happy-fathers-dayIt’s probably no coincidence that the status of fathers has declined in proportion to the overall depreciation in family life, morality and culture during the last few decades. Much has been written in recent years about the negative portrayal of fathers in the news media and in the entertainment world. Indeed, the incompetent father has become something of an icon in North America (see The Simpsons).

Those with a greater grasp of reality, however, will probably see fathers as part of the backbone of what a healthy, stable society is all about. They help bring new life into the world. They help nurture that life into independence.

But a healthy, stable society is exactly what some elements out there don’t want to see. As William Gairdner so competently pointed out in his book The War Against the Family, it’s in the best interest of these certain elements that society remain as unstable and as in much turmoil as possible. That way, they can advance their agenda while families everywhere try to cope with factors such as increased taxation, unemployment and general social decay. “Divide and conquer,” seems to be the strategy, and unfortunately, fathers – and families in general – have become the victims.

Of course, there’s no denying the fact that some fathers don’t measure up to the heavy responsibilities placed upon them. But despite vociferous media campaigns, we know that the overwhelming majority of fathers try to fulfill their vocation with everything they’ve got – and then some – even if it isn’t always enough.

Apart from this, though, there’s no getting away from the fact that the institution of fatherhood itself is as integral to human civilization as the air we breathe. Some elements out there may tell you that children can get along quite well without a father, thank you very much – that a single mother can handle the task of childrearing on her own just fine.

These lines of thought may well be patterned on modes of thinking pioneered during the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s and developed in the Declaration of Feminism, passed in 1971.

As the Declaration pointed out: “The end of the institution of marriage is a necessary condition for the liberation of women. Therefore, it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands.”

Gairdner has said radical forms of feminism found a perfect vehicle to spread their influence through the growth of the modern welfare state. Craven politicians (many of them men) eagerly traded the status of the traditional family for votes and an expanded role for government. Vast amounts of public funding suddenly became available to special interest groups, including those chomping at the bit to tear at the role of dads in society. The womb-to-tomb state, with its accompanying hordes of therapists, administrators, commissioners and counselors, made it possible to start chipping away at a family institution that until then had survived the rise and fall of nations.

Twisted ideologues gave an intellectual backing to the whole scenario. “Love,” declared 1960s radical Abigail Rockefeller, “is debilitating and counter-revolutionary.” Males everywhere were seen as prime social agents of exploitation, from which women were urged to free themselves. That’s an example of the sort of nonsense conscientious fathers everywhere have had to deal with.

In a world eschewing love, fathers go against the grain by harkening back to a time when love ruled family relationships, and qualities like compassion, self-sacrifice and concern for others held sway. Maybe those qualities will return to dominate once again. If so, we likely won’t be crediting the governments, institutions or elites of our time, who, instead of improving matters, tend to worsen them.

Instead, the shift back to sanity will probably be led by our “natural institutions”: families, churches, friends … and fathers, one at a time. The world at large may not recognize the degree of their importance, but we do.

Happy Father’s Day. 

A version of this editorial originally appeared in The Interim in June 1998.