Obama vs. Trump and Kids in Search of A Hero: A Father’s Day Rant
Father’s Day is a celebration of gratitude for the men from all walks of life who provide care and inspiration for the country’s young people, biologically and by choice. It is also, rightly, a Hallmark holiday made for nostalgia. So it’s natural for gender and political writers like myself to take a look at fatherhood as it’s currently expressed at the highest levels of our country’s leadership, versus our very recent past. To the surprise of few who consistently find the moral tank of the Trump White House running on fumes, the contrasts in 2019 are depressing.
There are many things to miss about the Obama era, such as America’s international respectability and the pride that came with having a President who spoke full sentences. Another undeniable, recurring joy arose from witnessing POTUS 44’s natural and enthusiastic bond with the nation’s children. Who can forget the indelible, 2009 image of Obama bending over his lanky frame so that a five year-old, African American boy could touch his hair? I am still not crying, you are! Also if you’re looking to feel ancient this Father’s Day, Jacob Philadelphia is now 15 years old.
There is an entire webpage on the website Popsugar devoted to President’s Obama’s rapport with children of every gender, race and socioeconomic status. When it came to our most precious, precarious and promising Americans, Barack Obama was the father, uncle and friend we wished for every kid. The guy with the nuclear codes who would gleefully let a tiny Superman knock him out on Halloween. As one-time adversary, Senator John McCain famously said of Obama in 2008: “He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”
I haven’t seen any polling on this of course, but my hypothesis is that the 42 plus percent of voters who stubbornly support Trump would still prefer he not babysit their children. This is after all, a man who did not want to bestow the moniker of “Donald Jr.” on his firstborn, because he could grow up to be a “loser.” He also proudly reported that throughout his three marriages, changing diapers was a duty he shirked.
But even if 45 were a parent of greater natural aptitude, affirmation and grace, his public and private conduct are a daily rebuke to this country’s casual, destructive acceptance of toxic masculinity. On Father’s Day of all days, we must look at our little girls and remember that our nation is led by a man who boasted of grabbing adult women by the private parts, and sneaking uninvited glances of disrobed teenagers.
Traditionally conservative voters who disagreed with Obama on matters of policy, and liberals farther to the left of the President on social and economic issues could still look to the beautiful, accomplished, healthy and loving Obama family as a positive standard for all Americans. It was a nice norm to be taken for granted. It’s rather hard to do that now, under a new paradigm where POTUS 45 calls up seven year-old girls to cast doubt on the existence of Santa Claus.
President and Mrs. Obama will never return to the White House of course, and Donald Trump is a shame to our country every day of the year. But at a time when more and more of the nation’s parents are struggling to provide the basics, protect clean air and build sustainable futures for their children, it’s never too soon to wonder what kind of impression this President and his empathy-free family of grifters are making upon children the world over who are celebrating, missing or lamenting their own fathers today. As one of my favorite writers, Charles P. Pierce of Esquire wrote earlier this month of the Trump administration’s heartless and deadly family separation policies at the border: “We will pay a price someday for giving poor and desperate people reason to resent us.”
Plenty of poor and desperate kids born U.S. citizens, say in Puerto Rico, can follow whatever news reaches them, awaking each day to recover from natural disaster. They can feel the absence of a leader and a father who is especially stingy and unkind to children of color. Young black men in America have known for over 30 years that Donald Trump views them as other.
Full disclosure that I’m the adult child of a living, vain, capricious, entitled, mentally disturbed white male. I see a lot of my own dad in the current Leader in the Free World. Father’s Day is an especially uncool time to feel the united moral bankruptcy between your public and personal patriarchies. It’s particularly destabilizing and triggering. For too many of our nation’s already disadvantaged kids, and many of its struggling adults, this absurd President is not a joke. We deserve a much better steward of our national wellbeing.