Sunday, May 16, 2004


The cliche is that if you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart, but if you’re still a liberal when you’re 50, you have no brain.

Nonsense. Today I celebrate my father, who remains a thoughtful and brainy liberal despite having just turned 71.

When I was a child he experimented with alternative lifestyles in a 1970s way and lived social justice in a 1960s way, and he led us to nudist parks as well as kept us on our block in Gardena when all the other white families had fled.

Now he quietly blasts the conservatives and votes accordingly, resisting the urges that lead the comfortable to ensure their own comfort at, inevitably, the cost of others. His retirement (from aerospace, of all illiberal things) brought him back to performing magic, but instead of hanging around at The Magic Castle swilling cocktails he drives weekly to a hospital to do magic as therapy for patients -- getting neurons to fire and synapses connect in the heads of the hurt and recovering.

Instead of calcifying, my father’s getting more flexible. He recently healed tremendous personal rifts through tremendous effort, which surely demanded him to question and modify deeply ingrained behavior. His appetites, including an addiction to smoking, threatened his life decades ago, but only recently he beat those, too. These things needed strength and a willingness to question the order of things, include others and see behind emotional traps that I think of as being, in the best sense, liberal traits.

As a child, of course, I was unable to appreciate those traits, or at least their precursors, as I had no context. As an adult, I appreciate those things immensely, with no shortage of envy.

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