Not father's America

For Your Consideration

Peter CavanaughMarch 7, 2012 

From my earliest memories, I had always wanted to be "on the air." That was all I ever had in mind. This was true even before my father died on the radio when I was six years old.

Donald J. Cavanaugh was working for the Veteran's Administration as assistant chief in Syracuse by the summer of 1948. He had seen infantry service in World War I and, at the time of his passing, was in charge of all Veteran Rehabilitation in Central New York, an assignment filled with many sad challenges as hundreds of wounded warriors finally returned home in the aftermath of World War II.

On July 29 of that year, he entered WNDR's studios to narrate a public affairs program called "News For Veterans." It was a long, 30 minute script. Halfway through, he gasped for breath. It was a massive coronary. He was dead at the age of 52, a chronological distinction I have amazingly surpassed.

Earlier that month, I clearly recall us heading "downtown" in our '36 Chevy, Daddy outlining to me with great detail what he "did at work." He was bringing me to "the office" on an early Saturday morning to "get things caught up." I was enthralled. He said that he worked for "the government" and "helped soldiers from the war." Even then, I pretty much knew what "soldiers" and "war" meant, but "government" seemed a strange, elusive proposition.

Two days ago, Columbia Records released, "Wrecking Ball," Bruce Springsteen's first album in years. If you were watching the 54th Grammy Awards On Feb. 12, you saw Bruce offer a preview -- a "sneak peak" which instantly swept me back in time to that last ride alone with my Dad. What he explained to me at length in no uncertain terms and the title of Bruce's debut single from "Wrecking Ball" are one and the same -- "We Take Care of Our Own."

"I've been knockin' on the door that holds the throne -

I've been lookin' for the map that leads me home -

I've been stumblin' on good hearts -- turned to stone.

The road of good intentions -- has gone dry as bone"

The front wall of my brother, Paul's, living room in Syracuse still proudly displays an autographed picture formally presented to "Donald J. Cavanaugh" expressing appreciation for his work with veterans, personally signed by the 32rd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

With one in four of our children unfed each night -- with 45 million countrymen lacking basic health insurance -- with social services being savaged and slashed -- with higher education publicly scorned by a national candidate for highest office -- with a trillion spent and thousands dead from needless wars -- with issues resolved decades ago again subject to distractive debate -- with unions which brought about the rise of the American Middle Class under relentless and vicious attack -- with oligarchy replacing democracy and need swallowed by greed -- this is not my father's America.

Or Bruce Springsteen's.

"We take care of our own -

We take care of our own -

Wherever this flag's flown -

We take care of our own."

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any other controlling private power. "

Franklin D. Roosevelt -- Message to Congress -- April 29, 1938.

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