Friday, January 1, 2010

FotY 2009

Declaring someone "Father of the Year" lets the declarer pretend there has been some objective set of rules established and a fair contest for the honor has taken place.

And so we declare Alhaji Umaru Mutallab "father of the year." We don't do this lightly or to mock. It was Mutallab's son, Umar Farouk Abdul, is this past Christmas's "underwear bomber" who attempted to destroy Flight 253 (plane and passengers). Rather, Mutallab is selected for how much of his fatherness seems unresolved, as if the job itself is almost too big for any human.

Mutallab, father, put in the hours and cut the moral corners that gave him status as one of Nigeria's richest men. He created a world of privilege for his son. The evidence also suggests his complete devotion to one part of life created a vacuum of moral grounding, love and self within that same child. On the good side, the father did his citizenry duty and reported his fears about the child he created to authorities — which, if things had gone as they should, would have kept the son from coming so close to creating one more senseless tragedy. On the dark side, he did create the conditions that have ruined his son's soul.

So did he do his best or did he fail at the simplest level? Could he have done both? For embodying these questions — not for any good or evil he has done — it seems clear that as WD defines it, Mutallab is the runaway "honoree" as 2009 Father of the Year, not for the man he is, but for the symbol he has become.

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