I’m writing this on Father’s Day. I like Father’s Day, despite the commercialism that overwhelms all of our special days. Children should honor their fathers every day, but it’s nice to have a day set aside to think about fathers, just as for mothers.
Although celebrating Father’s Day in June was an American invention, a day honoring fathers has been a Catholic tradition for many centuries. St. Joseph’s Day celebrates the idea of fatherhood.
The first attempt to create a secular day for fathers was the result of a terrible mining disaster, an explosion in the mines of Monongah, West Virginia, on December 6, 1907, which killed at least 360 men, and possibly as many as 500. Grace Golden Clayton, who lived nearby, was at the time mourning the loss of her own father, a preacher, and she suggested honoring the hundreds of dead fathers to her pastor. Another influence was the very recent inauguration of a Mother’s Day celebration in May in another West Virginia town by Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honor her mother, a Civil War peace activist. But it wasn’t until President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day in 1966 that it became official.
Besides inspiring Grace Clayton to honor all fathers, the Monongah mining disaster led to a public clamor for government oversight of the dangerous mines. In 1910, Congress created the U.S. Bureau of Mines to reduce mine explosions with a system of inspections by field officers. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are linked to peace activism and government regulation.
My children are grown up and ready to have children of their own. My hands-on fathering is intermittent and often long distance. No use in trying to raise my children any more – advice on dealing with life’s challenges is now more appropriate.
But one way I can be a good father is to try to insure that my children, and their children, can achieve their dreams in a healthy world. My generation has not done well in preserving the world, probably being responsible for more pollution of the air, land and sea than any other generation. On the other hand, baby boomers also contributed to the public efforts to control pollution in countless ways, from regulating automobile exhaust, to recycling, to cleaning up our rivers.
Those efforts continue, but a new threat, recognized only within the most recent decades, could make our children’s lives harder, more dangerous, and less enjoyable. Climate change is already creating human problems around the US. In northern Alaska, some villages will have to be moved inland as the sea rises. In the Rocky Mountains, some of the country’s largest forests are dying from heat and drought. In Louisiana, the residents of Isle de Jean Charles are being offered $48 million to move from their homes, because rising seas have already washed away most of their island. In California, the worst drought in a thousand years cost farmers billions in lost income. Western wildfires are expected to expand as temperatures rise.
Thinking like a father means recognizing these threats to our children’s happiness and doing everything we can to protect them. Instead, many men are doing the opposite. They refuse to believe any evidence about the existence of climate change, its causes, and the damage it is doing to human life already. They apply their intelligence to obfuscation, misdirection, and outright lying, because they don’t like the political consequences of global warming. Except for those who have been deluded by this anti-environmental campaign, these men are only hoping for delay.
Five years ago, one of the world’s leading climate scientists appeared before Congress to tell our political leaders that climate change will produce more severe droughts, wider wildfires, bigger storms, and rising sea levels. Republican Senator Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma responded, “The global warming movement has completely collapsed.” Since then, 2014 was the hottest year on record, then 2015 broke that record, then 2016 got even hotter.
But Inhofe, and the others who say they know better, still sing the same tune. They are not thinking like fathers, but like sons. They are rooted in the past, denouncing everything that points to changes in our world, repeating forever that we don’t need to do anything in the face of this unprecedented threat.
When the weatherman forecasts rain, a good father sees that his children wear protective clothing. When the weatherman forecasts a thunderstorm, a good father keeps his children safe inside. When the weatherman forecasts a tornado, a good father leads everyone to the basement.
Now the world’s weathermen and weatherwomen forecast rising seas, more severe storms, more frequent drought and heat waves. Yet those poor fathers ignore their children’s futures. They don’t deserve to be honored on Father’s Day.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, June 20, 2017