Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy that we put aside one day of the year to celebrate fatherhood. But one day of supporting fatherhood (or motherhood) is less than 0.3% of the year. It’s a no-brainer that children need supportive, mindful and remarkable parents to encourage their growth, focus their attention on the things that matter in life and learn that trust is the substance that grows love. A culture that keenly understands that the child is father (and mother) of the man and woman, is a culture destined for greatness. I’m not too sure how much value our culture places on parenthood. Our culture emits mixed messages.
So when one person stands up to offer his country a speech on fatherhood in our time, we aught to listen. This post is neither a promotion or demotion of Barak Obama’s presidential campaign. But he gave a speech Sunday (which I am sure hundreds of thousands of bloggers have already pasted into their blogs) that was so moving and so spot-on about the importance of fathers in our world that I’m proud to embed it on my blog. I am proud because regardless of our political affiliation, it’s remarkable to hear inspiration whatever its source.
Father of My Father
My father’s father, like Barak Obama’s, left him him when he was two years old. I never met my grandfather but I know that he fought in several of the battles in the Isonzo Valley during World War I; and from how my father would talk about him, I suspect that my grandfather suffered from a lot of PTSD. I cannot tell you how much suffering that loss affected my father and how that loss was passed on to my life but I can tell you that without fatherhood in the world, things get dark, dark fast.
For all of my father’s faults, he managed to understand the pain of being fatherless. My father had no father to model after. So for him, fatherhood was a creation from scratch. Why some people who have been abandoned are able to overcome their hardships while others replicate them is a question to which we aught to have an answer. The world needs that answer.
The legacy of my father’s father was war. My father too was traumatized, traumatized by these hardships:
- Poverty after the wrath of World War I (million percent inflation)
- The terrorism of National Socialism
- The ravages of war: carpet bombing, communicable disease, more poverty
- Witnessing the wholesale murder of human beings for their beliefs
- Survivor’s guilt (he was the only person in his family to be alive by 1945)
- The terrorism of Soviet occupation and oppression
- Six years in a Displaced Persons camp (unheated barracks, more poverty)
I don’t know how many people could survive these traumas without going insane. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy wasn’t around in 1945. All my life I couldn’t understand how my parents survived or why they had two children in a DP camp in Austria. But now that I’m father to my own little man, I understand why they had children among that depressive wreckage of salvation. It’s one word: hope. Children are hope and hope bears beauty in a terrible world.
“We keep faith that our father will be there to guide us and watch over us and protect us and lead his children through the darkest storms to a light of a better day.”
Barak Obama, June 15, 2008
Fatherhood, Feminism and Flatland
You don’t have to be Christian, Gnostic, Agnostic, Buddhist, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian to understand the wisdom in that sentence. It’s common sense. But it’s a view that I think our culture does not emphasize sufficiently. Something went wrong last century and that wrong bleeds into this one. Perhaps it was the (right) war on the psychopathology of paternal dominance that inadvertently demoted fatherhood, associated fatherhood with paternal terrorism.
But a society without fathers is one that will inevitably abuse women, consume addictive substances, encourage sibling rivalry and stunt a boy’s journey into maturity. Feminist liberation is impossible without fathers and mothers who are given permission from culture to daily celebrate their passion for raising up the future.
Sadly, I think, children aren’t growing up as much as they used to. In fact, I think we are generating a horizontal culture, where everybody copies everybody else but never looks upward. It’s becoming a flatland and my fear is that our technological social media may spur even more of our flattening of culture.
But there is hope that a few individuals will bring forth the courage and wisdom to enkindle the idea that we need fathers who persist in the most important task any human being can embark on: nurture the young so they look up and around instead of down and in.
So when a man like Barak Obama stands up to give a remarkable speech on Father’s Day, I listen. And so should you.
Not bad for a politician is it? You see, when you’re a father you appreciate the talent, gratitude and love that goes into a speech like that.
Dad: I Wish That…
Dad, I wish you could see the things that are happening today. I know you were born between two terrifying wars, that you grew up among devastation, that you survived hatred and genocide and poverty of love. And that you spent six long years learning a new language and fell in love with America long before you stepped foot in the first state of the last Republic to stand for liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our Republic is faltering now, but not all of us have given up. No, the endurance of the suffering of men like you is an echo onto eternity.
I will show my son through the dark storms and to the light of a better day, regardless of the uncharted battering seas ahead of us. Thank you for imparting a love for an America that needs love more than ever before in its history.
Dad: How I wish you could meet your grandson. You helped make him (no, not like that, you perverts). Here he is:
I miss you, Dad.