SACRAMENTO, June 16, 2013 — Father’s Day is a happy holiday for some, but for the less fortunate it can evoke emotions ranging from sadness to bitterness. My family is 3,000 miles away, so a day together will not be happening any time soon. Yet on this day of quiet reflection, the main argument between my father and me remains unsettled.
My father believes this world is a terrible place. As a Holocaust survivor, he spent his youth being shot at. Then as a Vietnam veteran in a non-combat role, there were more shots. Then he became a teacher at an inner city school in Brooklyn, facing gunfire on occasion. So when he retired to Florida and went target shooting, it was the first time in his life that he was not on the receiving end of gunfire.
His health has never been good. From his early years of facing malnutrition, it has been a long time since he had a good health day. He had open-heart surgery at age 48 and again at 66. He is now 72, and every day brings a new ailment. Between diabetes, a chronic cough, and deteriorating eyesight, he suffers. On some days he can go fishing for one hour, but if it is too windy outside, that one joy is taken from him. He remains trapped inside the house for the remaining 23 hours, with my mother keeping him from going mad.
He has his mental faculties, but worries about where America is headed eat at him constantly. He sees radical islamists trying to kill us all, and a government refusing to stop it. He sees young people drowning in debt, with no hope of getting out from under. He sees natural disaster devastating towns and wrecking innocent lives. He sees a breakdown of society, with Lord of the Flies just around the corner. He sees my generation as the first one not to do as well as our parents. He sees the American dream as a thing of the past.
The world is a terrible place.
My father is an intelligent man, but he is still wrong. The world has its challenges, but there is plenty to be optimistic about, especially in America. This is not the child of Pangloss and Pollyanna speaking. This is the reality of being American.
Medical advancements are allowing people to live longer. Diseases that once ended lives can now be treated and sometimes cured by a simple pill. Technological breakthroughs are the new normal. People can communicate rapidly with the entire world. Business partners and friends can be made with the click of a button. A friend met the love of his life in a chatroom. A decade later they have a beautiful son enjoying Father’s Day with his dad.
Businesses can be built from scratch without the expenses that a brick and mortar operation used to require. My own business created out of thin air could only be done in a place where the eternal optimistic spirit was allowed to grow.
Even my father’s worst experiences have a silver lining. He could have been killed by the Nazis. He was not. Between my heroic grandparents and random Christian families we will never know, my father’s life was saved. His open heart surgeries succeeded. While other people were dying with no warning, my father was repeatedly allowed to live.
When he is questioned about his view of the world, he just shuts down. Yet these hard questions deserve to be asked.
He gets upset when his new hobby of taking pictures gets thwarted because the camera on his phone runs out of space. He has taken 8,000 pictures in the last few days. In my lifetime, I have taken, perhaps, 500 pictures until recently. If the world is such a terrible place, why is he taking 8,000 pictures?
If the world is such a terrible place, why are people in areas ravaged by storms rebuilding? Why are complete strangers in New York and California raising money to send it to other people in places like Oklahoma that they will never meet? Why are people traveling to devastated areas and literally picking up hammers and nails? How is it that so many people believe that “love thy neighbor” is defined by the entire American family?
My father wants grandchildren. Yet if the world is a terrible place, why bring more children into it? If there is no joy in this world, why add more people?
His terse response is that “We do not do things because they are joyful. We fulfill our obligations and responsibilities because they are the right thing to do.”
He just cannot bring himself to admit that there is plenty of joy in this world.
He even stays alive out of obligation. “I’m ready to leave” is his common refrain.
What he may never grasp is that everybody else who knows him categorically rejects his request. He drives me crazy, yet the day he is gone will be the worst day in history, with every day after it being tied for the worst.
So until then, to quote the Holocaust movie, “Life is beautiful.”
I love you dad. Happy Father’s Day. Really. Just try. The world really is a good place. It would be better if you stuck around for awhile. It would be even better than that if you saw why it would be great for everyone involved if you did. That includes you.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS.
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