Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Two who set standards for me to live by

Two men who profoundly influenced me are much on my mind in these troubled times. One is my father, Richard N. MacBain, and the other is Charles D. Ogilvie. Both were physicians, liberals, men of intellect, honor, and integrity. And both cared deeply about our country and were avid followers of politics. I would never wish anyone dead, but there are days when I think it’s a blessing that they are not with us. They would be so upset at the current state of the country.

Dad, living in Chicago although Canadian by birth, was a lifelong Democrat. He always claimed he voted for the best man, but we all knew that in his judgement the best man turned out to be a Democrat. Roosevelt was a hero to my family, and I grew up on the stories of what he did for America. In the household of my childhood, there was no television—I didn’t have Howdy Doody, Disney on Sunday night, and a host of other programs. We finally got a TV because Dad wanted to listen to the Kennedy/Nixon debates. He found Kennedy inspirational, though he would be horrified if he knew what we know today about the man’s personal life; he found Nixon despicable.

Dad was a preacher’s kid and a staunch member of the Methodist Church all his life. Integrity, faith, honesty—these were deeply engrained traits. I saw him put friendship behind principle when necessary, and I saw him hold his head high and remain firm when he was the target of abusive verbal attacks by an unhinged former friend. He was administrator of a small hospital, where the maintenance and housekeeping crews were among his best friends. Dad put democracy into action in his own little sphere.

My father taught me many things, including punctuality and a strong work ethic that I can’t deny even if I want to. I disagreed with him about some things—he once, with good intentions but bad judgement—changed the course of my life. I’ll never know if it was for the better or not. But I loved him, and I will always, always respect him. He would be distraught today.

I met Charles Ogilvie when I was a young married woman and knew him for over thirty years until he died, somewhere in his nineties. My family vacationed at his East Texas ranch, and my kids called him “Uncle Charles.” He was an anomaly in East Texas (think Louie Gohmert country)—a futurist, an environmentalist and naturalist, probably an agnostic although he attended the Unitarian Church in his last years. Charles’ integrity came from an inner standard ingrained into him, whether by his parents or himself I never knew.

He had the misfortune to live long enough to see the Tea Party flourish in this country. Those people fascinated and repelled him, and he often talked to me about his fear of their power, assuring me they were not people I would like.

Dad had Nixon; Charles had the Tea Party; and we have the era of trump. I am truly grateful that neither man lived to see people like the trump family take over the White House, to see racism flourish again, to see armed militia became so powerful and common that they are declared domestic terrorists, more dangerous than most foreign powers.

Both men valued the intellect and were avid readers, not of light stuff like I write, but heavy, serious things—Churchill, Will and Ariel Durant, and others of that ilk. Charles read futuristic works that I had never heard of. They would be beside themselves at the dumbing down of America, the disdain for education and intellect shown by a good number of our citizens, and, gentlemen to the core, they would be distraught at the decay of manners, the lack of class shown by so many.

Dad and Charles, I miss you, but rest in peace. You would not be happy in the 21st century.

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