You’ve heard from me ad nauseum about my take on life and its ebbs and flows. Utter honesty, as you well know, is my style, even when self-incriminating. Families function best when nothing is hidden.
My current chapter wreaks of pessimism and dread. I apologize that my theme is not more upbeat. My perspective on American values and the public has shifted. I find myself worried and distressed. My view of the future is clouded by doubt.
The two of you are three decades younger than I. As you should, you see life differently. You doubtlessly will disagree, unaccustomed to my surge of pessimism and pique. I’ve always thought that optimism was a key to a happy, fulfilling, life, factoring in a large dosage of reality.
Okay, Dad, what’s your point? Cease the preamble and get on with it. Our lives are too busy to endure an onslaught of excessive verbiage.
Here I go, ladies. When my maternal grandparents arrived from East Europe in the early 1900s, they sought and achieved the American dream, defined in this instance as ample economic, social and cultural opportunity. They loved their new country. Nothing was closed to them, except, I supposed, by a veil of religious bigotry. They overcame religious obstacles and established a legacy of accomplishment and ambition for generations to come.
I think daily about my grandparents and feel grateful and admiring. What they lacked in formal schooling, they compensated through common sense, arduous work and self-education.
My grandparents would find the current America frighteningly divisive and violent. They would find our democracy tarnished and tattered by forces angry about an increasingly Black and brown country, one from which they feel excluded and alienated.
My grandparents would be alarmed by mass shootings at schools, churches, synagogues and hospitals. They would be stunned by rifts among family members and friends over politics. They would be distressed by the rampant tribalism in our fragile nation, where we have communities gated literally and figuratively.
The dissolution of democracy, as tangibly marked by the assault on our capital on Jan. 6, 2021, would be the most grievous stain on a way of life so important to my immigrant grandparents. They might wonder if anarchy common to their countries of origin had become part of the now fractured United States.
My advice to my beloved daughters is not to accept the gloom and doom undergirding this letter, but step forward however you judge best and reclaim our country, to fight the forces of destruction and rebuild a democracy based on trust in our electoral process and institutions.
You have the intelligence and gutsiness to reunite our United States, to somehow summon our better angels—against all obstacles—and help provide a glue to restore a commitment to a common good based upon acceptance and tolerance.
You have strong character and backbone, a keen sense of what is right and decent, and what is morally wrong. You treat people populating our varied social strata with respect.
I do not suggest that that our fractious society can climb out of its self-imposed abyss merely through the constant application of character, fairness, tolerance and honesty. Our human condition is flawed and imperfect. However, a surge of viral kindness and empathy would be helpful.
For your sake and mine, I will step down from my shaky soapbox and offer my confidence in the inherent goodness of each of you. You love our currently dysfunctional country, as I do. Please help it retrieve its moral, once exceptional swagger.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.