Today is Father’s Day.
So as a father and a grandfather, I am exercising my prerogative to discuss with my grandchildren — and, by extension, all grandchildren — a matter of significant concern. At least, to all men of my generation who were raised by the Greatest Generation, it should be!
I write this thinking about my two fabulous, loving, intelligent and caring grandkids because I know they will listen to my concerns. We have that kind of relationship. They think that my gray hair and substantial age advantage confers upon me some kind of wisdom from which they may learn something of value. At least, that is what their incredible parents have taught them since an early age. Thank you, Amy and Paul.
I am also writing to this newest generation of Americans because I am afraid that the older members of the American family have become so set in their ways and in their politics and in their universes of living — alternate or otherwise — that they may be beyond understanding what is in so many ways a very simple message. So, I rest my hopes for the future of our democracy on the shoulders and open minds of our young people.
Right about now I should quote from one of my favorite movies of all time. It actually isn’t a quote from the movie, it is the movie. “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming!” It is a comedy about a Russian boat being washed ashore and in need of help. Since it took place during the height of the Cold War, the American reaction was to repel the “invasion” at all costs. It is a very funny movie.
What hasn’t been funny in our history is the real attacks on our sovereignty. Take Pearl Harbor, for instance. December 7, 1941, has lived in infamy for four generations and always will. The United States of America was attacked in such a heinous and sneaky way that the Greatest Generation responded with overwhelming commitment and force to repel the Axis powers and save the world for democracy. In short, no one was found wanting when it came to protecting our country and its way of life.
I want my grandchildren to know that my generation — we are called the baby boomers — have grown up with the heroics and determination of World War II on our minds and in our psyche. We grew up in our parents’ homes so we have firsthand knowledge of the resolve it took for ordinary people to leave their homes, the comfort of their communities and the certainty of their lives and go to war in faraway places, knowing many would not come home. They took up arms to defend the United States of America.
I also want the young ones to know that, as hard as the boomers have tried to justify the sacrifices of the generations that came before us, we have been found wanting in many respects. For some or many reasons, the sacrifices we made in our lifetimes — which were significant for many in my generation — have not borne the same fruit as that of our parents’ efforts.
Where we had every opportunity for an education denied to our parents, we have fought forever to deny that same opportunity to the next generation and the next. For sure, there are lots of reasons why we have failed to produce a better educational system than the one we enjoyed, but the fact is we have failed. The result is now readily apparent to all who are willing to see.
The voting public has finally produced a political class that, for the most part, has failed to learn the lessons of the past or the lessons vital to the future. Maybe it was a cutback in civics classes, or American government or even critical thinking somewhere along the way to school, but today’s voters and leaders seem to be missing a link to that generation that really did do great things for America and provided my generation the greatest opportunity to pursue the American dream. Ever.
So now, kids, you represent the newest generation of Americans who will grow up to take your place in a country that will continue to lead the world toward a life that is good and fulfilling and beneficial for all the good people on the planet. At least, that is my hope.
My fear is that the Russians are coming. Check that. The Russians are here and there doesn’t seem to be much that our president or our Congress or anyone else in a position of responsibility is willing to do about it.
The news continues to get worse. What we thought last year was some Russian meddling around the edges of our 2016 presidential election is turning out to be a deep-seated and continuous effort to try to insert itself into each state’s voting data apparatus toward the end of interfering with free and fair elections from now on.
If the United States is known and admired for anything around the world, it is the way we conduct ourselves at election time and the peaceful transfer of power that results. Mess with that, cause our citizens to question not only the value but the efficacy of their vote, and this thing called a democracy will be on thin ice indeed.
Our president refuses to admit his Russian friends had anything to do with hacking into our elections. Congress is going through the motions of hearings and a modest effort to impose sanctions — because the citizens are demanding they do so — but they dally and dither and distract for political reasons to the point that it could be months and years before something is known and done. Meantime, the Russians — our enemy — continue along their merry way as we head into the next election cycle knowing full well that the White House will do nothing and the political divide in the Congress will cause nothing to be done.
Pearl Harbor was devastating. The loss of life was intolerable as was the attack that caused it to happen. Other attacks on our way of life have also caused casualties in the thousands and losses in resulting wars in the tens and hundreds of thousands. The price of freedom and liberty, unfortunately, will always be dear.
But now we are faced with the biggest and most devastating attack in our history. What the Russians are doing threatens the essence of our way of life — our democracy — and in the face of that attack what does America do?
What do we do, indeed?
So here is the lesson, kids. You continue to go to school and learn all that you can about everything that you can. Learn about our government, its institutions and our democratic system of checks and balances. Learn about our Constitution and what our Founding Fathers really meant when they wrote it in 1787 and the sacrifices they endured to create this wonderful country. Learn what it takes to be leaders, to stand up for our American way of life and to protect yourselves, your friends, neighbors and countrymen when others try to take away what you have.
You learn all that, and your grandfathers (and grandmothers) will do what we should have been doing all along. We will try to emulate the Greatest Generation when their country and its way of life came under attack. We will fight to save this country.
Not from the Russians, though. The Russians should be easy to defeat for the most powerful country on Earth.
No, our fight has to be against the willful ignorance of our fellow countrymen who can see the danger to our democracy but fail to understand that it is happening because of their silence, their acquiescence, their pettiness and their fearfulness in the face of all the facts to the contrary.
To all the fathers out there: Father’s Day is supposed to be our one day of rest from making the world better for our families and our friends. Today, though, commit yourselves to the other 364 days.
Commit yourselves to acting like Americans who are in a war against some very smart Russians. Commit yourselves to acting like the Greatest Generation when it was their turn to actually save the world. They didn’t worry about their tax rates or their estate taxes or, even, their jobs. What they worried about was their country.
On Father’s Day, commit yourselves to your children. And your grandchildren.
And, please, have a Happy Father’s Day.
Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.