Thursday, February 27, 2014

"I've never signed a Father's Day card, either"

I've spent a lot of this month complaining about things on and off the blog, so when I read this -- and having lost my own Dad just a few months ago -- I had to take a moment and catch myself.

On Father’s Day last June, President Barack Obama welcomed 14 teenagers sporting black-and-white T-shirts that read “BAM” into the Oval Office.

The letters stood not for the nickname occasionally slapped on the president by big-city tabloids, but for “Becoming a Man,” a program run by a Chicago nonprofit working with at-risk youth in the public schools. The president had met the group of young black men once before, when he dropped by one of BAM’s hourlong group discussion sessions at Hyde Park Academy High School last February. He’d pulled up a chair and sat in the boys’ circle that day, talking with them so long about their lives his aides worried he would blow up his carefully planned schedule during his visit to the city.

Now they were meeting again, teenagers from the South Side of Chicago and the president who began his organizing career not far from where they lived. It had already been an emotionally powerful trip for the boys, only two of whom had ever been on a plane before. Now here they were visiting with the most powerful man in the world in the inner sanctum of the Oval Office.

As the teens gathered around the president, one handed him a green and gold Father’s Day card, which all the boys had signed. They had gone out and purchased it the day before, unbeknown to their counselor, Marshaun Bacon, who traveled with them to the White House.

“I never signed a Father’s Day card before,” the young man explained as the president opened the card. “I’ve never signed a Father’s Day card, either,” Obama replied, according to an aide, improbably closing the distance between the Chicago teens and the American president. 

I haven't been a fan of many of the President's policies (the drones, the warrantless wiretapping, the capitulation on the public option) for a long time.  But what he has endured from the "you lie" Republicans in Congress, the vermin who have cried "birth certificate" and Fast and Furious" and "Benghazi" -- and all the rest of the nothingburgers consumed by the vilest of conservatives calling themselves 'patriots' -- has been the single worst social development in American society over the past five years.

Barack Obama continues to set a positive example for many Americans whom the right actually don't consider people.  If you needed more proof of what's gone off the rails during his presidency, then the racists, misogynists, and cold-ass capitalists who keep bleating their daily bullshit will be certain to provide one for you in just a few minutes.

I once worked with a fellow (it's been about thirty years ago now) who had never known his father, but had been told by his mother that the man drove a Schwan truck in town.  So every time he saw a Schwan truck making the rounds, he would pull the guy over in hopes of meeting his dad.  As far as I know, he never found him.

My biggest complaint compared to that is that I won't ever sign a Father's Day card again.  Pretty small potatoes, relatively.

The only real thing I have learned in my half-century-plus on this mudball is that if you aren't making a difference in children's lives -- that would be yours and someone else's, for the record -- then you're not making much of a difference, no matter how often you go to church, no matter how fat the size of your bank account.  And the children whose lives need difference-making the most are the ones who started off with the least.

Find some of those kids and see if you can make a difference in their lives.  Just a suggestion. The reality is that we have so many awful issues and challenges as a country that are going to take a long time to solve.  But something like this?  We can start where we are today.

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