice Scalia's views are predetermined by his DNA. (And then there's Justice O'Connor -- just thinking about the genes that produced her mixed-up judicial philosophy gives me a headache.)

But now that the truth is out, I have a simple request: Instead of trying to save me from myself, could you just stick with saving water, energy and whales?

Your daughter,


P.S. Please disregard my last letter about wanting to adopt the children of your gay friends. It turns out that the study about gay parents and a genetic predisposition toward pledging large sums of money to public radio was totally wrong.

Author's e-mail:


Catie Getches, a writer in northern California, wonders whether some people are missing the gene for a sense of humor.