The Great International Communist Conspiracy
My father came home every night for dinner between six to six thirty p.m. We were then mandated to sit down and eat within five minutes of his arrival.
Unfortunately this was prime time for some of my favorite television shows, which I reluctantly had to give up while redundantly going through the same losing arguments, or useless petulant whining about not being allowed to watch them.
The scene never changed, being made worse by the fact that my father thought his children should get up and run to greet him as he came through the door. Since this never happened, because the T.V. apparently held more in the way of a meaningful prioritized relationship for us than having one with our father, the stage was set every night for the bad mood and hostility which accompanied the mutual disappointment. He wanted adulation, while we wanted Buck Rogers.
My father felt that dinner was a sacred time of family bonding which had certain ritualistic rules. First of all, we were never allowed to eat at the table without being appropriately dressed. No play clothes, no bare chests, no T-shirts, no hats, and no unwashed hands. Although we hated its formality, in retrospect this dress code might be well served as a model for many of modern day youthful slob’s disgraceful public appearances.
The T.V. and the radio were then shut off; my father would have a glass of wine, always predictably smacking his lips on the first sip while holding it up to say “salute,” “abondanza,” “bon appetite” or “this is a regular feast.” Then dinner was served.
More often than not because no one actually did have anything to say, or if so any attempted conversation met various predictable dead-ends or imperious dictums, the silence became deafening. As a result, mandatory family bonding became moot. I also thought I would lose my mind or have a full blown panic attack, as I automatically honed in on the sound of my mother clacking her tongue on the roof of her mouth when she chewed. It made me want to scream.
However before any food was served, on the center of each plate, the first course was always a tiny white fluoride tablet, which had to be consumed before anything else.
My father, despite the fact of being a dentist, had significant periodontal problems which left him with a near psychotic passion for dental hygiene and dental health prophylaxis. He was determined that none of his children would have to suffer from oral cavity related problems in the same manner. If nothing else, we had that going for us.
Being the early 1950’s, the country was saturated with Senator Joe McCarthy’s rabid paranoia related to the Great International Communist Conspiracy. Communists were everywhere and were ubiquitously trying to sabotage or undermine the fabric of United States culture, family life, and all aspects of U.S. government. Of course one of the subplots of this great conspiracy was to poison America and especially its children with fluoridated drinking water.
My father knew, as did many other enlightened dentists, that regular consumption of small amounts of fluoride increased the dynamic strength of developing teeth, preventing cavities and tooth loss later in life. Even the American Dental Society came under suspicious government scrutiny as it attempted to promote the fluoride concept as a way to ensure U.S. dental health.
Senator McCarthy’s followers truly believed that not only would fluoride poison American children, but also extended the argument by pointing out that this could be just the beginning of a general chemical pollution of both our children as well as the nation’s water supply. First it was fluoride, and then undoubtedly, arsenic might be next.
Nike anti aircraft missiles were also scattered in bases around the woods near our house to protect both Manhattan as well as its water supply from potential enemy attack.
It was a trying time in our nation’s history that even affected our ability to take vitamins without risking a Senate hearing or possibly jail time and summary execution. But my father could care less about becoming the Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg’s of tooth health. So when with great temerity we queried him about various Federal government warnings on fluorides, he replied:
- The hell with those people. Do they think I would be doing something that would poison my own children? They’re nothing but a bunch of uneducated morons. So maybe if they come to arrest me, you kids should just bite the bastards. Now take your fluoride pill. And don’t forget to brush your teeth before you go to bed.
Although there was no arguing this point, or just about anything else, such as 15 minutes of extra television time before dinner, thanks to my father I have only had two cavities as an adult. My teeth are so hard they could probably be used on a commercial oil drill bit in place of the customary rotating diamond toothed cutting head.
I would then go to school and tell the other children about the little fluoride tablets, but none of my teachers ever ratted me out to a government agent and no one ever came to the house to arrest the radical Communist Revolutionary Dentist in charge of Tooth Solidarity.
Thank you god, for not making me slipshod. Or if nothing else, at least my teeth.
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