Eleven years ago today, my father passed away. I’ve missed him every day since then. We didn’t always get along (hey, we’re Irish), but eventually that settled, especially after the kids were born. Once that happened, I called him just about every day, to tell him something one of the boys did, said, or accomplished. And then we’d talk current events, disagreeing on just about everything. It seems appropriate to talk with you today.
Pop, we used to be on opposite sides of the political argument; I was hopeful, you knew better. Today, I am on your side of that debate, beyond hoping in leaders elected by and for the People, beyond expecting they will step up and do the right thing. Both political parties now seem beyond redemption. Both sides now contribute so little to progressing this potentially great nation; instead, they point fingers at each other like five-year-olds and bicker about spin and position rather than leading. And I know you’d smirk and suggest that this is same as it ever was, but we’re three trillion dollars in debt now, Pop, and nowhere near turning that around.
Boston got bombed last week, by two brothers. The older one had a chip on his shoulder, the younger idolized his big brother as far as I can tell. That’s it. Government agencies are trying their best to connect these two with a terrorist organization, a movement, a cause, but it looks more and more like one guy and his hero-worshipping little brother accomplished all the pain with just the Internet and a fireworks store to help them. The recipe for death and maiming was available online, for free, to everyone. Even freedom of speech gets tainted in that scenario. And why did big brother do it? All we’ve really found out so far is that he didn’t have a single friend in America, didn’t understand us. And that leads a person to blow up the Boston Marathon?
Since you’ve been gone, guys like him have shot a congress member, shot up a movie theatre, and massacred an elementary school, just to name a few. Even with all that, Congress voted down a change to gun laws that 90 percent of America wanted. Can’t make this stuff up.
And the split in this country is worse than ever, Pop. Democrats and Republicans condemn each other unilaterally. People mock Catholics for their perverted priests, distrust Muslims, want to wall off Mexicans, and make becoming a citizen virtually impossible. Oh say can you see, huh Pop?
And just like you had to do for me after Vietnam and Watergate and Son of Sam, I have to make sense of this world for my sons. In that, I still find guidance and hope from you. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s when I was getting my view of the world, when our home borough, The Bronx, was burning, then changing, then snorting everything in sight, you remained solid, a book in hand, a mostly calm demeanor in the face of the swirling chaos. You didn’t sugar coat and didn’t let us off the hook. You were a responsible, moral person, and worked to make us the same. That was your answer in the face of all of it, to be the very best person you could be, one day at a time. I didn’t always appreciate that then, I do now.
Today I do my best to do the same for my sons. And when it all gets too insane, I think of you, paperback nearby, dish towel over one shoulder, looking at me with eyes tired from a life lived on the front line of this country’s ongoing moral struggle, charged with the care of the next batch of Americans, and telling me the best truth you knew, and I take a deep breath, turn to my sons, or my class, and do the same.
Here’s to a good man, eleven years gone and with me every day.