My daughter wrote me a card for Father’s Day.
It had a heart on the front and the following message on the back:
“Happy Fathers Day! Dad, you are my superstar. You help me when I’m sad. And I love everything you do for me. That is why I wish you a Happy Fathers Day.”
It was a sweet token of affection from a 9-year-old to her sleepy daddy sitting at the kitchen table.
But it got me thinking.
All over this country fathers are probably receiving something similar from their children.
Hawaiian shirts, blotchy neckties, and more finger paintings than you could fit in the Louvre.
But the sentiment is probably the same.
Thank you for being there for me.
But are we there for America’s children?
We may be there for our own kids, but where genetics end, are we there for others?
Our government has separated approximately 2,000 children from their parents at the border, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Two thousand children forcibly separated from their parents in our name and we dare to celebrate Father’s Day?
From April through May, the policy has separated 1,995 minors from 1,940 adults traveling with them who said they were the children’s guardians.
A country that doesn’t respect the rights of parents—even if those parents aren’t documented U.S. citizens—has no right to pretend it values fatherhood or motherhood.
At best, we value WHITE parenthood, and that, my friends, is not good enough.
Look at what we subject our own children to in the public school system.
We segregate our schools by race and class so we can horde resources for wealthy and middle class white kids while providing the bare minimum to the poor and children of color.
In the name of accountability we bestow upon them high stakes standardized tests to “prove” even those meager funds are wasted—yet we ignore the financial disparity, the social problems, the health issues, and a host of other obstacles the underprivileged face.
The only help we’re willing to offer is privatized schools that can pocket a portion of their funding and reduce resources for these kids. We demand local control and democratically-elected school boards for rich white kids, but expect the poor brown ones at charter and voucher schools to get along with appointed boards where their parents have no choice except to take it or leave it.
Does a society that routinely treats its children this way deserve a thank you card? I think not.
Last month, the CDC released a report indicating that the U.S. birth rate―the number of babies born nationwide―is the lowest it’s been in 30 years and is below the “replacement” rate needed to sustain the population.
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Various media sources were quick to blame women nationwide. Women put off having kids because they want to focus on careers. They aren’t sexy or submissive enough.
Yet few look at the responsibilities of men in this equation.
Who is it behind the salary gap between men and women? Who conflates women’s healthcare with abortion and communism? Who makes it easier to get a gun in this country than proper maternity leave, childcare, or any adequate resources to make having a family sustainable.
We don’t even support men who want to have families. Men make more money than women, but salaries are down for them as well. If there’s little support for pregnant women, there’s little support for the fathers who impregnated them.
We pretend family values are the bedrock of our society but we don’t do much to support families.
And when we look to the future, it doesn’t appear to be getting any better.
Big business and huge corporations are salivating all over the prospect of further monetizing our children.
They’re piloting scores of so-called personalized learning programs, apps, and devices to spy on children and monitor every aspect of their learning.
Not only are they asking kids whether they feel excited or bored by canned test prep lessons provided online, they’re focusing cameras on children’s faces, monitoring their breathing, and heart rate. They’re collecting mountains of data with little accountability, privacy, or even the promise of these things.
Investment bankers and hedge fund managers are funding these programs and more to create a priceless database on each individual child that can be used for lifelong marketing, job placement, even profiling by law enforcement.
These are not practices that are done in the best interest of children. They are in the best interest of investors and free market privateers.
No wonder fewer people are having children! They don’t want their kids to become helpless victims to a society that cares less and less about our humanity and more and more about our marketability.
It is us vs. them—where the us is significantly limited by race, economics, and class.
So this Father’s Day, we need to do more than accept a congratulatory pat on the back.
We need to accept our responsibility for the status quo.
If we don’t like the way things are, we need to commit ourselves to doing something about it.
Call and/or write your senators and representatives about the policy of separating undocumented parents and children. Visit your lawmakers’ offices and demand fair funding and an end to school segregation, high stakes testing, and school privatization. Get active in your local school district, going to meetings and making your voice heard. Do everything you can to educate the powers that be on the coming Ed Tech scandal and remove or block it from your district.
We’re not just fathers on Father’s Day.
We’re fathers all year long.
Let’s do something more to deserve it.