worse, something he does need—like anrnelectrie staple gun that takes away his lastrnexcuse for not rescreening the poreh.rnUntil recently, at least, fathers did notrnneed a special day, because they ruledrnthe roost and ruled the worid—ask anyrnfeminist.rnIn recent years, fathers have been takingrnit on the chin in the media. If yourncan believe what you hear on the eveningrnnews, we fathers are either “deadbeatrndads” who abandon our families andrnrefuse to pay child support, or, if werndon’t run off with a younger woman, wernstay at home beating our wives and molestingrnour children. Predictably, supportrngroups and advocacy movementsrnhave sprung up, defending “men’srnrights” and demanding recognition forrnall that fathers contribute to society.rnI’m sure they all mean well, but speakingrnas a son and as a father, I have to say,rn”No thank you.” I’d rather be insulted byrnthe press and hounded by social workersrnthan join my voice to the chorus of whiners.rnIf fatherhood means anything, itrnmeans accepting responsibility for yourselfrnand your family, without offeringrnapologies or expecting gratitude.rnFathers and mothers cannot afford torncare too much about what other peoplernthink. This includes their children, whornquite naturally resent being told what torndo, day after day. Years ago, when I was arnyoung college professor, I had a colleaguernwho refused to discipline his kids.rnHis excuse, he said, was that he didn’trnwant to do anything that would make hisrnchildren dislike him in later years. “I neverrnwant to lose their love.” In otherrnwords, how they felt about him was morernimportant than how they turned out asrnhuman beings.rnI am quite sure that my own childrenrnwish, from time to time, that they had arnless exacting father, someone who wasrnnot always finding fault with their homeworkrnor punishing them for what they regardrnas minor infractions of householdrnrules. “Some day they’ll thank me,” I sayrnto myself, but for all I know they’re just asrnlikely to find a therapist who will convincernthem their father was a monster. Irnwant their love and respect, but evenrnmore than that, I want them to grow uprnto be good men and women who will acceptrnresponsibility for themselves withoutrnblaming their problems on everyonernelse.rnWhen I was a boy, I loved and respectedrnmy father, but I also feared him.rn”Shh,” my mother would warn us in thernmidst of our mayhem, “your father’srnhome.” We settled down immediately.rnAlthough my mother smacked me oncernor twice for giving her “sass,” my fatherrnnever laid a hand on me. He didn’t havernto. He was a big man, physically intimidating.rnAs a 70-year-old heart patient,rnhe was insulted and threatened by a pairrnof biker hoodlums on the streets of Atlanta.rnHe warned them not to come anyrncloser, and when one of them made thernmistake, he decked him with a singlernpunch. One day, teaching me to box, hisrnleft hook just grazed my chin. It almostrntook my head off.rnBut it was not my father’s physicalrnstrength that overawed me, but his moralrncertainty, backed up by the eloquence ofrnhis tongue—”his refined vocabularyrnmost unpleasantly emphatic.” Myrnmother told me that she never worriedrnabout my father cheating on her, becausernshe knew that in betraying her hernwould be betraying himself, which isrnsomething he refused to do.rnI hope that my wife has the same confidencernin me, although I will probablyrnnever be the man my father was, or thernfather he was, for that matter. My childrenrndo not fear me, and when I bark outrncommands, one of my daughters willrncome up and rumple my hair, saying,rn”Of course, daddy.” These are degeneraterntimes, but I hope that I will neverrndegenerate so far that I will have to join arnsupport group for fathers who get nornrespect.rn—Thomas FlemingrnEPICYCLES:rn• Mea Culpa: Taking a cue from BillrnClinton, British Prime Minister TonyrnBlair has let the Irish know that he feelsrntheir pain. As one of his first actions, hernapologized to the Irish people for thernBritish government’s role in perpetuatingrnthe Potato Famine of I845-I850.rn(While the Irish were starving, the governmentrnin London refused to exportrnfood, for fear of raising prices in England.)rnPerhaps next he can apologize tornAmericans for Bill Clinton’s election asrnPresident. After all, both of John F.rnKennedy’s grandfathers came to thernUnited States during the famine, andrnClinton claims that meeting Kennedyrnset him on the road to the White House.rn• Barbie Keeps Rolling Along: InrnMay, the Mattel Corporation announcedrna new addition to the Barbiernfamily: “Share-a-Smile Becky” (couldrnthey think of a more condescendingrnname?), the hrst “differently abled” Barbierndoll. Becky, who shares Barbie’s improbablernfigure but not her hair colorrn(she’s a brunette), comes complete withrna pink wheelchair. While most activistsrnfor the disabled lauded Mattel for itsrnsensitivity, some saw a darker motive:rnBarbie’s world is currently wheelchairinaccessible,rnso Mattel stands to make arnbundle hawking new “handicap-friendly”rnhouses, cars, and cruise ships. Itrnseems political correctness can be bothrnfun and profitable. Next up: Ken comesrnout of the closet and introduces his ownrnline of clothes for the well-tanned crossdresser.rn• Localism: An NBC News/WallrnStreet Journal poll has found that manyrnAmericans are more interested in localrnissues than national ones, and that theyrnincreasingly view the federal governmentrnas irrelevant. The news was greeted withrnhorror by Bill Bennett and John Dilulio.rn”We love a village, but a village doesn’trnhave a Manifest Destiny,” cried Bennett,rnapparently not realizing that this may bernwhy we love a village. In the wake of thern1994 congressional elections, the formerrnSecretary of Education and Drug Czarrnhad briefly touted decentralism, but nowrn”I’ve stopped bashing Washington,” hernannounced. “I decided I was just foulingrnmy own nest.” No truer words…rnOBITER DICTA: Lawrence Dugan, arnpoet and librarian living in Philadelphia,rnhas contributed two new poems to thisrnissue. Mr. Dugan’s poems have appearedrnin the New Republic, the SouthernrnReview, Commonweal, Poetry East,rnand the Irish Edition, among many otherrnplaces. The other poet this month isrnTim Murphy, a North Dakota residentrnwho has a large collection of verse forthcomingrnfrom Story Line Press.rnChronicles is illustrated this month byrnIgor Kopelnitsky, a Russian artist livingrnin Brooklyn. Since coming to the UnitedrnStates in 1990, Mr. Kopelnitsky has donernillustrations for the New York Times, thernDaily News, and the Washington Post, asrnwell as Chronicles.rnAUGUST 1997/9rnrnrn