One is grown up, married and teaching in Georgia.
The other thinks she is grown up and is learning at Jacksonville High School.
Despite the difference in age and circumstance, they still are my little girls, and because they are, I feel particularly protective of them.
(I also feel protective of my son, but as any daddy of daughters will tell you, it ain’t the same.)
So it follows that when I heard that Rush Limbaugh had called somebody’s daughter a “slut” and a “prostitute” on his radio show, I naturally thought of my own daughters and what I would have done if they had been the subject of such.
Now, I am not going to get into what set Limbaugh off. The whole contraception issue is both scary and silly, and both sides need to back off, breathe in, breathe out and move on.
Nor am I going to analyze Limbaugh’s subsequent “apology” in which he asked us to believe there was something sorta accidental when he “chose the wrong words” three days in a row, or when he said the young woman in question was “having so much sex it’s amazing she can still walk.”
What I am gonna do is ask what I think is the critical question that is yet to be asked — “Where was that girl’s daddy?”
I am sure the father of the young woman in question loves his daughter as much as I love mine. But, apparently, we come from different traditions when insults to daughters are concerned.
The insulted, it seems to me, come from a culture that says when a girl-child is grown up and gone away, you let them handle matters like this on their own. After all, this was a 30-year-old student at a law school I could not have gotten into if I wanted to.
But this is not about her.
It is about daddies.
Folks, I do not think daddy-me could have sat calmly and let some windbag say what that windbag said about my daughter. (I also wonder how Sarah Palin’s daddy sat by and let Bill Maher say what he said about the former governor. Maybe he figured it was her husband’s responsibility to take up that cause, but I digress.)
Nossir, I come from a culture in which daddies defend their daughters, even if they don’t want, or need, defending.
I come from the same culture that my favorite president, Harry S. Truman, came from.
President Truman had one daughter, Margaret, who was the apple of his eye. She was also a singer whose talent, according to the president, was exceptional — the sort of judgment any daddy worthy of the name would make.
When his darling daughter gave a concert in Washington in 1950, her daddy was in the audience and was enthralled.
So imagine his surprise when he picked up the Washington Post the next day and read a review of her performance.
Although the Post’s music critic, Paul Hume, admitted that the president’s daughter was “very attractive,” that was the only good thing he had to say about the evening.
Not only did Hume declare that “Miss Truman cannot sing very well,” he added that over the years, she “has not improved” and given her obvious lack of talent, she was not likely to.
Margaret Truman was 25 at the time, a grown woman, not that that mattered to her daddy.
Outraged, the president wrote Hume:
“I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that … you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock … it shows conclusively that you are off the beam.”
Then, Truman added: “Someday, I hope to meet you. When that happens, you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”
Those who knew the president expressed no doubt that had he and Hume met, Truman would have made good on the threat.
A daddy could do no less.
And if Limbaugh had said what he said about one of my daughters, a personal letter would have been the least of my responses. And though I’m a few years older, looking at him, I think I could hold my own.
A man who would say that about somebody’s daughter is, quite simply, a cad, and should be treated as such.
My approach may be old fashioned, out of touch and paternalistic, but being paternal, I make no apology.
There are times when Daddy needs to open a can of “whup-ass,” and this was one.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.