1. Jesus and Basketball
Every son writes the myth of his father’s greatness and weakness, revising and eliding according to the depth of his own generosity, insecurities, and pride. Mine begins not long after my fifth birthday, when my dad traded a chance at fulfilling his dream of becoming a United States congressman for an apology. My mom once called the apology, which came from the leaders of the Illinois Republican Party, his magic beans.
My father is a man of stubborn principle, useful for nurturing a healthy pride but detrimental to a career in politics. He was not born with the thirst for power, and avoided the grease of Illinois machine politics. But when he was thirty-six, he and my mother sold a small, fallow plot of farmland in the nearby town of Addison to seed an upstart campaign for the Fourteenth Congressional District in the far western suburbs of Chicago. The land was my mom’s inheritance, and its soil carried the sadness of her father’s premature passing, felled at the age of fifty-six by a heart attack after a hard life in the garbage hauling business.
— Kirk W. Johnson is the founder of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies. Johnson served in Iraq with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Baghdad and then Fallujah as the Agency’s first coordinator for reconstruction in the war-torn city. On Amazon: To Be a Friend Is Fatal: The Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind