Thumper, God, and the Queen
A Father's Day Story
To commemorate Father's Day I am re-visiting an essay I wrote, for a Journalism course way back when, that takes a humorous look at my Dad's attempt to mold me into a good person.
Thumper was my first real guru. My parents liked his philosophy, and used to quote him outright. It is slightly embarrassing now to realize I learned my first real lesson in etiquette from a Walt Disney character. It was repeated often enough to become a sort of mantra:
"If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all".
That, along with the golden rule: "Children should be seen, and not heard", got me right through adolescence. My parents were proud of my diplomatic abilities. Although I found it difficult not to talk (they called me a chatter box), I always made sure when I did, it was nice.
Girl Guides took care of my niceness for the next few years. (I promised to do my best to do my duty to God, and the Queen.)
God was easily taken care of, I loved the social life of Sunday school (much to my parent's chagrin, as they were not religious) but I had some problems with the Queen business. It was right around this time that Diefenbaker and Pearson had the flag debate. But Girl Guides taught us to keep the flag off the ground no matter what colour it was.
I remember it was around high school that my Dad started talking to me. My allowance went up at that time too, and I knew something had changed.
I was now allowed to be heard. I came up with a lot of wild and crazy theories about life at this stage, but my Dad usually set me straight.
He was a stickler for not questioning authority, and he had a lot of respect for education.
He had grown up a Saskatchewan prairie boy, and the war interrupted his education, after which time his family moved to the coast, and he met Marion. They got married, and proceeded to have five children in a row, and moved to the country so we could grow up natural.
During high school the Viet Nam War was raging. Country Joe and the Fish sang about boys coming home in boxes. I tried to convince my Dad that the war was wrong, but he would have none of it.
"Do you think those people would be running things if they didn't know what they were doing?" he used to say, each time I questioned authority. I must admit I was intimidated by his attitude, but I was going with the flow.
University was exciting.
One day we got on a bus to the American border to protest nuclear testing in the Aleutian Islands.
"Stop Amchitka!" We were all wearing our protest buttons and chanting while we blocked traffic at the Peace Arch border crossing.
I saw some 'Yippies' in action that day. Some were writers for the Georgia Straight newspaper. They were loud, and aggressive.
They weren't nice.
After this I quit university to go travelling, and ended up running off to live in the most remote location on the planet I could find, working as a lighthouse keeper with my partner at the time. I thought I could escape the turmoil that was raging around the war. I had somehow become very alienated from my society.
My parents were worried, and upset that I had 'dropped out', but eventually I made my way back. I got a job, and made enough money to return to university where I studied Journalism.
I found hope in the teachings of journalism, so succinctly expressed by press critic Ben Bagdkian: that it is correct to question the sacred cows and the status quo, and to investigate into sensitive areas, even if you have to swim against the tide.
Thanks Thumper, but no thanks.
My Dad listens to me a little more than he used to, but now his favorite line is:
"A little education is a dangerous thing".
© 2013 Verlie Burroughs