On the surface, it’s not easy to see much connection between my father and Jon Stewart. Like Stewart, my father was a Jew from the NY metro area who loved his country and was skeptical about politicians of all stripes. He was a World War II veteran who’d been willing to give his life for his country, and understood that his country had given much to him. Growing up during the depression he visited museums, and botonical gardens which back then had free or extremely low admission prices. He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, and went to (then) tuition-free City College, getting a bachelors in science. After the army, the GI Bill helped him earn another degree, in optometry, from Columbia University. My parents, with their first child, lived for a while in the Queensbridge public housing project.
Like Jon Stewart, he had a wry sense of humor and an intolerance for bullshit. He was not an especially “political” man although he cared about the issues of the day. He read The New York Times, and The New York Post before it got Murdochized. He wrote well thought out letters to The Times, which often got published. The last couple were typed by my mother on the computer. My father never liked the computer, but he could no longer find a ribbon for his Remington Rand.
He always voted, despite his mistrust of most in elected office. He was against the war in Vietnam. While he never went to a protest march, we think he may have been (secretly) proud when his wife and daughters did. He thought Nixon was a bastard who got what was coming to him. He loved Bill Clinton, and hated the hypocrisy of the Republicans for nearly destroying the country trying to bring him down.
After the Supreme Court negated the will of the people in the year 2000, something shifted. Those 10,000 Floridians who accidentally voted for Buchanan because of a confusing ballot could have been him – elderly Jews, smart people somewhat befuddled by all the newfangled technology, people who had played by the rules, veterans, parents of veterans, deeply patriotic serial voters every one. Their intentions were obvious, and for their votes not to count felt like a betrayal, and when five Supreme Court justices stopped the recount and declared W the winner, it seemed like nothing less than a coup – an attempt to finish what they’d started with the impeachment.
It was after that that my father first subscribed to The Nation. Before he’d viewed them suspiciously, as he did much of the press he felt didn’t sufficiently support Israel. He became a particular fan of Vincent Bugliosi, whose outrage at the Court’s decision mirrored his own. Then he discovered MSNBC. As for when he started watching The Daily Show, I’d like to think that it was no later than the fall of 2002, after his cancer surgery, when I was staying at the house, and that I was the one who turned him on to it. I don’t remember precisely, but that’s my story.
I do remember that in November of 2004, after he found out the cancer was back and spreading, and Bush “won” the presidency a second time – likely due to more hijinks in Florida and Ohio – it was Jon Stewart who got him through both of these horrific events.
By the late spring of 2005, he was mostly bedridden and sleeping more than a geriatric house cat, but he was usually awake for Stewart’s monologue. My sister, who was with him the night before he died, remembers watching the show with him. He might have been too weak to laugh, but she swears she saw him smirk.
Tomorrow will be the last night of Jon Stewart’s tenure. It will also be the 10th anniversary of my father’s death.
Thank you, Jon Stewart.
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