Sunday, June 18, 2017

It's Father's Day, happy?

I am at a loss to explain how, in the course of my lifetime, we've gone from The Greatest Generation, which included my father (and my mother), to the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C. and many state capitals. Did many of our fathers risk, and too many lose, their lives fighting fascism, and communism during the Korean "police action" to have this country elect someone whose campaign, business and personal dealings are being investigated for collusion with Russia?

Did the fight for freedom and integration since WWII do little more than enable the success of white supremacists and the return of the KKK to some main streets? Really? Is this the reward we offer that greatest generation? Was the "Battle of Michigan Avenue" and the 1968 Democratic convention really necessary to change the direction of the Democratic party and the nation? Was the 1970 Kent State massacre of unarmed students but a prelude to today's need for movements like Black Lives Matter? I am haunted by the refrain from Pete Seeger's "Where have all the flowers gone?," Oh, when will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?


where have all these flowers gone?
where have all these flowers gone?
Photo by J. Harrington

My father's been gone for many years now. He and I often failed to see eye to eye and sometimes we fought like the proverbial cats and dogs. If the love and respect we had for each other hadn't been so strong, the ferocity of some of our disagreements might not have been as fierce. I hope, perhaps, that explains some or much of the intensity of the battles currently being fought in our country today. I fear that's not so.

Too many of us are convinced that the righteousness of our causes is the only righteousness that there is, or can be. Too many of us fail to remember that a properly cut diamond shines beautifully across all of its facets. Not enough of us see America as a magnificent mosaic instead of the old "melting pot." A stained glass window is meaningless if all one color. Ecosystems need diversity to thrive. We need to re-engage each other with much greater civility if our country and its peoples are to thrive.

Our founding fathers overcame some basic, very strong, structural disagreements to create this United States. Were they that much wiser that we are? Perhaps. Or, perhaps they were as much, or more, committed to the common good of all Americans instead of the individual good of just some Americans. My father and I learned to respect each other even when we didn't agree. Has American democracy reached a point where it needs a "gut rehab" so that "we can all get along?" That's my Father's Day wish for each of us and our fathers, that we all just learn to get along. It's a start!

Work

I could tell they were father and son,
the air between them, slack as though
they hardly noticed one another.

The father sanded the gunwales,
the boy coiled the lines.
And I admired them there, each to his task

in the quiet of the long familiar.
The sawdust coated the father’s arms
like dusk coats grass in a field.

The boy worked next on the oarlocks
polishing the brass until it gleamed
as though he could harness the sun.

Who cares what they were thinking,
lucky in their lives
that the spin of the genetic wheel

slowed twice to a stop
and landed each of them here.


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