Letters

"Do you give a tie to someone who abused and neglected you?" Readers take each other on over Salon's Father's Day feature. Plus: SARS in China.


Salon Staff
June 21, 2003 10:20PM (UTC)

[Read "Man, Dad, You Call Yourself a Man?" and the reader responses.]

I guess I want to respond to the responses to the Father's Day feature. While I understand how some people might have felt that the negative tone of the letters did a disservice to fathers, I thought it just pointed out how important fathers can be (it was not so long ago that mothers were blamed if kids went "bad." Maybe, just maybe, a good dad is as important as a good mom!)

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My response to the works was to reflect on what a great father I have, and how blessed I have been to have him. Thanks, dad.

And thank you for that poetry.

-- Lisa L. Stenmark

I was shocked to see that the only two responses printed to this very insightful piece about absent and dysfunctional fathers were negative comments about the inappropriateness of printing such a story on Father's Day.

I work in a residential facility for teenagers with emotional and behavior problems. Many (but not all) of the children I work with have parents who are abusive, absent, or just don't care about them. I spent my Thanksgiving and Christmas with young people in pain because their parents didn't want to see them, even for the holidays. Almost every day, I watch them struggle with the fact that their families do not provide them with the love and support that they need and deserve.

Expecially around holidays such as Father's Day, this struggle is expecially painful. They see the television commercials showing happy children presenting clean-cut fathers with presents and cards, and it makes the fact that they will probably never have a scene like that with their fathers all the more difficult.

Do you send a Hallmark card to a man you've never met? Do you give a tie in a box with a nice ribbon to someone who abused and neglected you? Do you love someone simply because of a biological tie, even if they have brought you nothing but pain?

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Most parents do everything they can to be supportive and loving to their children. But not all parents.

Practically every other news organization honored Father's Day by publishing heartwarming stories and gift-giving ideas. If one wants to celebrate the vast majority of fathers who try their best to live up to their responsibility, one is free to visit those sites. It is commendable that at least one organization acknowledged that not every man who sired a child deserves to be honored as a father.

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-- Eliza B.

The letters that denigrated the article "Man, Dad, You Call Yourself a Man?" made me absolutely furious. As someone who had a "rotten, abusive" father, Father's Day has always been a painful holiday, as I am sure it is for the kids whose writing Salon presented. Who says holidays have to be exclusively warm and fuzzy? Why is it somehow our job to deny our Father's Day experiences so those lucky (but selfish) people with wonderful lives don't have to be inconvenienced by them?

To me, Salon's article was amazing; in the face of their own personal misfortune, those kids were empowered enough to write about things that many people don't want to hear. Can't you just imagine what a transformative moment it might have been for their words to be published for Father's Day? That experience is just as valuable, even though Hallmark doesn't make a greeting card for it.

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-- Alexandria Mueller

It seems as though you've received a lot of negative feedback about that article. I'd like to thank you for it.

Some of those who grew up with "actual" mothers and fathers might not understand how lonely Father's Day can make you feel when you don't have a father worth celebrating. They probably don't realize that it's easier to cope with these things when you remember that you're not alone.

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It pisses me off that someone would suggest that I should use this time to reflect on my father. Which memory would you prefer I choose from? How about the time he punched my mom in the stomach? Or is that a little too much "ugliness" for one day?

-- Tara Stewart

I think these readers missed the point. If I want heartwarming, congratulatory ruminations on father/motherhood on these days, I can find it on any TV channel, newspaper or magazine. In fact, I can barely avoid the sugary flood leading up to both holidays, especially Mother's Day. On that day, the press virtually takes a holiday and collapses into a single viewpoint, i.e., "Parenthood: it's all good."

I say it's a good thing Salon offers a counterpoint.

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-- Agness Kaku

[Read "Mrs. Li Is Watching Me," by Lisa Movius.]

While I understand the suspicion with which Lisa Movius looks upon the growing popularity and uses of the Neighborhood Committees, am I really supposed to feel sorry for people who selfishly go against a quarantine? We're talking about life or death here, not playing whatever music you want on the radio or reading books. It's sad to me that they even had to have the committees watching the quarantined individuals. It would have been nice if they'd had some consideration for their fellow citizens. Sure, a quarantine is extremely inconvenient, but it's necessary in extreme circumstances such as SARS. I would like to have heard more about the enforcement of the one-child laws, or the turning in of "potential" dissidents.

-- Claire Parkinson

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In three months Singapore went from having the highest number of SARS cases to being taken off the WHO list of affected countries. How? By methods very similar to those enforced by Mrs Li. In the case of Singapore, however, the government and press ran the show. Visitors to SARS-affected areas had a compulsory two weeks home quarantine for themselves and their family -- at one point 3,000 people were in isolation. Schools were shut for almost a month with parents instructed to keep their children at home. Temperatures were and still are taken at schools, gyms, the airport and many other public spaces. The Press "Named and Shamed" people who had violated their quarantine orders or people that had knowingly traveled while infected. Although it's easy to make associations with the Cultural Revolution neighborhood "spies," the only way China will beat the health and economic impact of SARS is with the help of Mrs Li and her cronies.

-- Michelle Carr


Salon Staff

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