Guest columnist Rich Haddad: Your Brothers And Sister, All Coming Together Just For You (Part 5)

 

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Richard Haddad, a resident of Westminster, Maryland, is the father of five children, Steven, Jason, Ashleigh, Jonathan and Erin. Recently retired from a career managing support services in the public and private sectors, he has written on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. He also founded – and for five years edited and published – American Man, a magazine devoted to seriously exploring the male gender role and the male experience. Rich’s previous contributions to this blog, letters to his daughter Ashleigh and his son Jonathan written on the days they were born, appeared around Thanksgiving, 2011: http://letterstomykids.org/thanksgiving-guest-columnist-richard-haddad-l

Dear Steve, Jason, Ashleigh and Jon,

I was tremendously impressed by some of the decisions you made and things you did as young adults, some of them things that I would never have had the guts to do at the same age, like Steve’s decision to quit his job a few years out of college to “find” himself on a driving tour across the U.S. and back, taking with him not much more than a sleeping bag and a back pack and some money for food.

Jason, you wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve told about your answer to my sarcastic question to you when you were a couple of years out of college and still waiting on tables at a restaurant, about whether you had decided yet what you were going to be when you grew up. “No, I haven’t,” you said to me, without batting an eye. “But I have decided that I’m not yet ready to grow up.”

Ash, I’m still reeling from your decision (but sharing it proudly with friends) a few years after getting your Bachelors degree to go heavily into debt to get a Masters in acting and music at a prestigious school overseas in order to pursue your dream of a career in the arts. And Jon, I’m just bursting with admiration for the focus and discipline and dedication involved in your pursuit of a career in firefighting from the time you were in middle school, and with the success and accolades that have followed.       

I was proud that I might have helped inspire the values and priorities behind decisions and actions like those and helped each of you to develop the self-confidence behind them.

But the most important part of my experience of being your father had to do with my relationships with each of you: getting to know you as individuals and trying to help you discover and become comfortable with your personalities; genuinely liking the people you were; and loving you the way I did.  

I’ve always thought that helping to raise you to be the fine individuals that you are has been the greatest accomplishment of my life, and in my opinion there is no experience more satisfying than helping children grow to adulthood. But raising you has also been an enriching experience for me. It grew the nurturing side of my personality, balanced the “protect and provide” side that I think would otherwise have dominated. It helped me to be a better supervisor at work, to develop and enjoy relationships with my staff and with other people who worked with me, to get cooperation on important work initiatives.   

You’ve helped me to develop as a man, to become the person I am today, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

I love you.

Dad

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Guest columnist Rich Haddad: Guest columnist Rich Haddad: Your Brothers And Sister, All Coming Together Just For You (Part 4)

 

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Richard Haddad, a resident of Westminster, Maryland, is the father of five children, Steven, Jason, Ashleigh, Jonathan and Erin. Recently retired from a career managing support services in the public and private sectors, he has written on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. He also founded – and for five years edited and published – American Man, a magazine devoted to seriously exploring the male gender role and the male experience. Rich’s previous contributions to this blog, letters to his daughter Ashleigh and his son Jonathan written on the days they were born, appeared around Thanksgiving, 2011: http://letterstomykids.org/thanksgiving-guest-columnist-richard-haddad-l

Dear Steve, Jason, Ashleigh and Jon,

Of course, it was satisfying for me to “be there” for you as you were growing up – to talk a problem through with you or to encourage you when you were down; to cheer you on as you were playing baseball or soccer or lacrosse, or to be in the audience as you performed on stage; to meet with your teachers about your schoolwork or to help you with a homework assignment; etc. And you’ve each told me how important that kind of support was to you.

It was great watching you decide that one extracurricular activity or another was not the right one for you and move on to something else, and then to watch you succeed at something you loved – in sports, in the arts, etc. – and have your accomplishments honored.

It was great watching you bond as siblings and then stay very close as you became adults. And I was so happy over your love for your sister Erin and how you treated her. The cerebral palsy and severe mental retardation caused by the brain damage Erin suffered during birth limited our activities as a family and complicated so many other things about our family life. But instead of being resentful about any of this, you were all so accommodating and so protective of her.

P.S. – Please see part 5 tomorrow.

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Guest columnist Rich Haddad: Your Brothers And Sister, All Coming Together Just For You (Part 3)

 

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Richard Haddad, a resident of Westminster, Maryland, is the father of five children, Steven, Jason, Ashleigh, Jonathan and Erin. Recently retired from a career managing support services in the public and private sectors, he has written on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. He also founded – and for five years edited and published – American Man, a magazine devoted to seriously exploring the male gender role and the male experience. Rich’s previous contributions to this blog, letters to his daughter Ashleigh and his son Jonathan written on the days they were born, appeared around Thanksgiving, 2011: http://letterstomykids.org/thanksgiving-guest-columnist-richard-haddad-l

Dear Steve, Jason, Ashleigh and Jon,

Each of you made me feel great a couple of years ago explaining to me in a special Father’s Day letter what it was like having me as a father as you were growing up. So today I want to return the favor and tell you what a great experience fathering has been to me.

As you know, my dad was an immigrant and brought a lot of “old world” values with him when he came to the U.S. at ten years old, including values about the roles of men and women in raising children. Also, since he was about four when his own father died, he essentially grew up without any kind of a father role model at all, old world as it might have been.

So although he was unquestionably a good man who took good care of his family, there wasn’t a heck of a lot of father-son interaction between the two of us when I was a kid, and this was at a time when the Ozzie Nelson and Ward Cleaver television characters were among the models of American fathers.

Maybe understandably, I decided as a young man that my fathering style was going to be a lot more “hands on” than what I experienced as I was growing up. But my “no-nonsense,” duty-driven personality, and the way I saw my role as a parent at the time, were the foundation for a lot of what I did and didn’t do in my first years as a dad.

I approached my role as a father then mostly as a matter of responsibility. I was to be a strong role model, to have an answer to every question, to be rational at all times and not allow emotion to influence decision-making. I also generally stayed away from “mom stuff” – except when asked by mom to get involved. It took me a while to figure out that while setting and enforcing rules and being a good role model and requiring responsible behavior are important parts of parenting, they are not the heart of the parenting role.

The heart of parenting, I learned, is about encouraging and guiding exploration, risk-taking, growth. It’s about nurturing. Being a parent meant that I had to think about how I felt about things that affected you, not just feel what fathers were “supposed” to feel. It meant respecting you as individuals, allowing you to disagree with me and to argue your case on virtually anything, reversing myself when it looked like I had made a bad decision. And when I figured all of that out, I began the most awesome experience of my life.         

P.S. – Please see part 4 tomorrow.

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Guest columnist Rich Haddad: Your Brothers And Sister, All Coming Together Just For You (Part 2)

 

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Richard Haddad, a resident of Westminster, Maryland, is the father of five children, Steven, Jason, Ashleigh, Jonathan and Erin. Recently retired from a career managing support services in the public and private sectors, he has written on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. He also founded – and for five years edited and published – American Man, a magazine devoted to seriously exploring the male gender role and the male experience. Rich’s previous contributions to this blog, letters to his daughter Ashleigh and his son Jonathan written on the days they were born, appeared around Thanksgiving, 2011: http://letterstomykids.org/thanksgiving-guest-columnist-richard-haddad-l

Dear Erin,

You lived with your family for 19 years. By the time you were 13 or 14, it was becoming clear that we wouldn’t be able to provide you with the 24/7 care that you needed indefinitely – dressing and undressing you, changing your diapers, bathing you, preparing your blended meals and feeding you, lifting you into and out of your wheelchair seven or eight times a day. So we began working with state officials on securing a place for you in a group home in the care of the state.

Moving you was especially difficult emotionally for your mom, much as she knew it was necessary. But you get good care where you live, we’re able to see you whenever we like, and we bring you home for your birthday and for Christmas, and the arrangement works well. When you’re home we can still enjoy watching you enjoy listening to your favorite music – from Sesame Street and Disney movies – and smiling when a sound strikes you as funny. We can still hug and kiss you. 

There is no way to tell, dear Erin, what goes on inside your brain, which has apparently developed only to the level of an infant. And although we’d like to think so, we don’t know for sure whether you recognize and feel the love of your family members. 

But love you we do, not because of what you’ve taught us or how you’ve changed us all for the better; but because of who you are – daughter, sister, a unique human being who has touched our hearts, an inseparable part of our family and our life.

And love you we always will, unconditionally.                              

Dad

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.

Guest columnist Richard Haddad: Your Brothers And Sister, All Coming Together Just For You

 

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Richard Haddad, a resident of Westminster, Maryland, is the father of five children, Steven, Jason, Ashleigh, Jonathan and Erin. Recently retired from a career managing support services in the public and private sectors, he has written on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. He also founded – and for five years edited and published – American Man, a magazine devoted to seriously exploring the male gender role and the male experience. Rich’s previous contributions to this blog, letters to his daughter Ashleigh and his son Jonathan written on the days they were born, appeared around Thanksgiving, 2011: http://letterstomykids.org/thanksgiving-guest-columnist-richard-haddad-l

Dear Erin,

I first met you one evening in 1981 when I stopped at the apartment where you lived to pick up your mom for a date. You were almost six then.

I had heard about your cerebral palsy from your mom, so I was prepared to see you in a wheelchair. I also knew that you had severe mental retardation and didn’t speak or understand what was being said when someone spoke to you. But I was not at all prepared to feel close to you immediately.

I was probably falling in love with your mom by then, and that may have had something to do with my reaction when I met you that evening. But for whatever reason, my feeling for you at that first meeting was a precursor of things to come for us.

Your mom and I married a couple of years later, and a few years after that I became your adoptive father and you became a Haddad like the rest of our family members. By then, you were already a very special person to every one of us.

Your mom had been devastated to learn, shortly after you were born, that because of the brain damage that you suffered during delivery, you would have severe disabilities for the rest of your life. Your birth injuries changed her life dramatically.

But in adjusting to your condition, she dedicated herself to giving you the healthiest and richest and longest life possible. From that moment on, her eyes and hands and legs and feelings became yours, and you were guaranteed that your disabilities would never result in your being neglected or suffering unnecessarily.

Your mom’s character was one of the things that most attracted me to her. Her thoughts, her actions, her decisions reflected solid, core values, and consciously so. It’s now clear to me that her character had been influenced by the experience of raising you to that point; she had become a more purposeful and stronger person, and appreciative, as she put it, of “the miracle of a healthy child.”       

Your older brothers Steven and Jason assumed a loving, protective posture toward you from the first time they met you. I remember them arguing about which of them would get to push you in your wheelchair when we’d go to the mall together. Likewise, your younger sister and brother, Ashleigh and Jonathan, would watch out for you from the time they were toddlers, always letting me or your mom know when you were fussing about something or other.

And your mom and I understood the depth of the feelings of protectiveness all four of your siblings had toward you when you were hospitalized for pneumonia in 2008 while we were vacationing in Europe. Your brothers and sister immediately and naturally substituted for your absent parents, and were there by your bedside to keep you company and to ensure that you were as comfortable as possible.

All of them, like so many others who have known you, seemed to become more compassionate human beings because of you and more appreciative of the abilities and faculties that they had – walking, seeing, interacting with others, expressing themselves – that you were missing. They seemed to be more appreciative of the very experience of living because of you.

As your sister Ashleigh put it in an entry in her elementary school journal, “I will never forget the wonderful abilities I have. When I wake up in the morning, I can see the trees waving their branches through the window. I can feel the crisp, cool air when I go outside. I can hear the blue jays singing in a tall tree. I can smell the sunflowers in the garden. I can taste the wild raspberries. I have a sister who can’t do many of these things. Her name is Erin.”  

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

Guest columnist “Anonymous:” Why I’m Grateful For My Children

 

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He’s a fiftysomething father of a son, 29, and a daughter, 26, lives in the Northeast with his wife of 30 years, and runs a highly respected professional services firm.

Dear kids,

 

Am I grateful for you? Yes. I’m grateful that you’re both, like me, interested in politics, history, movies and sports. I’m also grateful that, like me, you root for the Mets and the Jets, however pathetic those teams may be. More important, I’m grateful that we all wear our love of Israel and Judaism on your sleeves. And I’m especially grateful that you have both grown up to be kind, intelligent, hard-working adults.

 

But I am also ungrateful. Ungrateful that time has moved so quickly. I feel bad that you both live so far away. I’ve always lived within 15 minutes of my boyhood home.

 

Still, let me say this. I’ve always felt grateful for the ideals my parents tried to instill in me. And when it was my turn to have children, I wanted to share the values that I learned with you. And I believe it was beneficial for you both to witness the relationship your mother and I had with our parents.

 

Let me confess something you both already know: I am hardly what you would call an effusive person. I am no John Boehner, Ed Muskie or Jack Paar, crying at every opportunity. In fact, I doubt my tear ducts function. If you ever heard me gush, you would probably be uncomfortable. But when it comes to being grateful for my children or anything else, this I believe. Actions speak louder than words.

 

I’m grateful that like me, you both adhere to the philosophy known as L’dor v’dor. That Hebrew phrase, used in both prayer and friendly conversation, translates to “from generation to generation.” It also means we’re responsible for more than ourselves. We’re also responsible for others, especially for those younger.

 

As you know, my father joins us every Friday night for a Shabbos meal. Most of those dinners, in between eating challah and drinking wine, feature classic debates about politics, history and sports. I know my father is grateful that I respect his values, that I’ve tried to live those values every day, and that I’ve tried to pass those values on to you. My hope is you will follow our lead, joyfully, when you have children of your own.

Guest columnist Maureen Mackey: Is “Grateful” Really The Right Word?

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Maureen Mackey lives in the New York City area with her husband and two sons, 17 and 15. An editor and writer, she is currently managing editor of The Fiscal Times, a dynamic website covering business, economy, politics and more (http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/).

To My Boys,

 

Grateful is an interesting word. What are most people grateful for? A roof over their heads. Food in their bellies. Good health. Money to pay the bills. A job.

Push it, and you could be talking about a car, a lawn, a deck, an iPhone, a laptop, a vacation to a warm and stunning place with clear blue water, and so much more.

But grateful for you, my kids?

‘Grateful,’ move the heck over. Waaaayyyy over.

Let’s talk about love — a love so life-changing you couldn’t grasp that it existed before, and once you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine how you ever walked the face of the earth without it. Maybe you were half a person back then. Maybe you were a shadow of yourself, an inkling of what you were to become, a speck, a fleck. Maybe it was just, you know — inhale, exhale. Not that you didn’t get some good things done. You did. You think you did. But it was different.

Let’s talk about pride — pride when you, my children, achieve new milestones in your lives, when I see you flourish in school or on the field or on the stage, when I see you show toughness when you need to, kindness when it’s called for, consideration to complete strangers, or thoughtfulness when it’s least expected but most appreciated.

Let’s talk about happiness — at the way your smiles cheer my heart, or your joy makes me laugh, or your presence in the room makes me feel the world is a better place just because you’re standing there, occupying that space.

“Are you good?” I text one of you at night when you’re at a friend’s house, using our shorthand for how are things, how is the night going, are you in a safe place and is all well in your world at this moment in time. You’re driving now.

“I’m good, Ma,” you text back a minute or so later. And because you get what I’m asking, sense the depth of how I need to know, my heart is warmed.

“Tell me about your Earth Science test,” I say to you, my other teenaged son, one night after dinner.

You say you did well — in the 90s, and as you share the details, talk about how hard the test was, how much you worked through some of the answers, I can see your sense of accomplishment. I tell you I’m proud you tried so hard, that you hung in there, and we hang together for awhile, enjoying the moment, lingering, not letting it go.

Water children and they’ll grow, and change, and charge through the world — moving up and away and then circling back, God willing. But as long as you want me there I’ll never leave your sides. I know that about my two stepsons — my first children but young men now, gorgeous and strong and smart — and you, my sons, know that too.

This Thanksgiving, life is richer, happier, more serene and more complete because of you. That poor word ‘grateful’ … it just tries so hard! It’s a word inadequate to describe how I feel toward you all. Love and pride and happiness trump gratitude any day of the week.

Guest columnist Alexandra Owens: “I’ve Killed My Child” (part 2)

 

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Alexandra Owens lives in Morris County, New Jersey, with her husband, Michael, and their two daughters, Gillian, 14, and Catie, 10. Alexandra is the executive director of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA; www.asja.org).

 

Dear Gillian,

 

And then you cry — a cry of distress such as I had never heard before. We can both breathe now, certainly something, certainly better than nothing. I call the ambulance and have a difficult time explaining where we lived, since the road out front has yet to be built. We have to walk out through the construction, you in your bucket-shaped car seat, still wailing. The paramedics finally come and take us away, and the questions begin immediately.

 

What happened? they ask. Does she cry a lot? Is this your first child? How are you feeling?

 

As the doctors and nurses work, it feels appropriate to be judged and found wanting. They are looking for signs of abuse in you or post-partum illness in me, trying to determine if this is an accident or something worse. Are they right? Still in shock, I think maybe they are. Am I negligent?  

 

Clearly, I’m unfit for this job, I think.  It’s wrong to trust me to take care of my own baby.

 

The x-rays show a crack in your skull, but at your age they’re unable to tell if it’s just a natural unfused suture. All I hear is “possible skull fracture.”

 

Those three seconds of the fall refuse to end, the images still circling in my memory. That night and the next and the next are exercises in fear as I listen to you breathe in the night, waiting for the signs of serious problems the doctor had told us to look for. Do you stop breathing at all? Are you hard to wake up? Did your feeding schedule change?

 

But you, my tiny baby, were fine. So small barely an armful, yet so sturdy you had bounced. Yes, bounced. The only mark of the fall is a minuscule scratch on your head where you hit the wall. You heal completely, and forgive me immediately, loving me with your whole being as only a baby will love her mother. All the punishment I receive comes only from within me.

 

And of course Daddy forgives me, too. He not only carpets the stair steps that very night, but covers me with love and unstinting support as I heal from the shock and then the pain of my own injuries. He watches over you at night, lets me cry when I have to, and never wavers from his affirmation that yes, accidents happen and, yes, this was indeed an accident.

 

We live in the same house and walk down those stairs multiple times each day. The memory is always there, imprinted into the wood. The Christmas pictures that year show my wrist brace, clear evidence of my carelessness. It takes a long time, but I finally come back to trusting myself to keep you safe, having learned it’s harder than it seems.

 

Every summer brings stories of tragedy – a hot car, an unlocked pool gate – and many are caused by parents who would gladly die instead. I understand a tiny bit of how they feel. For those three seconds I was in their shoes, thinking I had killed you. Every time I remember, I feel a gratitude beyond description — gratitude that I was mistaken, that we had averted disaster, that we were lucky. 

Guest columnist Alexandra Owens: “I’ve Killed My Child”

Alexandra Owens lives in Morris County, New Jersey, with her husband, Michael, and their two daughters, Gillian, 14, and Catie, 10. Alexandra is the executive director of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA; www.asja.org).

 

Dear Gillian,

 

Let me try to describe how it felt, the most vivid three seconds of my life. Only ten weeks in as a new parent, the holding of a baby is both wholly natural and yet unfamiliar to me. Though I’d only recently learned to do it, in fact it was oh-so-easy from the very first moment. You fit perfectly into my arms, your soft solid warmth a part of me. No tiny, frail thing, you: no, from the earliest days you were a baby of substance, making your fellow 10-week-old babies look almost waifish. The power of my love is such that nothing can ever pry you out of my arms. I know this. I knew it once anyway.
 

It was the morning after your first Thanksgiving, 1998. The holiday had proven wonderful; you met many members of your extended family for the first time. The next morning it’s just you and me in the house. After our morning cuddle, off we go toward the stairs, ready to take on the day. I was thinking about the leftovers and festive clutter needing my attention down in the kitchen. 

 

And then…an overconfident step, slightly off-balance, in socks that make no purchase on the hardwood floor. My feet go flying out from under me, my hands grasping for the handrails in frantic reflex, and your soft weight leaves my hold.  My left hip and elbow hit the hard edges of the stairs and moulding, and I land on my back and right arm and wrist. My vision is filled with your face, contorted in surprise, floating down the stairway in front of me.

 

This flight of stairs, with 14 steps, is made of hardwood, and I had slipped at the very top. You looked up at me, your mouth an “O” and your eyebrows up, all the long way down those stairs. And as I watched you go, emotions unfathomable filled my being. How? How could I ever have let go?

 

You move through the air — slowly yet quickly — and I think thoughts I’ve never before thought. 

 

I’ve killed my child.

 

I’ve done it, and now it’s over.

 

Our child will never grow up, my husband will never forgive me, the pain will be eternal, I’ve wrecked our family forever.


My life will forever be defined by this moment, by what happened before it and what happened after.

 

There will never be redemption and I will never heal.

 
And then you land. Feet first, face down, your tummy hitting the edge of the bottom step, and your head clocks the wall right at the sharp edge of the wooden moulding. You are mere inches from the piece of garden rock that sits there serving as our front-door stop. Panicking, I clumsily finish my own descent in pain and horror, hearing only silence, the worst silence I can imagine.

P.S. — Please see part 2 tomorrow.

Dispatches: U.S. Presidents Write Letters To Their Kids, Too

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George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson did it. So did Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison and William H. Taft. More recently, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have done it, too. And, yes, Barack Obama has done it as well.

Write letters to their daughters, that is.

It’s the truth. These U.S. presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, took time out from presiding over momentous affairs of state while in the White House, to perform a parental act no less momentous in its own right. They shared advice with their daughters on topics from education and politics to friendship, marriage, parenting, home life and even the art of letter-writing itself.

With the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign now down to the wire, it’s timely to recognize such historic letters as revealing of presidential timber.

George Washington, for example, presumed to offer his step-daughters advice on love. Thomas Jefferson outlined a detailed daily schedule for his daughter Martha. “Keep my letters and read them at times,” it ended, “that you may always have present in your mind those things that will endear you to me.”

Rutherford B. Hayes warned his daughter “to curb her rebellious spirit.” Theodore Roosevelt, while preparing his assault on San Juan Hill, offered fatherly reassurance to his daughters Alice Lee Roosevelt and Ethel Carow Roosevelt. William Taft counseled his daughter Helen about her impending marriage.

Indeed, there’s a book called “First Daughters: Letters Between U.S. Presidents and Their Daughters.” The anthology, a collection of private correspondence between 21 of the 31 U.S. presidents who had daughters, was co-authored by Gerard W. Gawalt, curator of the papers of presidential families in the Library of Congress.

His co-author? His daughter, Ann G. Gawalt, who came up with the idea for the book in the first place.

http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=3850

Most recently, President Barack Obama wrote an open letter to his daughters, Sasha and Malia. Titled “What I Want For You – And Every Child In America,” it appeared in Parade magazine soon after his election in 2008. “It is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself,” the new president wrote, “that you will realize your true potential.”

http://www.parade.com/news/2009/01/barack-obama-letter-to-my-daughters.html

Hey, if U.S. Presidents can take the time to do it, you can, too. Here’s my six-part series with advice about how:

http://letterstomykids.org/letters-to-my-kids-101

http://letterstomykids.org/letters-to-my-kids-101-part-2

http://letterstomykids.org/letters-to-my-kids-101-part-3

http://letterstomykids.org/letters-to-my-kids-part-4

http://letterstomykids.org/letters-to-my-kids-101-part-5http://letterstomykids.org/letters-to-my-kids-101-part-5

http://letterstomykids.org/letters-to-my-kids-101-part-6

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Guest Columnist robert temple: Dear Kids: Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama (Part 2)

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robert temple, who lives in Oakland, California with his partner Lory and his formerly feral cat, Batty, has three children and four grandchildren. His children, all of whom live in California, are Carl, 37, Julia, 35, and Jessica, 33. His grandchildren are Kyree, 13, Annabelle and Tallulah, 5 (fraternal twins), and Amir, 6.  robert has performed as a singer songwriter and guitar player for some 30 years, playing around the country but mostly in California. His song “Lift Us Up,” from his CD “What Would YOU Do?,” was chosen to be on a CD commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. His song, “Turn Signal,” was featured on the nationally syndicated NPR show “Car Talk.” You can hear some of his work and learn more about him at www.roberttemplemusic.com and www.facebook.com/roberttemplemusic.

 

Dear Carl, Julia, Jessica, Kyree, Annabelle, Tallulah and Amir,

 

I never thought of Barack Obama as a savior, from George Bush or really anything else. But I was still excited that he was elected president. It had less to do with him and more to do with the aspirations of the people for a better way. It was a veritable bomb on the American political landscape for a person of color to have been elected president.

 

I wrote then, and believe now, that people needed to get and stay in the streets in order to create the conditions for any politician to stand up for progressive values. Some people got in the street. Many have not. This disarming of the liberal to progressive left is one of the unfortunate byproducts of his election. Obama has had a middle-of-the-road nature pretty much all along. He has bent over backwards to find common ground with Republicans, who would just as soon see large numbers of people living on cat food than to allow a few surplus shekels to slip from the grip of their class of the privileged.

 

Guantanamo Bay is still open, despite his promise to close it. Drones are killing civilians in Pakistan and engendering decades of anger towards us. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allows the killing of American civilians without a trial and it goes on. Obama did not stand clearly with the folks in Wisconsin who stood up to Scott Walker’s union-busting and he did not openly support Occupy Wall Street (which was the most progressive challenge to the system in decades).

 

There are also accomplishments. Despite the fact that Obamacare is modeled after a Republican model and is miles away from national health care, which is the only humane option, it does at least make the point that people deserve healthcare and provides some benefits therein. Romney would have you find your way to the emergency room and see what happens.

 

The ending of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the amnesty for undocumented immigrants’ children (over the protestation of the squealing right-wing set) are positive developments. Obama’s plans for the economy include at least some semblance of greater taxation for the really wealthy and in that it is miles from the Romney/Ryan plan. Obama believes in, and promotes a policy that includes, funding for contraception and a woman’s right to choose. Obama will pick more reasonable people to be on the Supreme Court who will have to deal with the horribly reactionary crew of right-wing ideologues who almost own the place now.

 

Romney? Disaster!

 

We are saddled with a horrible two-party system that poses as democracy while money is in charge and our choices for representation are truly limited. I don’t know what the best strategy is for breaking free of this. I would encourage you to vote for Obama and make plans for how to make real change.

 

Here’s a song I wrote called “Rise Up:”

 

I’ll take a little socialism any day

Than a government that wants to give away

More to those who live so high

While the rest of us are just getting by

Them that’s got ain’t got no shame

While they watch so many folks

Circling down the drain

Rise up if you give a damn

Rise up while you still can

No politician ever moves without a strong demand

Rise up rise up rise up

Rise up rise up

Nickled and dimed, and dollared too

They call it class war while they turn that screw

You waged it on us and when we turn your lies around

You call out the cops to make it safe in “your” town

Them that’s got ain’t got no shame

While they watch so many folks

Circling down the drain

Rise up if you give a damn

Rise up while you still can

No politician ever moves without a strong demand

Rise up rise up rise up

Rise up rise up

Now we’ve been writing letters, registering our dissent

We’ve been voting our conscience, nothing is changing yet

We’ve camped at the hollow halls of justice

With tear gas billy clubs and sweat

And if they’ve ever given us anything but the major shaft

We haven’t seen it yet we haven’t seen it yet

Rise up rise up rise up

Rise up rise up

 

Ó 2012 temple time music (ascap)

 

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Guest Columnist robert temple: Dear Kids: Why I’m Voting Against Mitt Romney

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robert temple, who lives in Oakland, California with his partner Lory and his formerly feral cat, Batty, has three children and four grandchildren. His children, all of whom live in California, are Carl, 37, Julia, 35, and Jessica, 33. His grandchildren are Kyree, 13, Annabelle and Tallulah, 5 (fraternal twins), and Amir, 6.  robert has performed as a singer songwriter and guitar player for some 30 years, playing around the country but mostly in California. His song “Lift Us Up,” from his CD “What Would YOU Do?,” was chosen to be on a CD commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. His song, “Turn Signal,” was featured on the nationally syndicated NPR show “Car Talk.” You can hear some of his work and learn more about him at www.roberttemplemusic.com and www.facebook.com/roberttemplemusic.

 

Dear Carl, Julia, Jessica, Kyree, Annabelle, Tallulah and Amir,

 

It is hard to say which issue most bothers me about Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. It is clear that Mitt Romney will say or do almost anything to get elected. It is also clear that he substitutes talking points for principles.

One image that stands so large in my mind is at the Republican Convention when Romney said that “Obama promised to begin to slow down the rise of the oceans…and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.” He played this for a laugh and got it. Truly stunning.

Romney has promised to end funding for Planned Parenthood (the only source of healthcare for many women) and to support a constitutional amendment that says life begins at conception and thereby end legal abortion and much contraception. He does not believe that women should be able to control their own bodies. (despite the fact that his own mother was decidedly pro-choice)

Romney discounted 47% of the American people with his now famous videotaped comments in Florida. This was the most animated and excited I had ever heard him up till that time.

Romney is completely out of touch with the average American with his mansion in La Jolla and five other houses and his brazen refusal to release his income taxes, as most presidential candidates do. His record at Bain Capital exhibits complete disdain for anything but profit for his company. His claim to be a job creator is a bad joke.

His comments about world issues are saber-rattling, opportunist and ignorant. He attempts to appeal to a form of nationalism that says whatever America wants America gets by subterfuge or force of arms.

The attempt by the Republican Party to carry out widespread voter suppression, despite the fact that it is almost non-existent, is an affront to anyone who believes in the right of people to vote. (So far the main voter fraud has been the Republicans hiring of a contractor who turned in illegible, incorrect, and falsified voter registration forms)

All of this does not mean that I am a Democrat or strong supporter of Barack Obama. I believe that the Democrats are very much a corporate party. Although I don’t believe our fundamental economic and political contradictions will be solved, I think that the lives of ordinary people will be somewhat better if Obama wins.

I used to work in a steel mill. Your very life is in the hands of other people in that situation. One develops a sense of people’s gut nature there. This was also true when I worked high rise construction and as a cab driver. You need your gut to survive.


My gut is twisted over the possibility of an empty shell like Mitt Romney being elected president.

 

Here’s a song I wrote, “Sorry ‘Bout Your Poverty” (Ballad Of Mitt Romney):

 

When I need a second helping I just help myself

You think that it’s a piece of cake hoarding all this wealth.

I’ve got a home in La Jolla and five more with killer views

Bring around the Caddie, today I’ll take the red one

No, I think I’ll take the blue

Sorry ‘bout your poverty

You picked your parents poorly

In the place you came up less

It seems I came up morely

Is there something in your genes

That makes you act so sorely

I was graced by god with things not meant for you

A town without a ghetto is a town that I don’t trust

There has to be a lower class to raise that upper crust

I’m feeling kind of rusty ‘cause I haven’t fired anyone for a day or two

I’ll bet you 10 G’s that in the end I’ll pay a lower tax rate than you.

Sorry ‘bout your poverty

You picked your parents poorly

In the place you came up less

It seems I came up morely

Is there something in your genes

That makes you act so sorely

I was graced by god with things not meant for you

You might say I was born with a silver spoon

You’ll never extricate the truth or my taxes

Even with a whole bag of prunes

Sorry ‘bout your poverty

You picked your parents poorly

In the place you came up less

It seems I came up morely

Is there something in your genes

That makes you act so sorely

I was graced by god with things not meant for you

 

Ó 2012 temple time music (ascap)

 

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

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