A Decent Man
My father loved westerns. Most men of his generation seemed to. Save for a two week holiday at the beach - the same beach - each and every summer, his life revolved exclusively around Mother, me and work, but every week or so, with us in tow, he would head off to the theatre to watch John Wayne ride through the Black Hills of the Dakotas on horseback. On the screen was a strange landscape, treeless, with oddly jagged mountains so unlike their soft, green cousins of which we were familiar. There was danger here as well: rattlesnakes, scorpions, rather frightening Indians. A man could ride out in the desert in the morning and die of thirst, or worse, by noontime. And through it all, Mr. Wayne and his compatriots rode tall in the saddle, unafraid and always victorious in whatever mission had been handed them.
Though I accompanied Daddy to the theatre each time he went, I rarely watched the movie. The theatre we frequented most often was historic and beautiful with mysterious, Moorish hallways and lavishly decorated bathrooms that I loved to explore so all too often I was out of my seat whilst the action unfolded on the screen. But occasionally we went to other theatres, ones more pedestrian in style with little to interest a child’s imagination. On those occasions I would usually sit and watch the movie, albeit with mere cursory intent.
It was one of those nights at one of those duller theatres that I remember very well, not for the film nor the actors but for something else entirely. Lost, as usual, in the tall weeds of my own thoughts, I was only fractionally aware of the voices on the screen when suddenly, without the slightest warning, Daddy stood up, took my hand and announced to my Mother that we were leaving. Together we marched up the carpeted aisle in his wake, me scurrying to keep up and thoroughly confused.
Back outside in the night as we quick-stepped to the car, I whispered to my Mother… “What happened?”
“That man in the movie said something bad”, she whispered back.
I found out later, after hounding my mother relentlessly for the answer, one of the actors had called another the son of a female dog. My father, outraged that language such as this was uttered in front of his daughter and wife, simply got us out of there as fast as he could. He was hardly as sheltered man. He’d served on warships in the Pacific during WWII. His ears had heard worse, much worse, I have no doubt. But he cared about us as women, he respected us enough to want to hold us above such language and ugliness.
I have thought about Daddy a lot over the past few weeks. Though I miss him every day, I cannot help but be grateful he isn’t here to witness how low, how far down, we’ve been driven by this current presidential campaign. For those who were raised as I was, by a loving, dignified and decent man who held women in high esteem, the words and behaviour of this man running for the highest office in our land have been repugnant and, for me, outrage and shock have all too often given over to depression and despair.
None of us has the luxury of being sheltered these days. We hear worse language than my father tried to keep from me in the supermarket. Certainly, it clogs our airwaves like sludge. But this is different. The office of the President of the United States is different. When parents are afraid to let their children listen to the presidential debates because they don’t trust what this man is going to say, something is different. Something is seriously, sadly, wrong.
The polls say this man cannot win. I pray they are correct. But I fear the damage has been done. His followers, emboldened by his vile and viperish words, have had their racism, bigotry and hatred validated and will not, I fear, fade away to the ash heap of history en masse. Even worse, those who have always championed “family values” and who have cravenly supported this man for political or, God help us, religious reasons, have sacrificed an integrity that will be almost impossible to regain.
Through the years America has often been a beacon of justice and hope to the rest of the world. We have held ourselves up as a light to which others have looked, a land where all are created equal, a country where we strive for fairness and decency. Our President should be a role model for our young men to emulate and our young women to respect. For too long this vulgar mouthpiece of ignorance and hatred has sullied our good name, as well as our good sense, across the globe and I feel utterly humiliated in front of my friends from other countries.
I know what a decent man looks like.
I was raised by one.
This is not a decent man.
(For those of you looking for a report of Scotland, trust me… it’s coming. Along with a new ghost story for Halloween. This is not my usual blog topic, it’s true. But these are not usual times. I have always expressed true feelings on this blog and I cannot help but do so now.)