I posted the first letter to my late father on October 20. It was inspired by M*A*S*H and had a featured image of Alan Alda as Hawkeye writing his own Dear Dad letter. It was well-received, so I decided a sequel was in order as the election looms.
A reminder that my father, Lou Athas, was an old-school business Republican who was active for many years in California politics. His father, my Papou, became a Republican because it was the business party, not out of grievance and rage like so many current GOPers. He wanted to make his way as an immigrant small businessman. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
As you can see from the featured image, they were merchants who ran an old school drug store complete with a lunch counter. This picture was taken during the holidays: there’s a hint of tinsel behind my Dad and Papou after whom I’m named. Like my uncle, he was called Pete, which is the other reason I’m called Peter, not Pete.
Also noteworthy is how much taller Lou was than his father. Pete Athas was a short man married to a tall woman. I’m unsure of Anna’s actual height but she seemed like a giant to me. Yia-yia was an expert at manipulating her grandchildren to behave by comparing them unfavorably to others in the family. I didn’t know her well: Both of my paternal grandparents died when I was young. So it goes.
Let’s get epistolary.
It may be hard to fathom but things have gotten worse with your party. I’m not sure if you ever met Paul Pelosi but he was attacked by a hammer wielding extremist in his San Francisco home. The response has been shocking: elected Republicans have joked about it. I’m not surprised as the notion of civility left our politics around the time you died in 2001. I call it the decency deficit.
There’s a horrible Congresswoman from Georgia named Marjorie Taylor Greene. She’s been on the campaign trail saying stupid and terrible things for which she would have been ostracized in the past like when Presidents Reagan and Bush opposed the rise of David Duke.
Instead of repudiating the rotten Georgia peach, House Republicans turned on Liz Cheney last year for standing up for democracy. I know her father Dick was too right-wing for your taste, but he’s stood with his daughter and against the tide of madness engulfing your party. Your party no longer exists.
Polls were important in your day, but they’ve become a sort of secular religion in the internet age. Everybody knows they’re not as accurate as they used to be, but nobody wants to be wrong again as they were in 2016. That’s when the unthinkable happened and Donald Trump won the electoral college. I think the polls may be wrong but we won’t know until tomorrow.
Sports was something that always brought us together, Dad. There’s some crazy stuff going on there too. Sports have become politicized: former football coaches and players are running for office. Remember Herschel Walker? A great football player but a poor excuse for a human being. He’s running for the Senate in Georgia. The race is a toss-up.
The whole celebrity candidate thing has gotten out of hand. I remember you had a low opinion of the hoofer George Murphy when he was a senator from California. Herschel Walker makes him look like a lion of the senate.
You liked football but you loved basketball. You played in college and coached our church youth hoops team. You were a good coach and extra nice to the smallest kids. There’s a gifted NBA player named Kyrie Irving who is a total malaka. He thinks sharing antisemitic messages is okay. Your brother died fighting the Nazis so I know you would take this personally.
Kyrie is a good example of how low information know-it-alls are dragging the country down. A similar problem is short-term thinking. You raised me to look at the big picture, but most people can’t see farther than a day ahead. The internet has made both problems worse.
The internet is a wonderful thing when used properly but a pox when creeps such as Elon Musk are involved. He’s the worst capitalist ever. He overpaid for his latest venture and is busy setting it ablaze. I guess that makes him a wealthy low information know-it-all. He makes that old bigot Henry Ford look sensible. Oh well, what the hell.
I wish I had better news for you, but these are dark times for our beloved country. I take comfort in the fact that you would be opposed to Trumpism and its offshoots. I’ve never voted for a Republican, but you voted for quite a few Democrats. If there’s an afterlife, I hope you and Leo Ryan are playing racquet ball. Try not to run him too hard. He’s one of my heroes.
PS: Here’s another picture of you and mom. This time walking the streets of Chicago. One could even call it Athas noir.