Is it unseemly to suggest one doesn’t like Father’s Day—do you become the contrarian at the party who ruins the tenor of easy conversation? I should get it off my chest: I don’t like Father’s Day, White Cane Day for the Blind, National Donut Day, or any other emo hostage taking daylong remembrance. I’ve always favored Kenneth Rexroth’s assertion: “I’d cold cock Santa Claus if he got in my way.”
I should say I liked my father. He was a peace maker. As a university president in the late 60’s and early 70’s he invited student protestors to sit with him and talk about the military industrial complex and the place of higher education—a place, he attested, that was “right” for expressions of concern about the state of the nation. And I’ve always loved this photograph of him meeting with students at the State University of New York at Albany in 1969. My dad is at the lower right. You can see him holding aloft his reading glasses as he makes a point to the students seated at his left. Notice how seriously he’s taking them.
Those were still the days when college presidents were educators rather than bureaucrats or bean counters. If you believe in peace you need to talk about it. My father did not call the campus cops or the state police; did not rope off the building. There were plenty of people who told him he should do those things. “A university is a place for ideas,” he said. “It doesn’t hold them merely to the classroom.”
Later that same year he’d insist that progressive attorney William Kunstler should speak on campus even though the apparatchiks of state government pressured him to cancel the event.
I know he’d be dismayed by the actions of many contemporary college and university administrations.
I don’t know what he thought about Father’s Day.
I do know he didn’t like to go shopping.
I don’t think he would have cold cocked Santa Claus.
He did like poetry and he’d have thought the Rexroth line was funny.