I woke up this morning to the sound of wind chimes in the rain. It isn’t fall yet, but it’s definitely no longer summer: not cold, not even cool, but both are on their way. The chimes hang from a beam above our new back deck; they were my father’s, and the combination of their tenor “bong” and the patter of raindrops takes me back to the house I grew up on Vancouver Island. It’s a peaceful sound, but melancholy, and it makes me think about what we’ve had and what we’ve lost.
My father grew up in a small farming town in Australia. His earliest memory was sneaking down to the beach with his brother and watching the adults collect body parts that had washed ashore from a hospital ship that had been torpedoed. Education was his salvation, and I remember him saying after the wall came down in ‘89 that maybe—just maybe—we were going to make it.
Next week will be the fourth anniversary of his death. I miss him, but I’m glad that he didn’t live to see us throw away so much of what his generation worked so hard to build. Health care that might have saved my grandmother’s life, pensions that you could actually live on, laws to stop people from acting on the worst of their bigotry: none of it was perfect, or even finished, but he had lived long enough to see a black man elected president and the air and water were cleaner than they had been in a hundred years and—
And then my generation said, “Nope, don’t care.” We shrugged as billionaires spread misinformation and rigged laws to make themselves even richer and pretended we were helpless while tech bros monetized hate on a global scale and now those vultures have all come home to roost and we choose to forget that better is possible if you’re willing to fight for it.
In 1992, just before I left Edinburgh, I saw John Galbraith speak. When someone in the audience asked him afterward what had surprised him most during his long and busy life, he didn’t hesitate: “I would never have believed that stupid could become fashionable.” Hearing the chimes this morning, I remembered my dad chuckling when I told him that story. Listening to the rain, I can only hope that my daughter will forgive us.