Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bill Bates At 90

My father would have turned 90 years old today (Thursday). No one in our family on either side ever lived that long, but still we celebrate Dad's birthdays, even if he actually experienced only 75 of those anniversaries. As you can see in this picture, Dad was editor of his college newspaper, The College Star at Southwest Texas State Teachers' College (since renamed twice, now Texas State University), just before W.W. II.

I've thought a bit today about the differences in political usages from his day to mine. Both of us lived in (in his case, through) a depression. In Dad's case, the Great Depression rendered him a Democrat, since there were really only two choices... no Yellow Dogs, Blue Dogs, New Dogs, etc., just Democrats and Republicans. He was an FDR admirer; I grew up hearing Dad's tales of what FDR did to alleviate the worst of the depression. Unsurprisingly, most of the tales turned out to be true.

These days, his son has been vehemently wrested from his former status as a Yellow Dog Democrat... the Yellow Doggerel Democrat, in fact, though I coined the phrase after Dad's passing... into some undetermined flavor of independent... I don't have a name for the flavor, but it resembles that of Sen. Bernie Sanders a great deal more than Sen. Joe LIEberman. Dad encountered very little of Sen. LIEberman, but I am certain he would have detested him... not for his conservative politics; Dad was amazingly tolerant of political differences, but for his pervasive, ongoing dishonesty. Mom always taught me, "be honest"; Dad taught me, "be more than honest; your sincerity and veracity must be beyond question when you deal with politics." Dad would shake his head in dismay at today's political realities.

Nor would he have been interested in a third party, or in someone such as Sanders, who seems anything but reluctant to be known as a Socialist. This is where the generational difference in usage appears: to him, probably thanks to the efforts of J. Edgar Hoover, "Socialist" was too close to "Communist." To me, it's just another descriptor, one that may apply legitimately to me (though without the capital S) now that I am no longer officially a Democrat.

As you can tell, I miss Dad a lot; we had some great political discussions. But he is beyond politics now; his own and Mom's physical remains are in urns in my living room. Thus pass the glories of the world. Happy Birthday, Dad, if you still exist in some form, time and place to receive the greeting.


  1. Happy birthday, Bill, and thanks for helping bring a wonderful voice to the world.

  2. I'll second the Birthday wishes. I grew up in a family of FDR worshipers as well. My bed at grandma's house had a picture of FDR hanging over it. The Great Depression really hit Western Virginia hard, so hard that my father and his brother had to live in a Presbyterian home for children for a few years as my grandparents couldn't feed them. FDR's policies and actions saved a lot of people from real starvation.

  3. Great post Steve and a pleasure to know that many of us cherish the lives of our fathers and carry forward their stories of life.

  4. Thank you, gentlemen all. There are many reasons for one's political outlook; Dad had a few classic ones for his: he labored from about 10 years old to help feed his mother and brothers; he saw firsthand the impact of poverty on the structural integrity of a family; he learned to read before he went to school (so did I, by the way) and read everything that caught his attention, including books supposedly too "advanced" for a preteen; he headed for college with $20 in his pocket and the shirt on his back, went hungry a couple of semesters when his football scholarship got in the way of his academics (did I mention that Dad was 5'8" and played lineman [guard or tackle] against much bigger guys?); and so on. Dad loved learning, and eventually when he entered his career he loved teaching. His compassion and his gradual emergence from the lower class to the middle both made him the perfect Democrat for the age. It's no surprise at all that I turned out the way I did. (Mom was no dummy, either, but it's a while until her birthday...)

  5. What a lovely memory of your dad!!!

    Thanks for sharing it!



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