Steve Burghardt: July 2008 Archives

How do you explain your life’s story in America if you’ve lived here in this country for 350 years, are white, straight, Protestant, and hard-working, and still remain pretty much working class? Back in the 1960’s, my pipe fitter father starting working on our family tree. Active anti-war leftist that I was back then, looking to the past seemed like a waste of time at best when there was a whole new future being born. Given how eccentric the old man was, I just added genealogy to his list of wacko topics.

Growing up in a small New England town in the 50’s and 60’s had its benefits for a rambunctious white kid like me. You could ride to the beach on your bike and get in for free, everyone’s favorite son. Walk to your elementary school two blocks away, worrying only about the chow dogs up the street who barked just a little too much. Early evenings at the local library, trying to read a book for social studies without staring at the strange white straps appearing beneath girls’ blouses. Horse chestnuts in the Fall, snow in the fort all winter, spring and summer breezes off the Thames River, beckoning, always beckoning to try, just once, to fly. Seemed like a good life to a twelve year-old.

Senator Obama’s comments about Black fathers got me thinking about my own father, a descendent of the Dutch West Indies traders of the 1600’s whose own father at the turn of the 20th century chose to homestead in Washington state over dreaded work in a New England mill. Entering the job market at the height of the Depression, Dad landed not with the engineering job he felt he deserved but as a pipefitter, a job he was embarrassed by all his life.

Barack Obama's Father's Day speech critiquing Black fathers for not taking up their family responsibilities got me to thinking about the fathers -- all of them white -- whom I knew growing up in a once-small New England town back in the '50's. My brother and sister and I grew up on a tree-lined street with grassy lawns in the back where kids played ball in the day and hide n'seek in the evenings. For someone driving by, it would have seemed just about perfect, rosy as a summer peach, a "Jack 'N Jill" cover come to life.

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Recent entries written by Steve Burghardt in July 2008.

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