I’ve been thinking about my Dad a lot recently.
I’ve been thinking about things my Father never thought he’d see.
A part of it has to do with my new commute. Turns out, there are several roads I can use to commute here to Grand Prairie. One of the path takes me down 190 (George Bush Tollroad) from Interstate 30. That’s not the fastest, most direct route. But it has one very personal advantage for me.
It takes me right past the Lockheed Martin (née: LTV) Missile Plant here in Grand Prairie. That plant is where my Father worked for forty-five years.
As those of you who knew me when he died will recall, Dad was a genuine “Cold Warrior.” He saw his life’s work as contributing to the defense of the United States, through working in the aerospace industry. He and I often disagreed about politics and defense policy, but I always admired his commitment to his views.
So, Dad used to commute here to Grand Prairie. It was a loooong commute for him. Longer than the one I have now. I recall many times over the years how his friends would gently kid him about how much time he spent in the car. And one of the things he’d often talk about was how there was a planned interstate that was supposed to come in, right next to the Grand Prairie plant.
Once that road got built, Dad would say, his commute would be much less.
Of course, the road never got built. At least, not while he was working. Year after year passed. As I said, forty-five years. (As an aside: FORTY FIVE YEARS! With one company?! Can you imagine…)
So, Dad never got to zip out on that highway. But now, I can. And at lunch after church on Sunday, my Mother told me how before he died —years after he retired— they took an afternoon to come back over here to Grand Prairie, just to look around for a while. And yes, they zipped down 190, on that road my Father never got to take to work.
That ride….on that long-promised road….that’s the first thing my Father never got to see while he was working.
The second thing he never thought he’d see is becoming friends with Russians.
I went to Russia nine times on church mission trips in the 1990s. Those trips changed my life. We were very hopeful, in those days, about the potential relationships between Russia and the United States. I found, unsurprisingly, that the common, ordinary Russians we met and became friends with were beautiful and kind people.
The opportunity to build new bridges of peace and understanding between our two countries was deeply powerful. As I said, my Father’s whole professional identify had been fighting *against* Russians. So, imagine how wonderful it was for him to host a Russian family, as he and my Mom did, when a delegation visited Dallas and our church in the late 1990s.
In the 1960s, he might have gone to jail for hosting Russians at his house! But they all became friends, and he remained friends with those Russians until the day he died. This is also something, I am sure, my Father never thought he’d see…..that HE, the trained Cold Warrior, would become friends with Russians. That’s the second thing I know my Father never thought he’d see.
The final thing I can promise you my Father never thought he’d see happened today. It was an American President saying the kinds of things Donald Trump said today, standing next to the Russian President.
My Father never got to see an American President apparently take the “word” of a Russian President, over the word of our own American intelligence agencies and Department of Justice.
Back when my Father was alive, Americans of good will disagreed over foreign policy objectives. But all of our elected leaders understood that this disagreement ended at our shoreline. When Americans travelled abroad or spoke to foreign leaders, we did not sell each other out. We did not take the side of the foreign leader. We circled the wagons and supported on another across the political aisle.
My Father lived and worked in a time when, internationally, elected officials, appointed officials, intelligence officials, defense contractors…..all saw themselves as a part of the same “team.”
But, today, our current president sided *against* those intelligence officials, and sided *with* one of our greatest and most dangerous adversaries.
This is something my Father never got to see. And, frankly, it’s something *none* of us have seen before….not at this level of seriousness. The way that our traditional allies are being slighted and slammed…the way dictator after dictator is being coddled and praised…we have NEVER seen this from an American president.
Presidential historian John Meachum reminded us of this in the past few days. On this account, the behavior I have just described, Donald Trump is fundamentally different from any of the 44 presidents before him. Let that sink in.
Now, I have savvy preacher friends who say, “What did you expect?”
And think that’s a fair question. It’s certainly not shocking to me that *Donald Trump* has behaved this way. It IS shocking me to imagine that an *American President* has behaved this way.
Sure, ties of mutual understanding and respect, are are still important. But Putin is a step back, for sure. He’s an old school authoritarian leader. We can be friends with Russian people and still call out their leaders. And we should.
And our President should too.
But, today, he didn’t.
Dad’s work was always mysteriously classified, and so I never knew much of what he did, day to day. Or even where he worked. Most of my life, I could not have pointed out the “plant” on a map.
But life has thrown me this curve to where I have now driven past my Father’s work more times in past month than I did in the 45 years he was there! Which, as I said, got me thinking about things my Father never got to see.
Today, our President defended the view of Vladimir Putin, and pretty much threw the work of our own intelligence agencies under the bus.
That’s something my Father never lived to see.
And, frankly, I’m really glad he didn’t.