Day of the Afterthoughts

19 Jun

This year, Father’s Day and Juneteenth fell on the same date. Coincidence? I think not. Synching the holidays celebrating the emancipation of Texas slaves and dads across the nation is quite fitting. Both holidays celebrate history’s forgotten.

Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, when Union General Granger rode down to Galveston to decree all slaves within the Lone Star State free. Celebrating the date when my ancestors discovered something that officially happened two years before seems ironic. Yay, we’re free. But, you mean, we’ve been free for the last two years. . .and simply didn’t know it. Better late than never, but gosh. AT & T’s recent campaigns made exclusion from a company lunch  and a ruined flash mob surprise seem bad. Imagine your network or lack thereof meaning the difference between being people or property.

Of course, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was simply a threat to scare the rebel South back into the Union. Prez gave the delinquent Confederacy an ultimatum in September of 1862: Return to the Union before New Year’s Day 1863 or big bad Lincoln was going to set their slaves “forever free.” By targeting the centerpiece of the South’s economic freedom, Lincoln played the biggest card of all. He hoped the mere thought of being without precious slaves would make the South come crawling back. Don’t worry. The threat of freedom applied only to “rebel” states. Slaveowners within Confederate states already under Northern control continued to profit off the backs of blacks openly, without worry or backlash.

Well, the seceded South called Lincoln’s bluff. And two years after he signed the piece of paper authorizing slaves’ freedom, General Granger sauntered down to Galveston to implement it. It was punishment, an economic “time out” for slaveholders who dared defy the nation’s executive. Funny thing is, nothing was supposed to change. Yes, slaves were free. But in General Order #3, Granger urged slaves to remain with their masters as rightful employees. He discouraged the former slaves from being listless and loitering around military posts. That is all. Sound familiar?

But the date was momentous. In Southern states, every year thereafter, Blacks celebrated their tardy freedom. The date became an official holiday in the state of Texas in 1980.

Fathers, the forgotten parent received a nationally recognized date in their honor in 1972. Compare that to the official mother’s national observance, which began under Woodrow Wilson in 1914. The delay is undoubtedly linked to the societal role of each parent. Mothers are the nurturers and childbearers and are deemed more intimately tied to the children. Historically, fathers simply offered the sperm to make the children and the dough to keep them clothed, fed and happy. (That last part was optional, of course.) The rising recognition of fathers and their contributions is tied to the shifting gender roles, the rise of women breadwinners and households where both mother and father work–where the children are tended nearly equally by both women and men.

But the date still lacks the pomp and circumstance of mother’s day. I must admit, I ran around yesterday for a last minute gift for my daddy. I didn’t even ask what he wanted. I am not alone. Ties, socks and other commodities that people can never have enough of reign because of all the hurried purchases of sons and daughters like me, who have placed good old dad on the backburner once again. Most fathers have graciously accepted their position as second to Mommy, and secret know that they are the wheels that keep the family going, just as much as Mother Dear. My dad simply smiled sweetly as he unwrapped the Best of Bonanza DVD collection I’d found on sale at a local movie store.

“I think yall got me this last year,” he stated, half-jokingly.

Reddened, I replied, “Well, you have everything.” It’s your fault for not needing anything, I justified and kissed his cheek. I’m thankful for my father. And incredibly grateful that he has been an integral part of my life and family for all 23 years of my life. I just have to do a better job at showing it.

But as Susan B. Anthony so eloquently stated,

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”

The best way to celebrate my father is to treat him with love and respect every day, not simply when the world tells me to.  And the best way to honor Juneteenth is to not forget the struggles that my ancestors endured so that I can get my piece of the American dream.

So Happy Juneteenth and yes, Happy happy Father’s Day.


2 Responses to “Day of the Afterthoughts”

  1. tctornado June 20, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Very insightful…..another reason that can be attributed to the lack of”hype” with Fathers Day…,is how men have been devalued consistently in our society?


  2. lcooksmarketer1 June 22, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    I definitely think monogamous men with families are devalued. But some would argue that the “lack of hype” is actually the fault of other men promoting a lifestyles of promiscuity without consequence, the life of the nomad male, roaming without ever settling down. Good guys that actually do marry, have kids and have good lives are simply less dramatic, and therefore, less noted and newsworthy than the players. That attitude contributes to society’s devaluation of that particular sect as a whole, in my opinion.


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