-By Warner Todd Huston
On the eve of Father’s Day, I heard on the air on Chicago’s WIND AM some typical left-wing babble about families. A fellow calling himself a doctor waxed eloquent over how we can “make our own families,” and how “families aren’t just about blood. They are about love.” Nice, gauzy, and wholly inadequate to truly define the importance of family, isn’t it? But it is this mushy-headed thinking that is so destructive to the role of real families in America today, especially where it concerns fathers. So, on this 2010 Father’s Day I thought I’d correct the mushy-headed liberalism about families and put into perspective the true importance of families and fathers.
First of all, there is no disputing that families are “about love.” That does, indeed, go without saying. Love is quite helpful for familial strength and success. But to simply say “families mean love” and leave it at that is completely misleading and inadequate to inform us of what a family is. In fact, love is equally as important as another descriptive word: responsibility. Families cannot survive without the later though they can get by without the former.
Unfortunately, in this society today we’ve dumbed down the word love into meaningless bromides with the result that love really has lost all meaning. All too often we use the word without any respect for its true meaning. We “love” movies, we “love” sports, we “love” music… sadly “love” has replaced the word “enjoy” or even “like.” So when people say that love is all we need to make a family, we slight the difficulty and determination that making a family means. We make of family an ill-defined thought, an empty concept without giving it the seriousness it’s due. We need to add the word responsibility to the description of what a family is so that people fully appreciate the importance of it all.
When we misunderstand the true meaning of family we create a major danger to men in our society today. This gauzy, emotive, empty way at looking at family is destructive for young men looking to become fathers. As a society we’ve failed miserably to inculcate into young men how seminal family is to the health of our nation, our society, even ourselves as individuals — even if we aren’t married. Young men today are in perpetual adolescence, forever a Peter Pan flitting about looking for temporary enjoyment. Into their 30s they love video games, they love rap music, they love cars and eating out… oh, yeah, and they love their baby mama, too. Whatever her name was. And they’ll love the next two baby mamas, as well. Or not. Whatever.
If, however, we understood family with the seriousness we used to in this nation we’d certainly be better off as a society. Not to sound as if it’s drudgery, but family means work, both physically and emotionally. It means taking responsibility onto oneself for the lives of others. It means hard choices and sacrifice for others. It is not an easy, breezy road to perpetual titillation. It is sometimes uncomfortable and means standing by someone else in their time of need. Family is a serious matter, not some gauzy idea consisting merely of “love.”
There was a time when young men understood the gravity of being married and starting a family. We need to return our way of thinking to this more staid, serious commitment to marriage. Marriage isn’t just about a soap opera-like, whirlwind expression of “love.” It’s hard work and serious business, one not to be entered into lightly nor cast aside without a second thought. Our young women need to learn this lesson, too.
But, despite all the hard work that marriage is there is so much comfort and satisfaction in a rich family life. It is well worth the effort. Families, yes even those that aren’t related by blood, are incredibly meaningful and important to each of us, not only to us as individuals, but as a society. Families are support mechanisms that benefit all of us. Most of all, families gives us a sense of belonging and purpose that other endeavors lack. Mere careers go away. Hobbies are but temporary diversions and usually leave us feeling empty in the end. But family has a particular human quality of fulfillment that, even as it can tend to exasperate, offers something that other human activity just cannot approximate.
Further, family serves as the bedrock upon which our society operates and perpetuates. And perpetuation is the last, important part of family.
Marriage has traditionally been the chief mechanism by which to perpetuate society. Until recently, marriage has been less about love and more about responsibility and growth. The perpetuation of our culture and social order and the health and welfare of our progeny was always the chief concerns in marriage. Love was a bonus, but not a requirement. (And this is why gay marriage is illegitimate, but that is a topic for another time.)
Historically, love was in last place on the list of important considerations for marriage. There was one major reason for this: women died young as a result of child birth an awful lot. Usually people simply didn’t have the time or the luxury of love. Love often came later if at all but if it didn’t as long as everyone was safe and otherwise happy, what difference did it make? Yet as our society became richer, as our free time grew, as life spans lengthened and medicine kept us in prime health for years longer than our ancestors had the fortune to experience the idea of love took on a more central role in why people should want to get married. Now love has replaced the more serious concerns inherent in marriage and this silly focus on mere love as if it is some sort of panacea is what spawned the radio doctor’s foolish concept of what a family is that spurred me to write this piece.
So, this Father’s Day, as we all prepare to celebrate the grand man that help bring us into this world, let’s reflect on the serious role that he took upon himself when you were born. Yes we love the “old man,” but let’s also revere his worthiness of respect for a job well done, let’s also celebrate that major responsibility that he accepted so many years ago. Fatherhood and family is not an easy thing, but it is a sublime, intensely human thing.