Sunday, April 20, 2008

my father

I have had several people lately question me about revealing so much publicly on this blog. About work, about family and about, well, everything. The thing is, I don't feel exposed. Perhaps I should be more discreet, but polite chatter is no longer in me. I spent all my caution chits in my youth. Obsessed about what everyone thought. Preoccupied with "avoiding [even] the appearance of evil." The call to speak truth as I see it is stronger than all that for me. Check back with me if I get fired. I'm betting I'll feel the same.

Of course, that frankness does not extend to the people in my life without permission. I don't include names or details that would leave those I care about vulnerable.

I do have a deal with my kids, though. If the story is really good and we don't explicitly forbid its telling, all holds are barred.

This is not about my kids, however. It is about my father. And told with his permission. He is a complex, dynamic, difficult and earnest man. A man who epitomizes the American way. There is so much history to his life that it has hindered my writing about him up until now. Suffice it to say, he is a man who came to this country as a child, did not speak the language, lived in a ghetto, went into the army and served his country, educated himself and raised five children who have transcended subsistence living and ignorance because of his inspirational, bullheaded perseverance.

My father and I love to talk about politics. He started out a conservative man who, in my opinion, was freed from that cling-to-the-past mentality by formal and informal education, keen observation and surviving the horrors of poverty, bigotry and war. He's a retired cop, to boot, and that makes the transition even more noteworthy.

It was our conversation on waterboarding that fueled me past the overwhelming task of introducing him. My father enlisted in the army in his late teens and served this country in Korea. He speaks very little of this time. However, I believe it was the beginning of the end of his blind, flag-waving nationalism. My mother once found a box of his war medals and asked him about them. His only answer was to upend them into the trash.

So Dad says that absolutely, unequivocally: waterboarding is torture. It's not an issue worthy of debate and he says that there is nothing more unAmerican than condoning torture.

Then, he said to me,
E, do you know what else is torture?

What Dad?
Sleep deprivation.
[I quell the snarky: You're preaching to the narcoleptic choir here, Dad.]

He says that the army used sleep deprivation on him and his fellow soldiers in Korea. He said it got to the point where you didn't care who you killed or if you were killed—so maddened were you by the need for sleep. After days and days of sleeplessness and mayhem, you became a zombie watching your buddies and the enemy brutally killed.

When you are finally allowed to put your head down even briefly, he said do you know what happens in your nineteen-year-old head?

You dream of a bed.

1 comment:

StevensVox said...

Thank your Dad for allowing you to tell this snippet of your Father's life. Wolf and I saw Rendition last night, and talked quite a bit about the concept of torture vs. the greater good. (Can someone explain to me again why I am partnered to a conservative Republican?)
Also I am quite sorry for you and your family that your cousin's transplant did not take and he was taken too from his family, you and yours are in my heart and thoughts.
Steven