Happy flag day! Happy Father’s Day! – two holidays that have always blended together, for me.
My father was a Veteran of World War II. He, and all the other men I knew who had been in that war, never talked about it. He had lots of funny stories about the men he served with and some of their antics. About how beautiful Paris was. About the strange cultures he encountered in North Africa. But never about the war.
He was a patriot. He truly loved this country and what it represented everywhere he went. He proudly wore a red poppy
in his lapel each Memorial Day. He never missed the opportunity to vote. He studied our government and the people who work in it, closely and regularly. He talked about it with anyone who would let him. If you’d told him he was a patriot, he would have waved away your words and said something like, “I’m just a citizen.”
Being from a family of immigrants, he understood the underdog. Having grown up in Hell’s Kitchen, he knew poverty and under-privilege. And having served in the war in places so poor most of us here can’t imagine, he knew that the poorest immigrant in America can have a far better life than many ordinary people in other parts of the world.
He was a patriot – but not jingoistic. He would never have uttered the words “America first”, since he’d seen first-hand in Europe what can come of such thinking. He would have been appalled by some of the vitriol being spewed by politicians on television and on line. Disregard for facts or common sense or decency on the part of our leaders angered him.
Humility, compassion and intelligence were his guidelines, in politics as in life. If only we could bring those traits back to our political landscape!
For this Flag Day and Father’s Day, I hope that my father’s life’s guidelines – humility, compassion and intelligence – will once again guide our national discourse toward a future he would have been proud of.