My Dad was one of a family of twelve growing up in a railroad apartment in Brooklyn. He graduated high school, and then joined the Army, and then the Navy. Upon returning to civilian life, he got a job as a deckhand on a tugboat in the Army Corp of Engineers working the New York harbor.
When I was five, my family moved to a blue-collar, factory town in New Jersey, where I grew up. It had its tough moments with fist fights and bullies, but we always kept it real.
My father was honest to a fault and not always an easy man to warm up to, especially if you were the sensitive type. He called it like he saw it, which often meant calling bullshit right to the face of someone telling a lie or trying to sell him a load of crap. He may not have spoken with eloquence, and may have used the word “good” when he should have said “well”, but his message was always crystal clear. Me, being the sensitive type, and he clashed a lot back then, but as I aged and accumulated my own wisdom, I saw the value and courage in his integrity, and came to witness how vital his brand of honesty was if society was not to self-destruct.
Last night in the first presidential debate, Donald Trump reminded me of my Dad; a fish out of water in a land ruled by cutthroat liars, character assassins, and hijacked politicians that without a sense of right or wrong will cut you to shreds and bury the pieces never to be found. Trump spoke without eloquence, called bullshit a lot, and sometimes got it wrong. Meanwhile his opponent said all the right things; the things that roll off the tongues of professional politicians like glistening droplets of venom dripping from the mouth of a cobra; the things that are always promised but in the end never delivered.
As a people, we’ve apparently developed a taste for these hollow promises, as long as they are slick and shiny. We are led by an example that says it’s okay to cheat and lie. Our government and political system is not broken. It’s working just as it’s been rigged to work. We see and ignore and feel helpless, as too many powerful people teach us that the end justifies the means, and where we once saw heroes step up to save the day, we now only see accomplices to the corruption. How can an unpolished business man trying to do the right thing for America ever succeed in such a sinister landscape? As a society, we are like a person who goes to the same diner and eats the same meal every day of his life. It keeps him alive, but it tastes like shit.
By the way, my Dad worked on those tugboats all his life, but he didn’t retire as a deckhand. He retired as Captain.