Monday, August 27, 2012

Dreams From Our Fathers

    On Sunday afternoon, yesterday, I drove through the rain bands of the approaching hurricane Isaac to Veterans 24 multiplex to see "2016, Obama's America"    With  patient sensitivity Dinesh D'Souza puts together a sketch of the pieces of Barack Obama's relationship with his Father, a citizen of Kenya who left his mother when little Barack was 4 years old. Barack Sr. was later was killed in a drunk driving accident. His mother, before her death, had painted an idealized picture of his dad, which he later painfully learned from his sister, was not true. The Sr. Obama was an alcoholic and a womanizer. By the time he learned the facts, Barack's course had already been set. He would develop a narrative which would enable him to put a  patch over the hole in his soul left by an absentee father. D'Souza suggests that all his life,  President Obama has been acting to reconcile the unrealized dreams from his father.*
    Back at home after the show, I found myself irritable with my wife, and in the wee hours of this morning I fell into a meditation about my own father.
   This 25 year old Lt. Colonel piloted a B-17 bomber on 26 missions over Nazi Germany during the early days of the 8th Air Force and survived to tell the tale. He was followed back to the states by a "war bride." The only trouble was that he already had a bride, my mother, who promptly divorced him. He left the Air Force after the war and then returned as a Master Sgt. In 1950, when I was 5 years old, his new wife (really I do not know for sure if they ever got married) shot him in the back.
   All this was hushed up, and throughout my life I sensed that my mother was fearful that I might turn out like him. I was too afraid to ask about him - it always seemed that it would be just too painful to face the truth. Even this morning, with the pain of Barack's search for his father fresh in my mind, I find myself seeing more clearly in my imagination the towns and villages of France passing below me as I prepare for the bomb run on Hamburg - the nightmares of my father. Will my plane be shot out of the sky? Will I be able to jump out of it before it bursts into flames and disintegrates in mid air?
   I see my 4 year old self sitting on my father’s lap — touching his three rows of colorful ribbons with his little finger. I know that it was in that long cherished memory of my closeness to my father that I acquired my fear of flying and the terrors of war and the murderous rage at being caught up in a relentless push to be sent aloft to face death at 30,000 feet.
   By age 23, I had my own khaki uniform and three rows of ribbons and my nightmares of Viet Nam. A subsequent divorce and separation from my own son completed the pattern  as I worked to reconcile my life to the dreams from my father.
   So, I now am creating a sober world. A context in which I dream the problems of the world can be solved. I look to the Cross where all my fears and doubts and terrors, and those of countless others have been nailed. There I am reunited with my father and we are one. This I share with a lost and dying world.

*A Biography by Barack Obama, “Dreams From My Father”

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