Fatherhood is Dead

This Father’s Day, as Angelsoft wishes single mothers everywhere, “Happy Father’s Day”, I couldn’t help but say, “Damn, fatherhood is dead.” Not only is fatherhood dead, but society won’t even be able to engage in honest, candid, intellectual discourse about its demise.

Particularly, it is unlikely that we will care enough to pause political correctness, and ask whether or not we condone, perpetuate, and acquiesce in indifference, to the minimization, illigitimization and devaluing of what was once lauded as fatherhood. The lost art of molding, building up and dropping invaluable science on the seeds we planted. The lost art of stable, emotional and physical presence – the ying to a motherly yang. Instead, we will be debating the diversions and red-herrings, like the legitimacy of single mother’s everywhere, and the extent to which they should be praised for the undue burden they have carried increasingly over the past few decades. Instead, we will be debating whether or not absentee fathers are the ones who killed it via their irresponsibility, womanizing, and refusal to step up to the plate and father the seeds they have planted. In communities of color, especially, we’ll be debating the extent to which the industrial prison complex has unfairly robbed mothers of our children’s fathers by the hundreds of thousands.

In a feeble attempt to short-circuit diversionary discourse about largely non-debatable debates, the following must be stated definitively and unequivocally: as a man who’s mother took the reigns around the seventh grade and went on to raise two boys with amazing courage, strength and love, I speak from a place of knowledge and empathy of the plight of single motherhood. Single mothers have single-handedly kept generations of families afloat throughout the world, and should be honored for that until the end of time. In overwhelming proportions, men have abdicated their responsibilities to mothers, grandmothers, aunts, godmothers, and cousins of all races, for decades. And yes, the prison industrial complex is real, its impact is disproportionate, and its profitability at the expense of men of color is unquestionable.

With that said, honoring mothers on father’s day is not a benign gesture of appreciation or acknowledgement. It is, at worst, an exploitative, condescending, yet brilliant marketing ploy designed to capitalize on the emotions of the millions- nearly 80 percent – of all single parents who are woman. At best, it is a possibly well-intentioned, but misguided way to pay respect to hard-working, dedicated and long-suffering women like my own mother.

In any situation where “you were both mom and dad” is celebrated, by the millions, without simultaneous juxtaposition with the lingering, lifelong, and devastating negative effects that the absence of a father has had on every individual who experienced that void – fatherhood is dealt a murderous blow. In defense (for predictable reasons, assuming that defense is necessary) many will ask, “what void?…look at me, I turned out fine!” I beg to differ. If they dare set aside political correctness and dare to risk hurting fragile feelings, our brother and sisters, will beg to differ. Our boyfriends and girlfriends will beg to differ. Our husbands and wives will beg to differ. Our sons and daughters will beg to differ. Our overburdened criminal justice and social services systems will beg to differ. Our psychologists and mental health practitioners whose couches we keep warm will beg to differ. Our ever-employed pimps and panderers will beg to differ. Our pharmaceutical companies, pushers of anti-depressants, anxiety meds, and uppers and downers of all kinds would beg to differ.   Every underwear-flashing adolescent crying out desperately for help would beg to differ. No, sister, no brother – you ain’t just fine. But alas, we are in the last days of fatherhood, asking whether it is too late. And millions will see the Angelsoft ad and shed a tear, allthewhile missing the whole point about why they should really be crying.

Mervin A. Bourne, Jr.

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