I have known since I was very young that the most important thing I would ever do, should I be so blessed to have the opportunity, was to be a good father.
Fatherhood, parenthood, is sometimes about hard choices. It’s about consistency and a 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week vigilance. It is the constant push and pull of knowing when to pull close and when to let go. In grand strokes, it’s about striving to make the world better for our kids, while helping them to grow to be a constructive presence in that better world.
Reading an op ed from Sandy Hook dads Mark Barden and David Wheeler this morning, I was reminded again of something David had said in the unthinkable days following the events of December 14, 2012. As a father, they are words that rang deep and true for me. They are words I have tried to push down when they come up, at least to some degree, so as not to be swallowed whole by them.
In talking about the loss of his 6-year-old son Ben, and good intentioned people telling him and wife Francine that they “can’t imagine” the pain the parents were enduring, David said that he wants us all to be able to imagine it. That only in imagining it will we create the will for truly transformational change.
That is the thing that dares not speak its name.
The truth is, I haven’t been very successful at avoiding my own imagination. I am most often aware of how lucky we are, how lucky I am, and of the general fragility of life. Other times, out of nowhere, I am stricken cold by a flash of what could happen.
Yet, we must imagine.
It wasn’t until members of Congress could look in to the already-gone eyes of a dying Robert Kennedy that they broke a deadlock and acted to pass the Gun Control Act of 1968.
I’m sure you have seen the statistic. As I write this, there have been 74 school shootings since December 14, 2012. One thing that the Sandy Hook shootings accomplished was to create a more active and mobilized gun control movement. Organizations like Sandy Hook Promise, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Mom’s Demand Action are acting as centralized points of activism and unified protest.
Even more than the cohesive effort, however, this ongoing battle requires courage.
We have unfortunately seen too often courage from victims’ families in the sheer will of facing another day, and trying to create something good from something so horrible. We must all be courageous. We must, as RFK put it, risk the “disapproval of our fellows.” Most importantly, we must be courageous enough to imagine the unimaginable.
We must change.
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. May our children live in a safer and more just world.