Like a father would
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - August 15, 2016 - 12:00am

There is a monologue by Bruce Springsteen that segues into a live version of his melancholic hit "The River." In that monologue, Springsteen recalls a time in his life when he had a very testy relationship with his father. His father hated him having his hair long, apparently because it symbolized the unbridled freedom of the late Sixties and early Seventies that often led the youth of that era nowhere.

True enough, Springsteen spent most of his time hanging out and doing nothing. One time he met a motorcycle accident and while still unconscious or immobilized at the hospital, his dad had his long hair cut short. Springsteen admitted how he hated his father at that time, forcing him to spend even less time at home when he got better.

The time Springsteen spoke of was the era of Vietnam, when American boys like himself were being drafted into the military and sent off to fight the war in a country many of them did not even know where. Many of the boys never returned, he said, and those who returned were never the same. It was this thought of being taken by the Army that his dad used on him to make him find some sense and direction to his life.

Springsteen quoted his father as saying: "Wait till the Army gets you. When the Army gets you, they will make a man out of you." Then one day Springsteen got a call for a physical. This was it. America needed another son to fight the war. Springsteen was gone for three days. When the physical was over, he was told he failed. He went home and found his dad in the kitchen.

His father asked Springsteen where he had been. He told him he went to get his physical. His dad asked him what happened. Springsteen told him the Army did not take him. And his dad said: "Good. That is very good." You know, whenever I play the song and the monologue and I get around to this part and I hear that line from the father, I just cannot help it but tears just well up in my eyes and I can feel a squeeze in my heart.

And that is because I am a father too. And I can relate with the father of Springsteen and all fathers everywhere. Fathers sometimes talk tough. Fathers sometimes say things to their children that may sound awful and hurting but that they never really mean it the way they sound. And fathers go through hell regretting having said things that, while couched in the best of intentions, often rub their beloved children the wrong way and get misunderstood.

When Springsteen's dad kept threatening him about the Army, it was only to get him to realize the importance of getting some meaning into his life. But he actually dreaded the thought of that happening, especially on account of the war in Vietname going on. What a cold and numbing feeling it must have been for the father when Springsteen told him he went to get his physical. And what a relief it must have been when told the Army did not take his son.

One can almost picture the father, probably all red in the face and angry as hell, telling his son to "Wait till the Army gets you. When the Army gets you, they will make a man out of you." And then, one becomes that father, telling his son "Good. That is very good" on learning that his son would be safe. At that point in a father's life, that is all that really matters.

The reason I am citing this episode in Springsteen's relationship with his father is because of the frequent misunderstanding by the public of President Duterte's intentions. Duterte is a tough-talking bare-knuckled man who grew up in the unrefined environments of rural Philippines, where the grosser the language the less pretense there is, and the nastier the jokes, the less ambiguous the urge to laugh becomes.

But Duterte is not the horrible man that he gets misunderstood to be. He just is not used to couching his words in niceties or beating around the bush when he can make himself clearer by saying it as it is and going direct to the point. And when he goes overboard, humility is not beyond him. He apologizes when necessary, but not when no apology is required. He is a real man.

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