Tuesday, September 2, 2008
What Barack Obama Means For the Fatherless
What Barack Obama Means to the Fatherless
By: Sarah Elise Stauffer (View Profile)
A good survivor friend of mine and I were waxing on this and he asked me to write a little about it, so my dear lovely here you go. (You are a wonderful man and father! Remember that!)
We took our kids to see Obama at a rally a couple of weeks ago. It was electric, amazing, and very powerful to do with our kids. We believe in teaching them to honor that they have a voice, to use that voice and affect change, to be opinionated, and not to be sheep.
“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you ought to prefer is to have kept your soul alive.”—Robert Louis Stevenson
Obama is sincere and eloquent, brilliant beyond an Ivy League level—he is emotionally intelligent. He is socially intelligent. And he alleviates my need for cynicism. I was raised by cynics. I threw that veil of shame—and many others—off years ago. I refuse to pass that to my kids. That will not be their legacy. Or mine. But I understand it and empathize with those feeling it. It is easier in some ways to remain cynical. It is safer than putting yourself out there, we think, because then we risk disappointment. Sometimes it means going against your own inherited family rules (It did in my case.), spoken or unspoken. My children have made me believe in life; they kind of pulled the rug out from under my very cynical nature. My hubby is the same—he went against his upbringing to become extremely positive, politically outspoken, and idealistic. Kids, they do the damndest things.
This country could use some hope. It’s as if some people are allergic to it. I understand. One thing he said that resonated deeply with me and especially with my survivor friends was that “Fathers in this country owe more to their kids—they need to stand up and be men and be a real father to their children.” He is using his personal pain as a fatherless child to affect social change. So important. I do not care if you are Republican, Independent, Libertarian, liberal, purple people eater, whattheheckever—this is a common universal need. Touting family values is one thing; valuing family another. Fathers need to be there for their offspring. Period. That your father was absent, abusive, nonexistent, or otherwise emotionally/physically not there must be faced. And felt.
This is of interest to all of us who either had abusive fathers, or nonabusive fathers. Every father needs to be more emotionally in tune and available to their kids. Fathers need to protect and provide, but they need to exhibit empathy and reverence toward and for their children. So many children, girls and boys, are growing up feeling a vague, uneasy sense of disconnectedness. They are acting out (criminal behavior, hurting others, etc.) or acting in (self destructive, my hubby and I both did this for years as teens) because of this: Just because you are a “father” and you bring home the proverbial bacon does not mean you are done.
My husband is a fabulous example because he shows the boys it’s good and right to feel, how to conduct oneself as a man, to empathize with another’s struggle, to express their dreams and hopes, to be kind and sensitive to women, children, other men, humans all over, to think about animals, to honor the life force itself. In this rigidly patriarchal society, we have lost the sacrament of the sensitive male. Fathers showing their feelings, imagine that. Golly gee. To their sons, to their daughters. What a novel idea. It touches my life so much that Obama is verbalizing this reality; fathers are not fathers just because they provide. That’s a provider. Fathers are not fathers just because they made a baby; that’s a sperm donor. A child knows when a parent is giving them their energy—it’s an energy, a connection, a soul feeling. They know it. It is a soul nourishment.
To all my survivor friends, I know this means something deeply profound to you as well. To anyone who has not directly experienced father issues, I know you can be proud of this as well. Obama is challenging the status quo by saying this. He is calling out those fathers who are emotionally lazy and do not want to own up to their own feelings about fatherhood. Kids are growing up feeling fundamentally flawed inside because of their parents’ issues, issues that they project all over the child, who then absorbs the crap as their own.
To me, that’s what Obama is about. Now, I am a proud Democrat, a very liberal one, although I do believe in the death penalty for child killers and rapists, but I say this as a woman, mother, wife, and daughter of two very inadequate, abandoning, abusive parents. I don’t care that Obama is more moderate than I might like—I don’t think he’ll be legalizing pot or confronting the failed drug war, putting nonviolent drug offenders in rehab instead of prison, for instance. Nor has any candidate gotten up there and said, “I plan to eradicate incest, because 1/3 girls and 1/5 boys are sexually abused in this country.” I’m still waiting on that.
BUT, that he is voicing this call for fathers to step up is why—among a zillion other reasons—Health care: we were personally affected by no health insurance when our first son was born. It was awful and everyone should enjoy a wonderful socialized health care system—it’s working beautifully for Australia, Europe, even Cuba); pro choice rights (it’s a decision that belongs to a woman; it is her body and that is that.); actually addressing sources of unwanted pregnancy and aiming to prevent it (fathers in the home loving their daughters would help this, too); sex education is the only realistic way to do this. Less warmongering, more diplomacy, ANY diplomacy at this point, more gun control (I don’t want kids getting their hands on guns; our country is number one for gun related death), just more control. You NRA folks just chill; for me, we need to screen people and keep guns out of the hands of kids like Dylan Klebold and prevent more Columbines). Shall I go on? I will proudly vote for him. Anyone who cannot find a reason to do the same I ask you to think about this, just this, the subject of fathers. It’s something I think we can all agree on.