Sunday, June 16, 2019 | 2 a.m.
The truths my father told me.
I have celebrated with my family enough Father’s Days in my life to understand that today — as much as it is about our little ones making a big deal about “Daddy” or, in my case “Papa” — is more about our role as fathers and the responsibilities that come with the job.
We are each asked around this time of year “what do we want or what do we want to do” on our special day. My answer always had something to do with golf, although rarely was my wish granted because it usually conflicted with “plans” already made at a higher level, if you get my drift.
Today is no exception.
So what I want today is the time to reflect about what it really means to be a father. And that brings me back to thoughts about my own dad and the truths he always told us when we were children just learning about the world.
In those days, of course, there was no internet. No Google. No Wikipedia. No Facebook. And no other easily obtainable shortcut to learning that also comes fraught with errors, misstatements and intentional and manipulative lies designed to misguide and misinform those who sought the truth.
Nope. We just had books, magazines, daily newspapers and Walter Cronkite — all sources of information that were credible and in almost all cases could be relied upon to tell us the facts. Life and learning was far less complicated in the good old days.
That doesn’t mean I would trade away today, when all the learning in the world is available at our fingertips and when the research and truth-seeking that used to take weeks can now be accessed within minutes. No, we are far better off today with the amount of information that is available to us than we ever were before.
Where we suffer, however, in our quest for knowledge is in our attitude, our effort and our diligence.
I remember as a child that whenever I or my siblings had a question about history, science, current events, government or any other subject we could think about, the first person we would go was to my father. He not only was the fount of most knowledge for a city thirsting for information and guidance, he was also that one place where we knew we could go to get the real story, the truth and the wisdom needed to understand it all.
I remember the first words he would almost always utter when asked a question: “Let’s look it up in the Book of Knowledge.” For anyone in a generation that is not a Baby Boomer, that meant the Encyclopedia Britannica or the World Book Encyclopedia — volumes of which inhabited our bookshelves and the pages of which were relatively worn.
In hindsight, I realize that in many cases, it was my father’s way of also learning an answer without letting on to us that he wasn’t quite sure of it himself. After all, dads were supposed to know everything — at least until we became teenagers.
What he was really doing, however, was teaching his children to research that which they didn’t know, didn’t understand and couldn’t figure out on their own. He was being the best father he could be by teaching us by example how to learn and how to discern fact from fiction, knowing full well that knowledge and understanding would make us better, more informed and more capable citizens when it became our turn to lead.
I was thinking about the great gift my father gave us the other day as I watched the breaking news on the cable channels which, fortunately or not, have become the “Book of Knowledge” and the only source of information for too many of America’s households.
It was a morning — not unusual these days — in which it was being reported that President Donald Trump was thumbing his nose at the CIA and every security agency of the United States by coddling the only man on the planet who has threatened America with nuclear attack; and when the Trump White House was refusing to abide by a lawful subpoena of the United States Congress conducting constitutionally mandated oversight of the executive branch. Pretty weighty issues, I would suggest, regarding the conduct of our democracy and the security of our country. And, also, pretty typical for a Tuesday.
Practically every cable news channel, newspaper and television website, and other source of credible information was reporting on those events.
For chuckles, I tuned in to the Fox News Channel.
I learned more than I ever cared to know about how an estranged husband’s DNA was found mixed with his dead wife’s blood in the kitchen sink. I learned, for at least the second time that morning, about the incredible 13-0 U.S. women’s soccer team victory against Thailand, and I learned a couple of other tidbits of information which, in the scheme of things, wouldn’t change the way the Earth spun on its axis.
What I didn’t learn from Fox News, during that important morning time slot for news watchers, was anything even close to what was screaming from every other credible news source available.
What I learned from my father is that the father of the house or the grandfather of the brood has a responsibility to the young ones coming up. Since they will and should rely on the old man for his opinions and guidance on the weightier issues of life, it behooves each father and grandfather to learn as much as we can so as not to remain purposely ignorant of all that disturbs us. Those issues include whether Kim Jung Un is good or bad for the United States; whether Vladimir Putin really is trying to interfere in our elections to elect someone he can control like a puppeteer; whether the CIA is working for America or against it; whether the Justice Department is supposed to be about justice for all, not just justice for some. Or whether people in a democracy should be encouraged to vote rather than discouraged from even showing up; whether Mexico and Canada, our closest neighbors, friends and trading partners, should be stepped all over rather than lifted up to be even better partners — you know, the issues that determine the economic and physical security of our children and grandchildren.
That means we have got to change the channel to give our kids the opportunity to search today’s “Book of Knowledge” to learn for themselves what is going on in the real world — you know, the world that isn’t defined just by Fox News.
Forget how uncomfortable it will make some fathers and grandfathers feel to hear that which they don’t want to know. This is no longer about Dad but more about his responsibility to his children. And, yes, Grandpa’s obligations to the entire clan.
So, if you ask me what I want for this Father’s Day, my answer is simple: I want all fathers to consider the truths my father told me. I want all fathers to guide their kids to the 21st century’s equivalent of the Book of Knowledge. And I want all fathers to rejoice in the fact that their children will grow to be better citizens as a result of what they will have taught their kids to do for themselves.
Just thinking that could happen would make for a very Happy Father’s Day.
Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.