Thursday, December 28, 2017

Celebrating my dad's 90th birthday - and a look at our country

It's hard to believe, but my dad turned 90 years old today. He's old enough to have been able to see Babe Ruth play at the old Yankee Stadium, but not old enough to have known what was going on there. He has lived through a period of major events including:
  1. The Great Depression
  2. Pearl Harbor and World War 2
  3. The Civil Rights Movement
  4. The Sexual "Revolution"
  5. The Vietnam War
  6. September 11, 2001 and the start of America's Forever Wars

    And what may be most important of all:
  7. The Computer Age
Any one of these events or time periods would be enough for one person to experience. And in the past, a person might only experience one or two of these major events or time periods in a lifetime.

I have seen my dad go from a man in the prime of his life to someone in the twilight of his years. He was strong enough to hold me in his arms when I was a baby, and now is frail and weak. It is understandable that he needs to feel safe and secure in these, the last few years of his life.

- - - - - -

Given today's politics, I don't think my dad would understand the dangers coming up. A group of politicians has decided to act irresponsibly and claim a tax cut will produce enough growth to pay for itself. Instead, it will force us to cut spending, especially the medicare and medicaid he depends on in old age. The claims made by the politicians are not supported by most economists, and we're seeing a political party drift further and further from reality.

Another danger is a growing desire among many people for a "strong leader" form of government. Many people who have been left behind live in "one horse towns" and do not have the resources to move where the well paying jobs are.

If you look at this map, the biggest employer in a large swath of our country is Walmart. And there is a strong correlation between "Red States" and Walmart employment. Labor is cheap, and people have been taught that they should be grateful to have a job - any job. And this was the same feeling people had when my dad was growing up in the Great Depression.

What ended the Great Depression?  World War 2.  And we've been heading into an age of "Forever Wars" since September 11, 2001.  The drum beat of fear has taken hold of a large swath of our country. We no longer welcome newcomers to America, many of us want to chase them out. Many Americans fear that illegal aliens / undocumented immigrants are taking their jobs, when evidence proves that this isn't true. These workers are doing the jobs that Americans don't want, and that Americans will leave as soon as better options open for them.

The "Liberal Democracies" (USA, Great Britain, and others), the USSR and China fought World War 2 against the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan). One will note that Germany and Japan had the strongest propaganda regarding "Racial Purity."  And we're seeing that vile streak come from today's American Neo-Nazis and Neo-Confederates.  Would my dad in his youth have seen these Neo Authoritarians as much of a danger as we see them today?  I'm not sure, but I don't think he cares much, now that he is an old man who will likely die before this evil is purged from America. Given that he supported Trump before going into the nursing home, I'm not sure if he could see the parallels of the dangers of the past and the dangers of today.

Once my dad left the service, America experienced great change. Rock and Roll conquered the nation, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and the sexual revolution was taking hold among America's youth. Frank Sinatra was still very popular, but on the wane. And people were burning their draft cards to protest the war.  We became very divided in this era, and my dad focused his life on raising two children instead of the world around him. For the most part, this was a stable time in his life, although the promises of prosperity were gradually being taken away from him.

By the time my dad reached his 60's, small scale manufacturing had left the New York City area, and he could no longer run a business which catered to these machine shops. This was a harbinger of what was happening to America as a whole, as automation was eliminating the need for many low skilled workers, while low cost foreign imports were eliminating the need for many other workers. Like me, he had to make the decision whether to retire early or to try and find work. And he landed at a major retailer who was well on the road to failure in the 1980's.

Eventually, my dad gave up on work and retired. Life was good to him for the next few years until his wife (my mother) died - shortly before September 11, 2001. Then, all the people he knew started dying around him - until he was the last man standing among his peers. And this is when his decline started. Before we acknowledged the need to put him in a nursing home, he wanted to die. And he was close to doing that.

Now, my dad is relatively happy again, knowing that he will be taken care of for the rest of his life. His two offspring (to the best of his knowledge) are able to take care of themselves, and are in decent health. In many ways, he has accomplished what most parents should do - see that his offspring are able to live full and rewarding lives, and fulfill their responsibilities to others as needed. He has seen a lot in his lifetime, and will likely see even more before he eventually passes away.

No comments:

Post a Comment