My younger daughter turned 20 last month, and I realized it is too late for me. As the United States of America is rapidly and distinctly being remade before our eyes in the image of President Donald J. Trump, it is not enough simply to shed our alliances, instigate trade wars, gut environmental regulations, hold apocryphal nuclear arms negotiations, and traumatize babies at the border. It is not even enough to personally bully dissenters, disparage immigrants, and accuse liberals of being traitors.
For the revolution to be complete and permanent, and to make America genuinely great again for the ages, we must remake our own families in the image of Trump. While my wife is my equal and our grown children compost, it may not be too late for you. If your household is still in its impressionable stage, please learn from someone whose golden opportunity has sadly passed him by.
To my daughter: You are more than a daughter. You are an ornament. You are a physical reminder of what a previous wife looked like before she got old and fat. You will seek unconditional love from me but will receive it only in highly conditional forms which you must perpetually earn and earn again with verbal praise, undying loyalty, and furtive glances. Your sitting on my knee as a child will gradually evolve into an eternal figurative lap dance. You will spend my money knowing there are indeed strings attached, and those strings will ultimately extend into your marriage bed. Finally, you are my implicit shield and spokesperson when scurrilous charges of groping and sexual assault find your dear old dad.
To my son: You are my Mini-Me, with a strong emphasis on mini. You are on this earth to finish my unfinished business and give me the credit. You will be convinced you are living your life when in reality you’ll be living a B-movie version of mine. You will suffer in comparison to me and that suffering is among my greatest gifts to you. While the suffering in itself will not make you me, it will steel you the way my father’s disapproval steeled me and trained me to run roughshod over everybody and everything. Your handful of conquests will never be fully yours, but if you numb yourself with enough favorable social media posts you might be able to delude yourself for a few hours. In this life you do not need a genuine profession. Being my occasional surrogate will more than suffice.
When it comes to women, feel free to pick up where I left off in my 20s or last weekend. With the possible exception of your sister, all young women who meet the physical criteria were created as trophies, and all trophies seek a shelf. Let me have some vicarious fun. And maybe some actual fun.
My son—my slightly defective clone—do not seek the truth. Rather, determine what you want to be true and work backwards from there. Divide and conquer, and once you have done so, label all subjects friends or enemies. Never forget that the truth resides in the sheer mass of people willing to go along with your version in exchange for flattery, patronizing, or a cash payment. Always remember that I am the ultimate source of power—all that remains after concepts, principles, faith, values, historical precedent, morality, and even God Himself have fallen due to poor ratings.
To my wife: Your greatest value lies not in your physical beauty or mental sharpness, or even in your willingness to function as my appendage, but rather in your complete awareness of your own disposability. Your worth is inseparable from your ability to see those who came before you and learn from them; from your willingness to make room for those who currently share me; and to step aside gracefully for those who will follow. You are a essentially a container of milk with an approaching expiration date. Our children will always see you as mother, but I will always see you as a more together version of Sharon Stone’s character in the movie Casino. You were the “it” girl for a time. Treasure the experience always and please accept your parting gift at the door.
To my dog: Who the hell are you and who let you in here? You are cuter than me, will steal press attention and leave fur all over the rug. Get out. Wait a second. I might be able to get you your own show.
To my family as a whole: The world is ours to exploit, mock, manipulate, and plunder. Ask not what you can do for your country but what meetings can be granted in exchange for an unsecured loan. In this life you are blessed. Don’t pay it forward. Pay nothing and make sure our accountants write it off as a loss. Remain loyal to each other because you know where the bodies are buried. When you see a family member down on his luck, walk into his betting establishment and purchase three-and-a-half million dollars in gambling chips with small unmarked bills.
As for modesty, not a big fan. But sometimes it absolutely must be faked. Consider it a photo op. Do not express contrition without cameras around, and always retract it moments later. You don’t need to be right every time. You just can’t ever admit you’re wrong.
I have given all of you the most important gift that can be bestowed upon another human being—an Americanized version of a German name. Go out and imprint that name on hotels, golf courses, colognes, reality shows, and sham universities everywhere. Above all, know this—I can take it all away.
Rich Herschlag is well into his third decade as an author, consulting engineer, husband and father and is very tired.