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My dad was a child of the Depression. Born in January of 1919, he was just 10 1/2 when the Crash hit, so not, perhaps, old enough to understand exactly what had happened but certainly old enough to know that it was something bad. His father was a college professor, so he was somewhat insulated from the worst of the economic realities, but he was a bright boy and saw that not all his classmates were as well off as he was. He went to the university's "lab school" through grade 10, but then transferred to the city's public high school, as his older bother had. There he met students from other social milieus, including some from the country who boarded in town during the week…poor kids who had been affected greatly by the Depression. Some dropped out, some stayed and worked hard for their education. This made an impression on him. So did his subsequent time at the University of Missouri, where he met even more young people in more different economic circumstances, including my mother, the daughter of a country lawyer and sometime federal marshal, who grew up in more straitened circumstances than he had. He and Mom had been married a year when WWII broke out. Dad enlisted in the Navy, applied and was accepted to OCS, and served in the Pacific Theater as weather officer on a seaplane tender. He was awarded the Naval Air Medal for something, but he never would talk about it, preferring to talk instead about the people he served with and the places he'd seen. This experience, however, shaped my dad a lot.
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Dad's parents, and Mom's too, were old-fashioned liberal Republicans. They might have voted a time or two for FDR, but none of them ever would say, and my paternal grandparents might even have voted for Truman out of home state pride. In later years, however, Dad's mom, the last surviving of my grandparents, became bitterly disillusioned by Watergate. She'd voted for Nixon, and to say she felt betrayed would be an understatement. She was furious! She did like Gerald Ford, but she grew to admire Jimmy Carter and voted for him in 1980 because she absolutely could not abide Ronald Reagan.

My parents, however, perhaps because of being Depression kids, were New Deal Democrats who became increasingly liberal, Mom more than Dad. I know that they voted for Truman and Adlai Stevenson, and my first real political memory is of my mother sending around a petition in the neighborhood for the recall of Sen. Joe McCarthy. We were good friends with a family who were very active in the state Democratic party and my mother often did telephone campaigning, something I can't do to this day. My folks supported Hubert Humphrey in the 1960 Wisconsin primary and I remember being taken to campaign headquarters where I actually met him. Dad always an admired him and felt that his biggest failing was that perhaps he wanted too much to be president. My dad supported civil rights early on and came around to supporting the anti-Vietnam War movement. Later on he surprised us all by becoming a (somewhat reluctant at first) supporter of gay rights, mainly because, he said, it wasn't right to discriminate against someone for something they couldn't help being.

My dad was a stand-up guy who believed in doing what was right because it's right, not because it's convenient for you or some other reason. He believed in treating people with respect and he believed that if you thought something was wrong you should try all legal means to fix it. He wasn't opposed to nonviolent civil disobedience, however, and he had a great respect for people of conscience who practiced it. He also believed that the institutions of this country were worthy of respect and that anyone holding the office of President deserved respect because of the office, no matter what you thought of him personally. That was certainly clear during Watergate, when he made clear his personal distaste for Nixon and all that Nixon had done, but when all was said and done, Nixon was still the president and the office deserved respect. Same thing when George W. Bush, who Dad characterized, shaking his head, as "absolutely the worst president I can remember, and I've lived through a few!" held the office. I was almost glad that by the time Rep. Joe Wilson let out his disgraceful "You lie!" during Obama's State of the Union message, Dad had slipped into the dementia that would claim his last few years. And I am really glad he can't see the disrespect towards the President and the seditious and even treasonous behavior going on, not only among the citizen right wing, but among some of the ex-military and even in the halls of Congress. He would surely weep for the country he defended and worked for.

Sorry, Dad. Wherever you are, please know that some of us are still out here trying.

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