Aug. 7 marked the 30th anniversary of my father's death. He died at 57 from a heart attack. As with most people from the "Greatest Generation," the poor tough times of his early childhood and the Great Depression helped to shape his entire life. He was the first in his family to finish high school and to graduate from college. I was born during his senior year at Syracuse University when he returned there after his service in World War II.
A great deal has happened in our country since my father's death. I wonder what he would think about things today.
During WWII, it would take months for letters between my mother and father to reach each other. Today, soldiers in Iraq have easy, often daily, access to e-mail or phones that enable them to communicate home on a regular basis. Cell phones have become indispensable yet annoying and are a hazard while being used in a moving vehicle. While changes in how we communicate would fascinate him, I don't think my father would own a cell phone.
My father was interested in politics but he did not have a formal party affiliation. He was more interested in the quality of the man running for president than whether he was a Democrat or Republican. I wonder what he would think of the extreme polarization within our country concerning politics and the two major parties.
I have a general idea of how he would feel about the war in Iraq. He was not a supporter of the Vietnam War, and when my brother Stuart and I were there it must have been hard on him. I think that the year I spent in Iraq would have been hard on him as well. I believe that he would be appalled at the notion one could be labeled unpatriotic if you had a different viewpoint or opinion than the one that was put out by the government supporting the war. He was also a student of history and would wonder why our country does not seem to learn from our past history in this area. He would have little sympathy for terrorists or terrorism as a means of political change. The concept of suicide bombers would boggle his mind.
The extent that computers are in our daily lives would probably fascinate and scare him at the same time. I believe that he would embrace computers but our dependency on them would cause him to worry. The recent crash of the HSBC computers could be a good case in point.
We can't seem to live without bottled water these days and in recent years there has been an explosion in self-storage units. I can't see my father walking around with a bottle of water, and he might think that while there is some practicality in self-storage units, it simply allows us to continue to hold on to all of that "important" stuff we don't seem to be able to part with but never use.
The advances in medicine would exhilarate him but the general decline in manners, morals and civility towards others would be very upsetting to him. I don't think the language, violence and sex that our kids are exposed to on television, in movies or even in everyday life would make him very happy.
While I think his reaction to the cost of living today would be about what it is for everyone else of a certain age, he would probably be appalled by the conspicuous consumption and waste in society today. He would simply shake his head at everything to do with air travel.
I wonder if my father would think we are better off as a society than we were 30 years ago. My guess is that he would be both amazed and saddened at the same time.