My father worshipped men of learning - professional men who, by the power of their very intellect, can save lives and, ultimately, change the world. Perhaps, he felt this way because the circumstances of his own life prevented him from pursuing the education he always dreamed about (more later).
I think, like most of us, his experiences growing up formed the basis of his life as a man. And, for him, it could not have been easy. He lost his father to a heart attack when he was just 12. As the oldest boy in a Sicilian immigrant family, MUCH responsibility fell on his young shoulders. Then came the depression. Then came the war, etc. And, if that weren't enough, he contracted severe, debilitating asthma late in life.
But, despite the challenges, he never lost his love (lust, really) for learning. With a limited education (he completed high school after the war), he still read every day. He LOVED to read- newspapers mostly, and magazines, too. He was not a big consumer of novels, but that didn't matter. He encouraged me to read whatever I could get my hands on and whenever I had the opportunity. He made sure that we had a dictionary and a set of encyclopedias in our home. I also remember the time when he fell for some gimmick that was supposed to make us read faster. My brother, sister and I always got a good laugh about this strange contraption he bought to aid in our studies. The machine clipped on our reading material and moved down the page, prompted us to scan read. It was supposed to increase our speed and comprehension. We hardly used it. But, I always respected him for the effort he made to make us appreciate the importance of learning.
He so loved highter education that in his middle age he went back to school and earned an Associates Degree from Bergen Community College. He EARNED that degree in so many ways. And, I was intensely proud of him for doing it.
My father also switched careers later in life, too. He had grown up running his family's deli with his younger brother and 2 sisters. But, he was never satisfied slicing baloney. He wanted something that would challenge him both physically and intellectually. He found it when he became a Bergen County Deputy Sheriff. He wanted that job so badly. I remembered him studying voraciously for the Civil Service test. Just approaching my teens, I exercised beside him as his also prepared for the physical portion of the test. I tested him with prepared question from the written part of the exam. When he passed and officially became a Sheriff's Officer, it was one of the proudest moments of his life.
Eventually, his duties as a deputy required him to be an agent of the court, providing security for the judge and other courtroom participants. It was within this environment that he saw the power of intellect. He would marvel how the lawyers would use their expertise to try a case. He observed expert witnesses give detailed testimony on complex subjects that could ultimately lead to a person's innocence or guilt. A person's fate literally hung in the balance of the words of these learned people. THIS was power - real power. Even though my father was sports minded and was in many ways a physical person, he realized that true authority lie with our brains and not our brawn.
And, he was adamant about me pursuing my own, formal education. In fact, he was relentless in his insistence. I have to admit, there were times when I resented him for his persistence. So often I simply wanted to quit - it was too hard, the pressure was too great. I am too wild for school, an so forth. He simply would not let me, ALWAYS saying, Frankie, don't quit. Once you have a degree that you have EARNED, NO ONE can take it from you. Your education will make you a man to be respected. He was so right. I received my bachelor's degree from Rutgers University in January, 1978.
I think that because of this love for everything learned, my father, a life-long Republican (I loved his debates with my mother, a Roosevelt Democrat), is ROLLING OVER IN HIS GRAVE with the complete lack of erudition coming out of the Republican White House. Beyond the lying, beyond the false narratives, beyond the complete lack of any sophistication and cohesion in their message, their mission not only eschews and denies the world's accumulated knowledge but seems to actually be ANTI-INTELLECT. Alternative facts, climate denial, ridiculous, partisan choices for key Cabinet positions like Secretary of Education and the EPA are evidence for this Administration's disdain for anything intellectual. It's as if the President actually gets angry is you use words that are too "big" for him as his vocabulary is generally limited to personal superlatives like great, awesome, and BIGLY.
I've been accused of being arrogant because I always attempt to argue my points with the clarity of knowledge through acquired information. Even my opinions are fact based. That is how I was raised and that's how I operate. I refuse to be humbled for being an intellectual - Like my father before me, I earned it - BIGLY.