At the end of January, the radio program Democracy Now asked a question on air that got me so choked up I could hardly speak. I may have gripping my steering wheel with emotion and made up a tiny happy dance in my seat, and then looked around, embarrassed.
Democracy Now, for those of you not in the know, is a daily independent news program. It is aired around the US, has very high quality journalism, and is entirely funded without advertisements or corporate interests.
The interview I’m talking about was with John Kiriakou, a former CIA official jailed for whistleblowing related to the torture program. He’s been sentenced to 30 months. I’ll leave my political feels outside of this post, of course, and get to the bit that tugged at my heart.
At the closing of a long interview, Nermeen Shaikh, one of the producers, asked Kiriakou, “John Kiriakou, you’ll shortly be going to prison. Do you know exactly when your prison sentence will begin? And how are you preparing for this? You’re the father of five children.”*
Shut the front door.
Are we really asking men how their lives will effect their children? As if their parenting is important to their children? As if their decisions have long-term effects on their offspring?
Say it ain’t so.
In these United States of America, Beyonce’s decision to wear a rocking and revealing outfit on the Oscar stage is seen as inappropriate in relation to her role as a parent. Neil Patrick Harris, though, can make cock jokes all day on his web show Puppet Dreams, nakedly, and nobody blinks, even once, at the effect that might have on the twins that he and David Burtka are raising. Of course, Beyonce’s viewing audience was a little larger–and there’s a pretty hefty racial component to Beyonce’s critics–but still. Fatherhood is both viewed as precious and rare, and at the same time not important. We are important and amazing unicorns–but you can’t rely on a unicorn to take you to work, amirite?
I could delve further–the patriarchy does a disservice to everyone in this respect, I think, by taking away personal responsibility from father figures, and at the same time taking away their agency.
But I’ll make this a slightly more positive post. Thank you, Democracy Now, for respecting John Kiriakou’s importance as a parent. And a wish that this is a changing wind for good for parents and children to the strengthening of family bonds. And a last, tiny wish, for John Kiriakou and his partner and five children, that their family comes through these next 30 months gently.
*Kiriakou’s response reflected a loving and involved parent: “It’s, frankly, very hard to prepare. You have to do things like arrange a power of attorney, arrange child care. I mean, there are so many things to do, it’s just overwhelming. My wife, thank God, is very strong and very tough and very supportive. And we are treating this like temporary duty overseas. It was not unusual for me to go overseas for many months at a time, sometimes as long as two years at a time, two-and-a-half years. So we’re treating this like an overseas deployment. I can call my children virtually every day. If I’m close enough, they can come and visit me. And I’m just hoping for the best…they know that I’ve been involved in a fight with the FBI for the last year. And I told them, ‘You know I’ve been fighting the FBI. And unfortunately, I lost. And so, because I lost, my punishment is I’m going to have to go away for a couple of years, and I’m going to try to teach bad guys how to get their high school diplomas. And when I’m all done with that, I’ll come home, and we’ll live as a family, and everything’s going to be OK again.'” Owch, my heart.