I was coming back from a run the other day in Central Park. It was a beautiful day – the sun was high and my heart was wide. On the sidewalk a few blocks from my apartment there was this little orange chrysanthemum that had recently been uprooted – soil still clinging to its roots, softly, gently. There was so much potential in that flower to have life, to flourish, if only given the chance. So I sort of absentmindedly swooped it up as I ran by. Walking proved necessary to preserve the roots, I had to be gentle. I found myself speaking to it, “you’re so wonderful, Little flower, we’re going to find you a nice home. Sunshine, soil. You’re going to grow so tall.” There was a special kind of joy I got in watching something flourish that I helped to nourish and in that joy I felt connected to you. You the gardener, you the guardian, you the civil rights attorney, you, my father.
I thought of all those times you would be out in the backyard tending to and speaking with your plants. Joe and I grew up in suburbia but we had a jungle in our backyard. The tangerine tree – our very own special monochromatic Christmas tree – would get heavy, heavy with orange every mild Texas winter. And the limes mom put in her rum and cokes and the lemons and the Star fruits, and the plumerias, and the fig tree and the banana trees, and the shade trees that shaded the water lilies that you ate absentmindedly one New Year’s eve – all cared for, all curated by, you.
I also thought of you as a civil rights attorney. Dedicated to the empowerment of the indigent, growth of the starved. Your clients, people thirsting for nutrients. You, their gladiator, their gardener, there to ensure that they have the proper benefits and support owed to them by their government, necessary for them to flourish.
How similar gardening and government must be! The ultimate goal for both is to have every individual – plant or person – flourish and contribute to a healthy garden or strong populous. But gardening and government they don’t look too similar these days.
Something that seems so straightforward – to tend to our citizens, to give them the nourishment they need to flourish and grow into a beautiful, diverse garden – the foundation of government – is not rewarded in our society. We are busy behind our edifices of greed making monuments to money, turning America into an oligarchy. Meanwhile, our real-life superheroes, the pillars holding up Society, battling in the courts, classrooms, disarming extremism from Selma to Orlando, pure politicians, true public servants, rare now, have not been given what they are due and are heavy with the weight of a difficult political climate, beat down by those stockpiling power. Thankless. Yet some fight powerfully on.
You’re not the biggest fan of smalltalk despite being my favorite conversationalist. That’s how I always knew, though I never heard, the weight of the words you use with your plants and your people. You, large and strong so tenderly cared for each little plant. In their darkest hour, during the freeze you took them one by one in your hands and brought them nearer to warmth, fought for them in the courts, and wrapped them in blankets of benefits to keep them from freezing.
I guess I wanted to write this because I need you to know that you are seen. You, my father. You, the civil rights attorney in Texas. You, the community organizer in Compton. You, the high school science teacher. You, the carpenter. You, the filibuster demanding democracy. You, the true public servant. I see you all working long hours at thankless jobs. I see you making pennies on the dollar compared to your peers who sold out. I see you and I admire you. A great deal more is due to you. A great deal more is coming to you. You are the pillars of our society, our founding fathers, regardless of gender. I hope you see the day when you are fully recognized for your value because that will be the day that we as a society take the step forward we so desperately need to take. When we prioritize community over Kardashians and love over fear. I see it happening. Government can come from a place of love and those who care for others will be our strongest Warriors in the battle against extremism that is creeping loudly towards us. You are the men and women I admire. You are our fathers. You are the difference. Your voices, your stories, your daily actions are the ones that ought to be uplifted and shared.
There’s a special kind of person who builds their life around providing for others. I proudly call him father. Happy Father’s Day, daddy. Thank you for waking up each day to fight the monster of racism, oppression, and greed and being empathetic and wise enough to know that you’re really just dancing with fear. You’re a superhero one could really Marvel at.