By Bill Mefford
Like so many things we once considered having no political implications whatsoever, celebrating Father’s Day during the trump era in this country has become something akin to a revolutionary act. Here is a man who has been given everything by his father; who was bailed out time and time again for his business failures and who would have made more money if he had taken all the money his father gave him and put it in a savings account rather than all of the supposed wheeling and dealing he did in the 1980s and 90s. trump lost more money than any single person in the United States during a ten year stretch and yet he has branded himself a successful businessman (and people unbelievably fell for it) all because his dad never told him no; all because his dad sheltered him inside affluent privilege. Fred Trump did not teach donald how to fail and the entire world is literally suffering for it.
Now, there is nothing wrong with failing miserably. I have done it. Lots of times, in fact. I have needed my dad and others to help me out when it has come to my failures in finances, relationships, and other responsibilities. There is absolutely no shame in that. I believe in failure because you can learn so much from your failures; emphasis on “can.” If you choose to, you can remember the lessons for your next attempts and that makes accomplishing your goals in life that much sweeter.
More than anything, failure is important because it makes you human; you are more approachable and you have greater compassion for others who fail because you know the experience intimately. Failure is hard, but good. The only people who see failure as an absolute evil without any redemptive value are the same people who never learn from failure and never admit failure. These are the same people who are vacuous of compassion and empathy. Yes, this is donald trump.
I remember when I got fired from a job I loved. I felt so incredibly defeated and depressed. I felt like I let down my family, the people I served, even the people I didn’t know who were directly impacted by the issues I worked on. I felt I failed on so many levels. There were so many people who sent me messages and called me and picked me up, but you know the call I remember the most? It was from my dad. My dad, who experienced his own failures in his work and career, listened to me, empathized with me, and gave me his strength to believe I would recover and do even greater things. When I could not believe in myself, my dad more than believed in me and I survived that time because of him and my wife especially.
I have tried to do this with my sons as well. Though neither of my sons have failed quite as spectacularly as I have (my failures are indeed pretty incredible), the times they have doubted themselves or have been confused, I have followed by dad’s example and have simply tried to be present. Not giving advice (unless asked), but just be present with them sharing the hurt and pain; sharing the burden. I have tried to believe in them when they felt like they couldn’t. And I do believe in them. I believe in them more than I do in myself. My boys are amazing.
These would be nice and perhaps even tender stories in any other time or era, but these days, given the man in the Oval Office and his over-privileged, hyper-detached, and amoral children who blatantly collude with other countries and openly enrich themselves on the backs of taxpayers, honest and compassionate fathering is a revolutionary act. The opposite of compassionate and nurturing fathering is donald trump and his kids. They are more than wealthy, elitist caricatures; they are doing real harm. They are enriching themselves and demonizing people on the margins.
And then I hear trump’s evangelical charlatan praise choir, otherwise known as his evangelical advisory committee, excusing him at every turn all the while claiming to be pro-family just because they are anti-LGBTQ+. It is then that I realize that fathering children to be compassionate and loving and anti-racist and defenders of the vulnerable are no longer normal things you do as a dad; fathering children is an act of revolution building a world that values justice and liberation.
Fathering children to love and accept others regardless of their legal status in a time when we are witnessing state-sponsored terror directed at undocumented immigrants, asylee seekers, and refugees is an act of revolution against tyranny.
Fathering children to acknowledge and respect and defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people to be who God created them to be when there are constant messages AND actions by this administration and the courts that have been stacked with anti-LGBTQ activist judges that devalues and judges them, is an act of revolution against tyranny.
Fathering children to have compassion on the poor and to understand that the roots of poverty are based in an unjust distribution of resources and not on the morality of the poor as individuals while the federal government repeatedly strips necessary and helpful programs that aid the poor in favor of weapons systems they ship to human rights-abusing countries like Saudi Arabia is an act of revolution against tyranny.
Fathering children to appreciate and appropriately care for creation while this administration gives favor to corporations which rape and plunder the earth and its natural resources and which puts people into positions of power - such as heading the Environmental Protection Agency - who do anything BUT protect the environment, is an act of revolution against tyranny.
Fathering children to live a life of harmony among others, to defend those who are vulnerable without demonizing those who cause harm, to stand up for what is right and to be willing to disagree without becoming violently disagreeable, all the while we have a man in the Oval Office who attacks, belittles, and dehumanizes people at the slightest offense and who is driving us to needless conflict with countries like Iran, is indeed a revolutionary act against tyranny.
I resonate with the sentiment often uttered that life in the trump era feels overwhelming; that trump in office is doing more than merely eroding a formerly commonly held ethos - he is literally water-boarding any semblance of national morals to death. But it is when I feel overwhelmed that I instinctively want to pour myself into my beautiful and amazing sons - Elisha and Isaiah. I want to love them and listen to them and encourage them and support them and dream with them. When the present is nuts - as it is nearly every day - I want to invest in the future.
When I reflect, I know that when chaos seems to reign, I opt for revolution and that begins with fathering my boys to be compassionate, empathic, welcoming, curious, and loving men. So, I say this Father’s Day, let the revolution come and let it come as I hold my sons in my arms and love them as I have been loved.