By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
I arrived home on Wednesday to find that my family had thrown me a surprise birthday party. My wife, mother and sister had apparently gone to great lengths to keep it a secret – a difficult task knowing my reputation. Still, they pulled it off and even provided the three Fs: Family, friends and food – all the ingredients needed for a memorable birthday celebration. And that it was.
It reminded me of a time in my life when things were simpler. Red, white and blue streamers were everywhere and my birthday cake was substituted for cupcakes shaped into the American flag (although I couldn’t really indulge in them due to my diet) – a patriotic theme that was complimented by Superman décor consisting of plates, napkins and cardboard cutouts. It wasn’t quite every 32-year-old man’s dream, but it was my dream.
Consider that I had recently longed for my childhood comforts. The opening of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (which is a great movie, by the way; don’t listen to the critics), the upcoming Fourth of July holiday and those wonderful inquiries from family members who ask, “So, what would you like for your birthday?” helped to evoke those memories. This was all very important to me.
Consider further that I had grown weary these past few months of all that’s transpired in the community and in my own life. Point of fact, I had become so repulsed by it all that I was no longer driven by faith, passion, desire and bravado but by duty and duty alone. Reminding myself of how I used to view the world – with magic and awe – helped me recapture that gusto we exhibit as kids.
This reconnection began with the piece about my grandmother and how I dedicated my career to her memory (refer to my column entitled “How I Sniff out the News,” published in the June 23 weekend edition). I thought about this again Thursday evening as I sat outside and watched the fireworks illuminate the South Texas sky with red, white and blue bursts. Refreshed by my childhood sensibilities, I began to wonder what the 9-year-old version of me would think of the person I’ve become. Would I recognize myself; would I be proud, disappointed or horrified?
The answers to those questions are humbling, but it’s imperative that I pose them; after all, being that I’m in a position that demands integrity, accountability, advocacy and objectivity, remaining modest is of the utmost importance.
It’s only after I’ve satisfied the person I was 23 years ago that I can ask the tougher questions: What would my grandmother think of me? What would my maker? It would appear I have a lot of work to do in order to adequately appease the aforementioned.
I’ve never claimed to be an intelligent person. Actually, it’s my acknowledgement that I don’t know everything that has kept me grounded, which has in turn made me successful in what I do and content in life. If only others held themselves to the same standards.
Let’s just think for a minute how different our community would be if arrogance didn’t run amok, if the pompous abandoned their pretentious plights, if the leaders first learned to follow and to follow the will of the people as opposed to puppeteers. Only then can our citizens genuinely claim to be proud of San Benito, and not just because it’s the home of the Greyhounds, Bobby Morrow, Freddy Fender and Narciso Martinez, but because we would be a people unfazed by political turmoil.
How can we get there? Let’s begin with our public servants and elected officials asking themselves very simple questions: What would their 9-year-old selves think of the people they’ve become? Would they recognize themselves; would they be proud, disappointed or horrified?