My father was a friend of the underdog, ally of the oppressed and broken-hearted idealist turned bitter cynic in the latter years of his life. He truly wanted to instill in me a love of independence, unwavering honesty, fearlessness in advocating for what was right, and resoluteness opposing tyranny in all forms.
His dilemma was that his own trauma compelled him to behave tyrannically whenever he felt confronted. He was unable to control this impulse to dominate, by any means necessary, and so he constantly offered himself as the model of the tyranny I must reject, according to the principles he taught me, while wanting more than anything my respect for his authority and my independence from it. Damn! Talk about a no win dilemma.
He instilled in me a lifelong quest for justice, even as he insisted on the most unjust proposition imaginable — the child who is being made to suffer is the cause of everyone’s suffering.
This intolerable proposition had been forced down his throat, from the time he could stand. His mother, a diminutive redhead prone to fits of uncontrollable rage, used to whip him in the face. How does a mother whip her toddler in the face? She truly believes the kid is viciously defying her. She has to beat this devil out of him.
The kid, in turn, grows up to hate a bully more than anything in the world. The only problem is that nobody is more prone to bullying others than someone who has been bullied. The anger toward the bully is there, along with a determination never to be bullied again. If the only way to avoid being bullied by a challenging, defiant new born baby is to bully them, how is that anybody’s fault?
So my poor devil father had a dilemma that could only be solved by difficult work that was too painful for him to do, too excruciating to even consider doing. Poor bastard!