When I was about six or seven years old, I was in temple one Sabbath sitting next to my father, when a man came to shake my hand, I took his hand and said good Sabbath to him, when all of a sudden I felt a little smack on the back of my head and the loud voice of my father saying, “Stand up when someone shakes your hand.” Embarrassed and cheeks flushed, I got up and shook the man’s hand. This would happen often in temple and in life with my father and me. There was the time at the amusement park that my sister was waiting on line. I was about the same age, six or seven, and she let me stand next to her inline, ahead of the other fifty or so people who were waiting behind us. All of a sudden there was my father, pulling me off line and telling me quite loudly that I was stealing the time of the people waiting behind me. I was, of course, once again, embarrassed and ashamed and I walked away crying. Like most children given harsh lessons from a harsh man, I hated my father. Why couldn’t he be just a little cooler? Why couldn’t he just relax? Why did he always have to be on edge?
There were other lessons I learned from my father. There were the Sunday phone calls from the temple saying a member had died and the funeral was that day. Of course, there went our Sunday. My father, why did he have to be so damned involved when he already worked 17 hour days all week? All I wanted were a few hours of his time. There were the endless temple committees that he belonged to because he felt an obligation; why couldn’t he be like the other dads and just go with the flow? Why couldn’t someone else take this one and let my dad sit this one out. Why couldn’t he just be cool and laid back?
As I have watched over the last seven years a President, as some would say, act like a petulant child, getting involved in things he wanted, and avoiding at all costs, things he didn’t. Where was that voice in the back of his head? No one wants to go to a funeral, heck, no man really wants to do anything over the weekend. But what separates those of us that do and those of us that don’t is that person that who gave us a smack. It’s called courtesy, it’s called respect. It doesn’t matter from whom the lessons came, we all need to have that voice instilled in our minds when we are young.
We shouldn’t we be shocked when the President goes golfing after someone is beheaded. We shouldn’t be shocked when the President visits San Bernardino for an hour before he gets on a plane to Hawaii. We shouldn’t be shocked when our President doesn’t go to a funeral, instead opting for an easy Saturday. Oh yes, this speaks volumes to the rising discourse that we have had over the last seven years, because the one major thing our country has lacked is the voice of father. Say what you will about President Bush or President Clinton, they always showed up. Even if we weren’t always happy with what they did and how they did it, they were present. The voice of childhood lessons made it so they almost never sat one out.
Of course, I’m grateful for the lessons my father instilled in me and Lord knows I wish I would have taken many more. My father taught me how to suit up and show up. My father taught me the values and merits of doing the non-enjoyable. It’s hard knocking someone when I am so flawed myself, but hey, I’m not the President. Our country needs a father/parent/ grandparent. It’s time America, it’s time that we all got a good smack in the back of our heads, and trust me it’s not just Democrats that need it.
I am now preparing to go to visit my friend in rehab this weekend for his birthday, not an easy assignment given the circumstances. I’d rather be doing almost anything else. However, I want to thank my father for smacking me in the back of the head and showing me how to do it. I pray we have someone leading our country who does the same.
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