Bevin’s Actions Speaking Louder than His Words

Jason Starr Nelson

As Father’s Day approaches, Bevin states in an op-ed it’s the hardest time in history to be a father. He also takes aim at Kentucky’s dead-beat dads and invokes a more traditional time of fatherhood.

When Republicans get nostalgic, I get nervous. I’ve always wondered when America was this utopian society of which conservatives often speak so fondly. Was it during slavery, when women could not vote, when we legally segregated ourselves, when we forced children to work, or some other stained period of history?

Before you begin to think I am defending dead-beat dads, let’s be sure to understand that it’s the source of the attack that offends me. I am a husband to an amazing wife who is my equal in every aspect of life. I am the father of two young children who I love dearly. I am also the son of someone many would label a dead-beat dad. I was raised by a member of the greatest generation of which Bevin speaks so fondly in his op-ed. Lastly, I am a Christian who takes my role as a leader and father very serious. I feel I am an appropriate person to respond to Bevin’s rumblings.

What makes this a difficult time to be a father? Well, It’s not easy explaining to children of any age why the governor would blame teachers when a child is abused or shot when school is not in session. As a teacher of others’ children, it’s difficult to explain why our schools lack resources. As a Christian, it’s difficult to explain to children why our governor’s policies benefit the wealthy, while so many Kentuckians anguish in poverty.

Kentucky’s governor invokes those who served in World War II. He states their “flaws did not deter them from literally saving the world from tyranny and delivering freedom to generations that would come after.” He explains these “fathers returned from war and raised us with firmness and love.”

My grandfather, a product of the Great Depression and decorated World War II veteran, who was wounded multiple times in battle, raised me to be the best man, and someday, best father I could be. It’s been nearly 20 years since he passed, but my grandfather would be disgusted by Bevin’s comments. Yes, men like my grandfather fought against tyranny, the type of tyranny Bevin, his party, and those special interest groups that support him bring. My grandfather fought for the ideas of life, liberty, and happiness, and would be appalled by anyone who limits these inalienable rights.

Bevin operates in secrecy, lacks transparency, undermines the democratic process, propping up various boards with his own people, disregards the rule of law and Kentucky’s Constitution, and even attempts to perform backroom deals with Russian oligarchs who have a questionable history. This would not be the man my grandfather, or most from his generation, would choose to lead our state.

Bevin has the audacity to state “self-indulgence and the desire for instant gratification must be limited by love and the desire for what is best for our children.” I can’t speak for how Bevin is as a father, but I can state without apology, that love and limited instant gratification is not something Bevin has demonstrated as governor. He has bullied and insulted teachers, legislators, and  attempted to promote policy that would limit public employee retirement benefits, which would lead to a greater burden on tax-payers, so he could move public dollars into private investments, much of which would indulge himself.

Bevin says the “truest measure of manhood is a willingness to serve one’s wife, other loved ones and children, and to willingly step up to bat to bear the responsibility for their well-being.” Bevin may do this for his family, but I’d argue this is what a governor should do for the citizens of his state. Yet, little of this philosophy exists in Bevin, the politician.

If Bevin really wants to help alleviate the issue of dead-beat dads, he should consider policy that creates a pathway out of poverty. He should consider policy that confronts the opioid crisis, that doesn’t benefit pharmaceutical companies. He should consider policy that creates well-paying jobs, fewer tax breaks for the wealthy, and should understand government is meant to serve the people, not vice versa.

Most of all, Bevin should view the governorship as a type of father. Instead of angry rants, insults, and self-serving legislation, he should put his own ideas of fatherhood into action as governor. Instead of stealing from public employees, he should reward them. Instead of starving public education, he should fund it. Instead of denying those who have served their time, he should restore their voting rights.

Next time, before attacking an individual for being a dead-beat, Bevin should look in the mirror and asked himself, in which aspect of his life is he a dead-beat. I’d say he’s a dead-beat governor.

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