Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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where I stand:

We fathers have a commitment to our children

What is a father to do?

Not much of anything, unless he wants to. That’s because on Father’s Day, the people the kids call Dad are entitled to do whatever they want — as long as it meets the approval of the women who got to celebrate Mother’s Day a month earlier!

When I was a young father, this day started with breakfast in bed, usually served by a little one who enlisted the help of her mother to actually prepare the menu. What Dad had to do then was express his absolute delight at not only the meal but the effort behind it. That made for smiles that lit up the room, and lit up Dad’s heart. It was, indeed, a happy Father’s Day.

Life was much simpler back then.

Fast forward a few decades, and the world has changed. Dramatically. Children have grown up and beautiful, brilliant and spectacular grandchildren have taken their place at the center of the universe. The future that seemed so simple back then is today fraught with difficulties that could not reasonably have been foreseen. And that makes having a happy Father’s Day more challenging.

For example, when I was a young American serving (fortunately, stateside) in the armed services, the idea that we would ever leave a soldier on the battlefield was simply not an option. With so many of our fellow service members being held in Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camps, this country was focused on how we could get them all safely back to the United States.

Just a few decades later, it is hard to fathom the depths to which our political system has mangled that mantra — mangled to the point that a very vocal minority of Americans are challenging the president’s decision to bring one of our own home. While there may be some legitimate questions around the margins, the spectacle of elected representatives seriously questioning President Barack Obama’s decision to rescue Bowe Bergdahl from his Taliban captors makes a father’s explanation to his children a most difficult affair.

Right and wrong are simple and understandable concepts, but political gamesmanship and the ugliness of bigotry from so many others (whom, I would bet, would never risk their own lives the way our brave soldiers did to bring Bergdahl home) have made a mockery of the concept of doing what is right. What, indeed, is a father to do to explain the inexplicable?

Closer to home, how do the fathers in our community explain to their children what happened last week at a pizza restaurant and a Wal-Mart?

The violence in our society is, unfortunately, too well-known. Schoolchildren cut down by a sicko with a gun in Connecticut. Moviegoers slaughtered by another sick person in a crowded movie theater in Colorado. Children’s lives across the country snuffed out before they ever had a chance to begin. The stories are becoming commonplace and, sadly, accepted by a society that throws up its collective hands as if to say, “What can we do about it?” (For more on this subject, pick up a copy of The Sunday today).

Two police officers and a civilian — who was just trying to help — were killed by two sick people who became fully caught up in the violent narrative that now defines our country. What is a father to do when his children ask him why it happened and what he is going to do about it?

Our police officers are there to serve and protect us. But where are we when it becomes our turn to protect them? Cops have enough anxiety when they strap on their guns, their body armor and their badges and go out into some very dangerous areas. They don’t need any more stress in their lives.

So, now they have to be on high alert when they are just eating lunch! What kind of community expects brave men and women to protect its citizens every day when the citizens won’t do the very simple things to protect them in return? Like making sure the bad guys, the sick guys and the scary guys can’t get access to guns or keep the ones they already have?

You ask: “What’s a father to do?”

For starters, all the dads in the world can act the way they’re supposed to act. And that is to protect their children at all costs. We have to demand that those who serve in the armed services can count on our promise to bring them home, and those who wear the uniform of the cop on the beat can rely on their fellow citizens to do all they can to make sure that those who hunt police officers never even get close.

Being a father isn’t easy. It is a lifelong commitment to making sure the little ones we help bring into this world feel safer because of us, are protected by what we do, and learn to be better people because of how we act and what we say.

So, I ask again. What’s a father to do?

Today, you can enjoy your families and the reasons you are a father.

Tomorrow, you can go to work and do what you are supposed to do to make your kids safe in an unsafe world.

Happy Father’s Day.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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