DADS 4 CHANGE

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Dads Share Worries & Hopes for Post-Obama Era

Here we go. It’s actually happening. It’s time to say goodbye to President Barack Obama and hello to … what?

A period of uncertainty as fraught as any era since … when?

The 1960s?

The 1860s?

How has it come to this?

Why has it come to this?

Where do we go from here?

So many questions. One leads to another, then another, then another.

I wish we had the answers. As parents, aren’t we supposed to have the answers?

See, there’s another question. So many.

This was supposed to be settled business, though. Or as settled as any human endeavor can be after 241 years.

We were on the right path, the path of progress, a path of inclusion, a path lit by compassion and empathy and reason.

Now …

What now?

We know you’re worried. Yes, even if you voted for him, you are almost certainly having second thoughts.

(Note: If you’re not worried, if what has happened during the transition period leading up to today is A-OK with you … really, please don’t read on. This is not for you. Still here? OK, then. We want to understand your world view, but that will have to wait. You call us snowflakes, and sure, our skies today are gray and full of mental flurries. Thing about snowflakes, though … get enough of them together, you have a blizzard. Then an avalanche. We’ll see you in 2018.)

Meanwhile … questions.

We got ’em. Here are two big ones:

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

And, more important …

What gives you hope?

We asked these questions of a group of dads we admire and respect a great deal. We hoped to find insight and inspiration.

We did. These are men of words, passionate about parenthood, guided by compassion and empathy and reason, weighed down by new worry but buoyed by varying degrees of hope.

Here, listed alphabetically, are their answers, carefully considered, curated in an effort to show you that you are not alone, that it’s OK to worry, that this might be happening but it’s happening to us all.

And we share these words now to remind you that we — that you — still possess the capacity to hope for better days ahead.

Here we go.

______________________

Brent Almond, Designer Daddy

Brent Almond (right) and family.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

The unknown. Even with the worst of past presidents, there was at least some adherence to the law and procedure and common sense. With Trump, none of these things are a given. I guess nothing is ever really predictable, but electing Donald Trump is like a grenade inside a tornado — an imminent, out-of-control disaster.

What gives you hope?

My husband and my son (who as far as I know will remain that under a Trump administration), and how hard we worked to create our family. We’re ready to work hard again, which in its own way is invigorating and hope-giving.

Chris Bernholdt, Dad N Charge

Chris Bernholdt.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

Obama always conducted himself with class and respect during his terms as president. What worries me is the way his words and actions have emboldened those who felt like they couldn’t say whatever they wanted. It’s what we teach our children about being kind to one another. Trump has never once in his entire campaign or hereafter carried himself with anything that has suggested he has one shred of dignity or respect for others. How can people put their faith in him after all he has said and done and he hasn’t even taken office yet? He scares me because he is not diplomatic. He doesn’t care about the past. He only finds faults. It’s that America that leads us to a war amongst ourselves and others. So far his threats have been empty but I’m fearful of what will happen once the transfer of power has begun. Will America change for the better or worse?

What gives you hope?

What gives me hope is that I know a majority of America didn’t choose him. Sure, he won the election through the Electoral College but the result of his election has made many Americans wake up and see that the evil never really left this country, it was always present, but we have been too blind to see it. Trump’s election and impending inauguration has made America great again. It has brought together more people who are more focused on love and respect, more people who are willing to stick up for different races, sexual orientations, and women’s rights. It has awoken a generation of children who pinned their hope on a woman being the first president, only to be disappointed by an unqualified TV “star” with questionable business sense and even greater questionable morals. Our family won’t stand for it and the great thing is, we know we are not alone.

Jeff Bogle, Out With the Kids

Jeff Bogle (left) and family.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

The shorter answer would be to rattle off a list of what I am not worried about in the post-Obama era. Instead, I’ll tell you that I fear, and you may think this a strange place to begin, for the future of our great public lands and parks, and for the future of our national arts and humanities. I worry too, and mostly though, about the ability of young women to grow up safely because I fear that heinous behavior toward them has been normalized and legitimatized by the person elected to take office next and by his band of profiteering cronies. I fear that in becoming a place where our women are not safe and where arts and nature are not cared for or about and where the ideologies of isolationism rule the day, that America will become a country not unlike all of those with whom we do battle, the places where monsters roam hell-bent on doing damage to those who “wrong” them or are unlike them. I fear that is what this great country will become. I fear for the end of the great American experiment.

What gives you hope?

Within my walls, there’s hope. It’s out my front door where the hopelessness lives.

Aaron Gouveia, The Daddyfiles

Aaron Gouveia and sons.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

I fear we’ve reached a tipping point. I fear electing a known misogynistic pussy grabber and defamer of Gold Star mothers means we’ve lost our collective sense of decency. I fear ignorance and callousness is the new normal. I fear for my friends of color and my gay friends who feel their hard-fought marriage equality is now in jeopardy. I fear people I thought were good are now eagerly condoning racism and bigotry. And I fear we’re not coming back from it all.

What gives you hope?

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’s the case.

Thom Hofman, Daddy Medium-Well

What worries you most about the post-Obama era? What gives you hope?

Thom Hofman.

On November fifth, 2008, the morning after Barack Obama became president-elect, I worked the early shift at work. It was the sunrise shift — ungodly early — but one that bore metaphorical significance at least. New day, new president. New Era.

I was the first to clock in that day, moving slow when swiping my time card. An unfortunate schedule had me arriving to work while still floating on vapors. Revelry of the night prior had its share of champagne bubbles, but also the otherwise — and perhaps more intoxicating– effervescence of a new ideology recently secured. We were drunk on lightness. The Bush years had been dark. So much time spent in protest of regress and false wars and economic mishandling.

My boss was the second to clock in. Our eyes matched in their particular purple and it didn’t seem appropriate to jump straightaway into work. We work next to water, so we decided to walk a few paces away from the building and take in the sunrise, standing cross-armed over the bay. The scoters hadn’t arrived yet — December marking their usual migration — but the water was graced with a few buffleheads, also the dumb bobbing of pelicans with their ungainly noses and forever downturned faces.

The night prior, I had been at the Civic Center with some colleagues to watch the election results live on the assorted big screens. My wife and I were new parents, just one year in, and my son was resolutely strapped to my wife’s chest in anticipation of the final call. It came earlier than expected, as the media charts displayed what seemed a geopolitical game of Othello, red states ahistorically flipping blue, Barack Obama becoming president. The results were announced just as my one-year old was nodding off in the Bjorn, and the uproar was enough to jolt him from sleep. I hugged my friends, I hugged my wife, I kissed my kid on the head.

I shared this story with my boss as we looked out over the water. The sun was just coming up and the real estate across the bay, all its assorted and differently angled glass, was catching the sun from dissimilar directions. Some windows were orange, others still slate.

My boss had a sad expression.

(Prop 8 had passed on Election Night also. This was the night’s big loss. A California Supreme Court decision had allowed same-sex couples to legally marry within the state, a stunning display of progress with precedent in Massachusetts. But the hate-machine, with white picket fences like teeth and a full set of evangelical canines, bullied the decision’s reversal.

I went to a same-sex wedding in 2007 for the lawyer that helped influence the California Supreme Court’s decision, and state senator Toni Atkins was the officiator. My boss: She got married to the love of her life, too, a woman, and on November 5th found herself — like my lawyer friend — in this wary place somewhere between legality and illegality.

“I was at the grocery store last night, Thom. Well — I’ll tell you: I was buying champagne. I was buying champagne because of the election. And then Prop 8 got voted in.”

(And there is certainly a time when a drink can go from celebration to solace).

The sun had gone from pink to orange, and brants were now accompanying the buffies in the water.

“How,” she asked, “How, Thom, in this day and age — and in our country — can we vote for something that specifically says it’s an amendment ‘to eliminate the rights’ of a group of people? I don’t get it.” Where the champagne went flat, and ideology felt less effervescent. Where Rosa Parks got ordered again to sit at the back of the bus.

The Obama administration had its eight years following that particular sunrise, and — much like that sunrise — had its ambivalences. There was the (perhaps reluctant) continuance of the Bush Doctrine, the drone attacks, the strangely Machiavellian crackdown on whistle-blowers, the brown-shirt flirtation with martial suspension of habeas corpus. But there was also the ACA, the turnaround of the 2008 recession, the de-escalation of Middle-East conflict, an unprecedented rise in employment, the legalization of same-sex marriage. There was progress, which we voted for under the one-word campaign promise of ‘hope’. There was light after eight years of inarguable bleakness. That the scales tipped heavier to progress and not regress showed we as an electorate were willing to trend forward, even as an obstructionist Congress tried its best to speed the rust with regard to the machinations of law.

This gives me hope in a post-Obama nation.

But on January 20th, and when again I am scheduled an early shift, and next to water, I am worried about the forecast. It’s slated to rain and I don’t think there’ll be much of a sunrise as the migratory birds sit in their puddles of gray. How often will the presidential orders following that morning be rife with the language, “to eliminate the rights, to eliminate the rights, and to eliminate the rights.”

I worry.

Whit Honea, Dads 4 Change/Family Life on Earth

Whit Honea.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era? 

The easy answer is everything. We are now entering an era when Americans are losing civil rights, healthcare, and so much more: A free press is under attack, the legal system, education, morals and ethics, our allies betrayed and adversaries championed, all of it happening 140 characters at a time. And yet, there is another layer of worry, the underlying fear that the attributes we should cherish in each other — kindness, intellect, cultural differences — will now be marked as weakness and points of division. It isn’t just the freedom of democracy that is on the line, but the very spirit of it.

What gives you hope? 

There is hope in history. Terrible things ebb and flow, and from then, eventually, the tides tend to turn. Granted, it may be a longer span than any of us, or our children, will see the benefits of, but someday this too shall pass. Also, the power of protest, even in the absence of effect, knowing that a great many people are willing to stand up and say, “This is not right. This is not normal.” It’s like “The Hunger Games,” but with less archery.

Dave Lesser, Amateur Idiot, Professional Dad

Dave Lesser (left) and family.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

My eldest was born the day Barack Obama was elected the President of the United States and I felt my world take a glorious turn. When I looked into my daughter’s eyes all I saw was potential. It’s a crazy analogy, but I think that’s how a lot of people felt when we elected Obama. Anything. Is. Possible.

The election of Donald Trump is an enthusiastic middle finger thrust in the face of that sought after, promised-for hope. Now the phrase “anything is possible” takes on a more sinister tone. Will LGBTQ and civil rights be rolled back? Anything is possible. Will violence against Jews increase? Anything is possible. How about Muslims? Damn probable. How will women fare? I guess we’ll see.

For the last eight years — in fits and starts to be sure — we have made progress. For the next (at least) four years, it feels like it will be the ultimate struggle not to lose too much ground. It feels inevitable that we will be taking steps backward instead of continuing our forward progression. Historically victimized groups will be hurt. Individuals will be hurt. It feels like the best we can do is hope the change won’t be too bad.

What gives you hope?

My ultimate hope is that people, including myself, will wake the f*ck up. It was easy to sit on the sidelines and watch progress happen, post our support on Facebook. Now we actually have to DO something. Screw the government. This shit was never top-down, anyway. It’s time to get grassroots and enact some real change. We need to volunteer, to run for office, to help when no one’s looking. We, I, need to push back and maintain forward momentum. Because this country has yet to live up to its full potential. Anything is still possible.

Christopher Persley, The Brown Gothamite

Christopher Persley and daughter.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

I will worry about the reproductive rights of women. I will worry about the 20 million people who will more than likely lose their healthcare. I will worry that anger and vengeance becomes more acceptable than composure and decency. I will worry that facts are no longer relevant. I will worry that the media will not be able to hold the White House accountable. Most of all, I will worry about the empowerment and normalizing of hate.

What gives you hope?

The only thing that gives me hope is the next generation of activists have been inspired. They are children like my 5-year-old daughter, who believes in women’s equality and race relations based on compassion. She wants to march and protest and make signs that say, “Love is Love.” She wants to understand voting and how Hillary lost. Her empathy, concern, and passion are reassuring.

Doyin Richards, Daddy Doin’ Work

Doyin Richards.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

The world has become a much meaner and hateful place since the election, but I rarely find myself concerned about the people who spew the vitriol. I’m more worried about the good people who sit back and do nothing. As Elie Wiesel once said, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” We need more everyday people to say, “Hey, this isn’t right and I’m going to do something about it,” but sadly, it’s much easier for most to stay quiet.

What gives you hope?

As incredibly cheesy as this will sound, love gives me hope. As Dr. King said, “hate is too great a burden to bear,” and that’s probably because it isn’t sustainable over long periods of time. Love is usually on the right side of history because it’s so damn powerful — civil rights, interracial marriage, and gay marriage are just a few examples. Put differently, there are way more good guys who believe in love and acceptance than the ones who don’t. We just need the good guys to be louder and more active. If that happens, America will be in a much better place in 2017 and beyond.

Roberto Santiago, An Interdisciplinary Life

Roberto Santiago.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

Election night was a shock. The day started with me rocking the all-white linen suit I’d worn to my wedding. I had my students interpret election coverage as a class exercise. I was certain Ms. Clinton would win in a landslide and that the Donald Trump fiasco would be one of history’s great political punchlines.

The immediate aftermath saw me and my students, most of whom are women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ spending an hour at the start of class crying and trying to predict what would happen next. My kids didn’t cry. They were disappointed, but are still too young at 7 and 5 to really feel the danger.

Like many Americans I worry about losing the progress made over the last eight years. I worry about the dismantling of our regulatory institutions, like the EPA, Department of Education, HUD, the SEC. I worry that this whole administration will be a boondoggle that strip mines the country for the benefit of the 1%. I’ve never had much faith in our intelligence agencies, but the new president seems intent on blinding them. Those are the concrete fears of today.

Long term I worry that we’ve now passed the point where we will ever have civil discourse in this country again. The majority didn’t want this president, but not the majority in the right places. I’m afraid this will further fracture us as a nation because I know I’m past the point of tolerating any racist, fake news, “I want my country back” BS from anyone. I’m digging in, and it seems others are as well. I’m afraid for all of the minority people of the country. I fear the potential for a McCarthy-esque police state.

It’s weird, but I’m not worried about my kids. For one, I believe that kids adapt to the time in which they grow up. My parent’s fears for me were largely unrealized because they were worried about how different the world was compared to when they grew up. But it wasn’t different to me, it was just the world as it has always been for as long as I had been aware of it. The one worry I have for my children is that they’ll lose me. Outside of sharing my name, my kids can pass for white. I can’t. I worry that I’ll lose my cool at a traffic stop, or fail to keep quiet when called out by emboldened racists, and I’ll be gone. I worry that the rhetoric against people with Spanish surnames will end up with me dead. I’m also half-Japanese. My family, all American citizens other than my great-grandmother who was legally barred from citizenship, was interned during WWII. They lost their home and their livelihoods. With that history just two generations removed, I still believe that anything can be taken, for little or no reason at all. I don’t rule out the idea that it could happen again.

What gives you hope?

Honestly, there’s not a lot that gives me hope these days. I hold a small flicker of hope that this will be rock bottom for the United States, that this will jolt people back to working together, that this will be so bad that it will never happen again. I don’t think that’s likely, and in fact I’d bet on the opposite, but I have hope. I also hold onto the idea that this will benefit my kids the way growing up under Reagan benefited me. I grew up fighting. I grew up paying attention to politics because my mother showed me that it was important be involved. I was an activist before I was allowed to walk to school by myself, which was pretty young back then. I spent weekends in first grade making and distributing political flyers with my friend down the block. In 5th grade I joined INFACT and worked on their campaign to boycott General Electric. I spent nearly every weekend for two years distributing pamphlets, fund raising, and speaking in front of every politician we could get in front of. I hope that the Black Lives Matter sign in our yard, and seeing mommy interpreting at protests inspires my kids to avoid the apathy that cost us the last election. The one thing that could come from this is that they are turned into activists, that they feel compelled to be a part of the political process, that they never think that their vote doesn’t count. I cling to the idea that they will be the ones to help drag the country back out into the light.

Matt Schneider, City Dads Group

Matt Schneider (left) and family.

What worries you most about the post-Obama era? 

I worry most that the people making domestic and foreign policy decisions over the next four years do not have the experience, wisdom, or fortitude needed to fulfill the hope of a greater America and a safer world.

What gives you hope?

I think of the coming four years as the “one step backward” after eight years of “two steps forward.” My hope is that the leaders and storytellers among us can bridge the gap between the privileged and the marginalized so we can align toward the values a majority of Americans hold and our shared desire for equality, freedom, and respect.


Update: Since the original publication of this piece we’ve heard from several others that would like to add their voice to this conversation, and we will gladly include them here:

Lorne Jaffe, Raising Sienna

What worries you most about the post-Obama era?

That this country is not only being run like a reality television program, but becoming one. Trump acted like he was in his “Apprentice” boardroom, drilling people and the media, making them sweat and tapping into their deepest fears. On reality shows, you can say the most outrageous things and fuel yourself, your character using social media. You can feed on hate without even thinking about how divisiveness affects your viewership because you know, ratings! People can’t help but watch.

What gives you hope?

People will learn from this experience and pay more attention to the machinations of governmental and social politics than ever before. This has been a wake-up call for the media because they gave Trump more publicity than any presidential candidate has ever received just by writing about and railing against him thereby increasing his support base. No one likes to be told what to do. The media spent too much time doing just that. And that future generations will not take things for granted. Politics has changed. It’s more partisan than ever. Voters (those that DO vote) are filled with venom for the “other.” The status quo might not have been perfect, but the pendulum did not have to swing this far. I feel like this hate-filled election (and I include Clinton and Clinton supporters’ hating on the right in this instance) awoke not just the media, but politicians and their constituencies as well. Trump may or may not allow it over the next 4 years, but maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a necessary decrease in partisan ways; maybe we’ll learn to work together to solve our problems.

4 comments for “Dads Share Worries & Hopes for Post-Obama Era

  1. Paul
    January 20, 2017 at 5:02 am

    on my commute this morning i looked in the rearview mirror and apologized to my two-year-old as she ate her toast. Here were my words “I am so sorry for what we are about to experience, I’m sorry that we didn’t set a better example for you. I acknowledge that we let you down.” I guess the only saving grace is we can only go up from here

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