I wanted his love unconditionally. He wouldn’t grant it. Nor would he grant it to the rest of my family.
We lived in a small town in West Virginia. My mother, a teacher who died at age 88 last year, sometimes had to wear sunglasses to hide her black eyes from her students. He broke her ribs once. I can’t even count the number of birthday cakes and Thanksgiving turkeys that ended up sliding down the walls of our dining room after one of my father’s alcohol-fueled rages.
I’ve never shared these stories publicly before. They are scars from which I’ll never fully recover. But I am sharing them now because we are engaging in a national conversation over the love Joe Biden has shown to his son Hunter.
We heard from Biden at the second presidential debate: “I’m proud of my son.” We read allegedly leaked texts from Joe Biden to Hunter in rehab: “Good morning my beautiful son. I miss you and love you. Dad.” We see a photograph of the two together: Hunter looking into the camera, Joe pulling him into an embrace and a kiss on the cheek.
That picture is beautiful enough to make me cry. I would have given up a lot for that kind of love from my dad.
Still, President Trump and his supporters are intent on making Biden’s love for his son into a liability. They spread conspiracy theories and demean Hunter Biden’s struggle with addiction. They point to the photo of father and son, and they ask on social media: “Does this look like an appropriate father/son interaction to you?” They suggest something illicit, fueling the false QAnon conspiracy theory that Joe Biden is a leader of an international child sex trafficking ring. This isn’t just baseless and dangerous; it’s also homophobic.
I see what the president and his supporters are doing, and my blood boils. I know I’m not alone.
Somewhere on your street, in your group of friends, or even in your family, there are men who grew up in violent or abusive homes. At least 1 in 7 children in the United States experiences abuse or neglect every year. One in 15 children is exposed to intimate partner violence every year, and 9 out of 10 of those see the violence firsthand.
Those of us who survived such households see in Biden a parent who gives to his son the love our fathers could not. And that is an extraordinary example to the nation.
What is the meaning of being a parent if not accepting your child no matter what? And what is the purpose of being a president if not modeling kindness, decency and unconditional love for families across the country?
Whenever I’m reminded of the hard days I went through as a child, I tell my husband: We’ll do better by our two young daughters. We can do better by America this November, too.