Moved more by perspiration than inspiration after a nasty tweet storm, I sat down recently and wrote an open letter of apology to my grown-up children. Other remorseful parents may wish to follow my example.
It is with a heavy heart that I must admit that everything I taught you when you were younger has turned out to be a crock. Well, not everything. The thing about when the bartender runs away, you run away, is still good advice.
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It is also true that you don’t ever have to fear being embarrassed for the simple reason you can’t die of embarrassment. If that were not so, I would have died years ago.
But the rest of my advice was a bunch of nonsense, as it turned out. My excuse is that I passed my standards on in good faith. My problem is that I am what is quaintly called “old-fashioned,” which may not come as a shock to you kids. I believe in certain values, which I thought were eternal. Current evidence does not support this conclusion.
I thought if you told the truth, acted in a kindly way to others, did not blow your own horn in fits of egotism, refused to be mean, never played the bully or called people names and generally tried not to resemble the rear quarters of a horse, you would have the respect of all. Apparently, it is the reverse. Sorry.
I thought that by teaching you these old-fashioned values handed down by my father and his father before him and a long line of stern men with impressive whiskers, and on your mother’s side by a formidable array of proper women with accusatory stares so incendiary that they could ignite the dining room curtains if they missed the guilty party in their sights, there would be no stopping your success. Not so. Very sorry.
I believed that with a sturdy foundation of character, either one of you could rise to be president. I now recognize this theory as a delusion. Many regrets.
Take, for example, the matter of telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, Forget it. Nobody bothers with that anymore. Sorry I said anything about it.
If George Washington were a little boy today and he cut down the cherry tree, he would say: “Father, I cannot tell a lie; it was Obama and the mainstream media that cut down the tree.” And George’s father would say, “That sounds right. Good boy, George.”
Clearly, to be swooned over by a considerable segment of the American population, a leader must be a master of misinformation who gushes a Niagara Falls of untruths, half-truths, lies, whoppers, obfuscations, fake news and alternative facts in tweets or whole speeches.
And people love him for it; they can’t get enough outrageous statements, the more plainly wrong or illogical the better. They cry out to their hero: “Please, please, tell us again how you are going to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it. And also tell us about the new health care plan that’s going to be great and how you are going to bring back the coal industry.” And so on and so on, etc. into the night.
No, kids, I did not prepare you for this brazen world. Silly me, I just thought that if you took responsibility for your own actions instead of blaming other people for setbacks, the cornerstone of character, people would recognize your goodness and greatness.
That’s how much I knew. Mea culpa, mea culpa, forgive your father for I have sinned, to the extent that sin is still a viable concept.
Kids, I fear the damage is already done but maybe you can make a late run for greatness by incorporating our new national example. Why don’t you call all your friends together, a little cabinet of admirers, and urge them to tell you how wonderful you are?
Go around the table and as each gives you a display of fawning and obsequious buttering-up, you can preen, smile and glow with self-satisfaction and ad lib a few fibs. This is bound to inspire all who hear of it.
And forget all the other alleged truths I formerly held to be self-evident as markers of decency, you know, being humble in victory, never betraying the loyalty of your colleagues, never discriminating against minorities or picking on scapegoats and always treating women with respect. What a load of unhelpful advice, as I now plainly see.
Yours in contriteness, Dad. xoxo
The writer is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist.