Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons

In 1980, I began to keep a file of letters from my father. I don’t remember exactly why I decided to preserve the letters, to treat them as historical documents and not just as his re¬sponses of and for the moment. Perhaps it was the heart bypass operation he had about that time—and my first recognition that the torrent of words would someday stop coming. Perhaps it was my marriage that summer, a sure sign that, at thirty-two, I was finally taking adulthood seriously (that’s my wife’s interpreta¬tion). As a political obsessive, I am inclined to emphasize the fact that 1980 was the year my father and I began sidling—ever so gradually and seldom without mutual complaint—to the same side of the barricades.

In 1980, partly thanks to Ronald Reagan, I gave up my dreams of revolution and began to appreciate the merits of social democ¬racy—just at the time when its historical moment also seemed to be passing. But also thanks to Reagan, my father became a fighting liberal again. Here’s his letter from March 18, 1981: “Send me stuff you publish, it delights my awakening, I mean reawakening, rebelliousness . . . I was planning to go down to my grave as a virtuous anti-Communist but your California man is driving me back to some very old feelings. . . . Oh well, who ever said politics is the art of the possible?”

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Lima