My brother posted this tribute to my father earlier this week. My sister sent it to me, and I read it with an emotion that can only be characterized as chagrin on behalf of both my brother and my father because: yikes.
First and foremost, I know that I’m skilled at assigning animosity to mere phrases that might otherwise go unnoticed, but that’s what I sensed when my brother referred to himself as my father’s “only son.” In a previous post, I scoffed at my father’s self reference to himself as “Father” with a capital “F” and how that is on some ways blasphemous because according to his religion there is only one Father, and that is “God the Father.” For my brother to refer to himself as my father’s “only son” likewise echoes the sentiment of Jesus Christ as God’s only son. And also it’s 2019, there’s no such thing as gender, so there’s no such thing as sons, and, guess what, I’m a son, too. So. Yeah. I didn’t like that.
There is also my brother’s self deprecating take on carrying on our father’s legacy. My brother admits he is not up to the task with what I read as condescending stab at feigned humility. But, mostly I like this admission
But how could I, blessed with no great attributes, match, much less surpass, a man of towering intellect who was a trailblazer in his field? I’ve taken part in no great historical moments. I’ve undergone no profound personal transformation, experienced no miraculous epiphanies. I’ve launched no enduring, influential apostolate. I’ve written no books, appeared on no television shows.
Don’t worry, big brother. I have great attributes. I have towering intellect. I have taken part in great historical moments. I’ve undergone profound personal transformation and experienced miraculous epiphanies. I’ve launched enduring, influential crusades of my own. I’m working on a book. But I’ll probably never be on a television show because we got YouTube now. Or, what I’m trying to say is: I’m my father’s daughter.
My brother inserts the expected platitudes of looking up to our father, something in which I refuse to indulge myself. He bemoans my father’s loss of mental capacities as an irony – I saw it from the very beginning as a gift from God. But what really irritates me is this fetishization of suffering. It’s 2019 – we’re all aware of white privilege, so for my father, a white man, to wax poetic on the spiritual trials of suffering falls flat. My father is a man who never really suffered in his life because of his white privilege but who caused many other people to suffer. To ascribe a sense of saintliness or nobility or integrity to the suffering he experienced at the end of his life smacks of the tone deafness of the Catholic Church in its ability to address what are today fairly pressing issues on race.
The fixation on suffering as moral redemption is misplaced both in this article and in the overall Catholic philosophy. I grew up with the idea that my suffering will bring me closer to God, yet when I went into the real world I realized that this philosophy of voluntary pain, of masochism, was just another way to keep women in their place, as subservient house wives. It is a philosophy whose only end is to keep you down.
I reject that. I also reject the idea that my father is automatically getting into heaven. To claim to know God’s will is blasphemous, and to aver that my father is in heaven is to claim to know God’s will. It is not humanity’s place to judge who goes to heaven or hell, no matter how good they seemed to be on this earth. Because the fact of the matter is: I don’t think he was a good person. I don’t think he’s going to heaven. He and I have unfinished business. When I go to heaven, if I see him there, I’m going to fucking stab him.