What I Know

I don’t get it. There are some things that I’ve wracked my brain trying to understand and I’m just unable to see. Like, how is it that there are people that believe the come to believe that the Earth is flat? Or that we never landed on the Moon? Why are people so willing to believe junk science on YouTube about vaccines or anything for that matter? And at the same time dismiss actual peer reviewed science? How do people fall for cults like Scientology, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, and The People’s Temple? That last one especially, how do you get to a place where one man has such complete control over your mind that you willingly poison your children and watch them die before taking your own life? And how does Donald Trump, or any politician of all things, engender such slavish and complete devotion bordering on the verge of outright worship? On the outside looking in on all of these things it’s just… bewildering. Unfathomable. Beyond my ken.

Here’s what I do know.

I’ve not always had a great relationship with my dad. Especially when I was younger. We’ve had some titanic disagreements over the years. During my childhood those “disagreements” often landed me in hot water and my dad could be quite strict when it came to discipline. Not like beatings or anything (though there were many times I’m sure I deserved them), but if you would grounded for a week it was precisely one week. He was quite good at finding pressure points and using them. In one instance the power cord to my old Atari 400 was taken from me for 2 weeks. This was quite possibly the most devastating punishment he could dole out at the time.

My dad values discipline and that goes for his own actions. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in the 60s. He rose to the rank of Sergeant and served in the Vietnam War. I believe the Marines reinforced his sense of duty, honor, regimen, integrity. But he doesn’t often call attention to his service. It’s sometimes easy to forget that is part of his past, though he does recognize the USMC birthday each year and give an Oorah from time to time. After serving, my dad and Uncle formed a successful small business which they operated for over 40 years. Literally started in a garage back in 1969. And though not overtly religious, he took care to make sure we went to church regularly and that I was Confirmed by the Lutheran church (at the same time my mother made sure I was instructed in the ways of Southern Baptists after their divorce in the early 70s). Although he never attended university he never missed a chance to stress the importance of education to his children and continues to try and better himself to this day. He’s always reading something but I don’t think I’ve known him to read a work of fiction. He had a notion to read a biography of every U.S. President for Pete’s sake.

I could go on. Certainly he has his faults as any human being does. But all this is to say that may dad is a thoughtful and honorable man. Not only focused on making the correct decision, but the right decision, as in the right thing to do. Unfortunately for me, growing up and on into adulthood we didn’t always see eye to eye. At every major crossroads, whether I asked for it or not, his advice turned out to be correct, despite repeated efforts by me to prove him wrong. This happened over and over. It was quite annoying really. The old man was right. Again. Slowly but surely I learned to disregard his opinion at my own peril. Now when there are hard decisions to be made I go out of my way to make sure I get his take.

So, sitting here in deep red Tennessee as I skim through my social media and see so many friends, family, former classmates, etc., taken in by conspiracy theories and the cult of Trump it can be hard to give voice to opinions that would seem to be in the minority. But then I remember on these issues my dad and I are agreement. Ideologically he’s actually fairly conservative but he’s not blinded by it. Character. Integrity. Truth. These are things that are more important to him than any ideological purity test and traits that the current administration is seemingly devoid of. And in this we are in agreement. Were we not, he would most certainly let me know. I’ve heard “That’s dumb” from him more often than I care to admit. We spend probably too much time during our regular phone calls wondering how it can be that there are some that can not or will not see what is so plainly obvious. Our calls are like a little oasis in a desert of what passes for public discourse these days. Given my dad’s history as a wise councilor over the years these discussions bolster my confidence that I’m on the right path, though perhaps not the easiest one. Actually if something were easy it would probably raise a red flag for him. “If you’re going to do something, do it right”, “no pain, no gain”, “work hard, play hard”, are all expressions I’ve heard more than once.

This is a bit more than I set out to write (as usual). Basically, I have come to think the world of my dad and give more weight to his opinion than any other source. As the years have rolled on and I have, at last, gained enough wisdom to see his more clearly. I know if I come to the same conclusion as my dad, I can rest easy knowing, odds are, it’s right.