Fatherhood


Official photographic portrait of US President...
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Seal of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
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I met a strong black man on the bus Friday morning who I need to tell you about. Months ago I told a story about something ordinary. A poor black man with his daughter waiting at the bust stop. But Friday I was at the bus stop, got on and a black woman driver asked me, “where is your smile?” Mind you the black repugnant sheriff of Milwaukee keeps talking like the sky is falling and you are absolutely risking your life by riding the Milwaukee County bus system.

Despite a series of fare increases and service cutbacks, our buses still get people where they need to go. I have noticed there are many more African-American bus drivers than there were 20 or 30 years ago. Including the young woman driving the bus Friday who asked me where was my smile. My smile went from her to the tall, distinguished man sitting in the first seat. He was wearing alligator shoes and his bag indicated he was a veterans counselor at the state job service office. He was on the way to work.

As I spoke with him I learned that he had served in Vietnam a few years after I had left the military.  His job had been assisting diplomats evacuate the war ravaged country. He was wounded and was compensated by the government. War was very much on our minds. In this era of the all-volunteer army people have a choice whether to go to war. I thought about  the young man who died in Afghanistan at the end of last year a few days after re-enlisting. I thought about the family he left behind, his wife and children mourning his loss.

I also thought about the Obama administration updating the American military posture and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reassuring war hawks that we will maintain our ability to fight two simultaneous wars. Only a few days after we closed out (but not really)  our disastrous involvement in Iraq, we’re reminded that we may still blunder around in search of enemies somewhere else in the world. I shared my concerns with my fellow rider, Mr. Jones. He told me that he had his wife had raised several adult children to be strong educated civilians. They had engineers, therapists and other accomplished children of whom they were very proud. And none of them are going into the military.

We talked about the military as an unofficial jobs program, especially in our present climate of high unemployment. And Uncle Sam will come calling offering young people an opportunity to come in a box. As Mr. Jones left the bus I thought about the lessons fathers teach their children regarding service to their country. He had done his job well, in instilling values that led them to succeed. You don’t need to join the military to serve your country. You can do just as well helping to build bridges, healing the sick and raising your children.  Thank you for your service, Mr. Jones.

English: Official portrait of the former Direc...
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