At this point in writing my father’s story, I am deeply immersed in the years 1910 – 1912. Before my father went off to college supported by the money he had saved working for two years on a job he didn’t like. Before the first World War that killed his first – and maybe only—best friend and Best Man at my parent’s wedding (June 6, 1917.)

Some few people in Forestville/Bristol Connecticut were buying cars, enough so there were six automobile dealers and retailers listed in the city business directory. He walked to work past private homes whose green lawns were enhanced by gardens of asters and chrysanthemums. On Sundays he walked to Bethesda Lutheran Church to participate in the Swedish service, singing in the choir, having practiced there on Wednesday evenings.

I imagine peace, quiet, and hope when I spend time there. But on 9/30/1910, three days after my father arrived in the United states, the newspapers reported a terrorist bombing of the Los Angeles Times. Twenty people were killed. The source I read didn’t give any details about the bomber or motivation for the carnage. But it awakens me to the fact that we have never been without terrorism.

So what would my father have to say today if he were here about the most recent terrorist attack? Maybe that’s when he’d say of his life, “I’m glad I’m on my way out.” I know he’d feel sadness, dismay, and probably disgust that people or groups choose killing as a way of solving problems. I’m quite sure we would be discussing it at the dinner table, searching for possible answers.

I know he wouldn’t jump to conclusions about motive, while he would relate it to the spate of killings to which we have, sadly, become accustomed. I know he wouldn’t scapegoat.

Was the Orlando attack part of an organized plan by an organized enemy? Apparently not, according to FBI reports. Was it hatred of the LGBT community? Was it the perpetrator’s personal illness – bipolar disorder? Was it the killers confused battle with his own sexuality? Was it a combination of some or all of the above?

Whatever lay behind the horror, he’d know it can’t be explained by simplistic assumptions. He’d worry that some might not understand how complex the situation is and would choose to rush into inappropriate reactions. My father wasn’t opposed to emotions, but he did favor rational consideration when it comes to understanding and responding.

Looking over all the terrorist attacks, domestic or externally motivated, from Columbine to now, he’d see, as we can’t help but see, that the one common denominator is not only the use of guns, but more basically the choice of violence.

On today’s news I heard that investigators are suggesting a psychological factor uniting them all – that the killer(s) were trying to gain control. My father’s youngest daughter (me) finds that highly reasonable. Having control over one’s own life is basic to being fully human. To oversimplify, it comes from expressing one’s own individual abilities and strengths and feeling rewarded and respected for them. When one doesn’t receive that gift through life situations or genetic givens, then shame may encourage debilitating depression, or, with more energy, blaming and gaining control over others. Demagoguery is one control route, but not for all. Enslavement is another, as is killing, whether organized or individual.

I think my father would say we’d better be careful before rushing to violent conclusions of our own, and take a look at the complexity of life under any circumstances, but certainly in a democracy. It may not be immediately satisfying, but solutions that stick in the long run usually aren’t quick and easy.



13 responses to “WHAT WOULD MY FATHER THINK?

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  1. I’m with you, Mona!

  2. Thanks!

  3. My father wrote a song with lyrics to “The RightWay.’ It is about how he ordered his life and made no excuses. He answer is I did it the RIGHT way and that is that. I hear my father all of the time. He speaks to me from the grave like no other. Yours I see is speaking to you as well. Aren’t we lucky?

    • Indeed we are lucky. A client of mine reminded me of that the other day, having had no such wonderful connection with her father. I appreciate it daily. Strangely, reading your message brought tears to my eyes — obviously a powerful, emotional connection. By the way, is the intention of the song anything like Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way?” — an important song to me during a time of stress.

  4. How wonderful to be able to reflect on your father’s teachings – through his words and actions – when struggling to deal with all of the violence we face today. In my view, the problems are deeper than the things customarily mentioned. There always have been and always will be violent, evil people. We must get to the root of the social, world changes that are making violence of this sort an increasing choice. A challenge far more complex as national and local financial problems eat steadily away at the resources once available to support people with huge spaces in their human needs.
    I also feel that adolescence is a modern luxury. To have all those years open to misuse, to lose yourself, and feel “lost” opens opportunities for a laundry list of options. So many are unable for various reasons to pursue education, surrounded completely by subliminal – and not so subliminal – messages of materialism and the availability of mind altering drugs to “get through” the difficult times. It is no wonder that some will turn to the allure of organized hostile groups, from gangs to ISIS. They seem so welcoming to the lost souls of adolescence.

    • What a great response — great, I guess, because I agree with you.Somehow right now it seems we have unleashed the worst in all of us — the Shadow side — and yet, at the same time, we see the loving reaction against it. What interesting times we live in.

  5. This is a very uncertain world we live in and no one can come up with the perfect answer to stop the attacks on innocent people and the threats that exist. These terrorists that grew up in this country must have had some strong need to be fulfilled and therefor easy targets for the evil brainwashers. There should be free help for the young who may display any unusual behavior, so the problems can be addressed at an early age. Of course, there are those who seem perfectly normal and suddenly blow up a public place or go on a shooting spree. I fear for the younger generation if those in power don’t succeed in getting the violence under control.
    Already, I feel like I am beginning to know your father. You certainly are a gifted writer, Mona.

  6. This is a beautifully written, thought-provoking post. I like how you framed recent events within historical and psychological contexts.

  7. Completely engrossing.

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