Have you ever found something in the mail that really annoyed you? A while back I received just such a missive.
It was a postcard from a church in the area, seeking new membership and encouraging family involvement. As a Christian and a family advocate, one would expect that I would see this message in a most positive light.
The kicker, though, was the picture that accompanied the message.
It showed a trim, clearly overburdened wife out mowing the lawn. Her husband, overweight and balding, was visible through the front room window, ensconced in front of the television.
I voiced my unhappiness to the purveyors of this communication; I let them know what I felt about the “message within a message” they were sending.
I feel that the church is the embodiment of the family, especially in times like these when all forms of media seem hell-bent to tear the family down. The father, nominally the head of the household by the standard of most religions, should be built up, not torn down, especially by the church.
This isolated depiction of the father as the antithesis of what he should be is innocent enough, but such a characterization has become a national movement.
Case in point: the situation comedies and commercials on television.
If there has been a father depicted in a positive light since “The Cosby Show,” I missed it.
I love mothers. They are the most special of people, but enough is enough.
In today’s popular culture, the mother is always right, the voice of reason. She is shapely and energetic, intellectually inquisitive and dynamic.
Dad? He’s an amorphous lump.
His life revolves around beer, junk food, breast size and sports on television.
A whole nation of men has become Homer Simpson.
Predictably, Mom is a steadying influence while Dad is harried and confused when dealing with the children.
Following the lofty position attributed to wives, the kids come next in our modern cultural pecking order.
These youngsters, who are depicted as light years ahead of the father intellectually, socially and physically, shift between tolerance of and open defiance toward the male parent.
These attitudes, admittedly, are not new to young people.
I am reminded of a quote by Mark Twain.
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
The difference now, though, is the pervasive nature of the depiction of the father through electronic media.
Whether we like it or not, many of the cultural attitudes adopted by young people today are the result of messages sent by said media.
So why is this attitude toward fathers an important issue? Am I making a big deal out of nothing?
I don’t think so, especially since recent studies show a profound relationship between negative social behavior by young people and the absence of a father figure in their life.
The numbers of kids involved in drug use and criminal activity are much higher (with a mid-to-high 80th percentile ranking) in households with an absent adult male parent. The same studies suggest a similar relationship with other types of socially corrosive behavior.
In a society where the knee-jerk response by the courts veers significantly to the rights of the mother and away from the rights of the father, further erosion of the expectations and attitudes toward men can do no good.
I have read that the current bashing of men is the result of a natural phenomenon in which the “former abuser becomes the abused,” and since it was “a man’s world” for so long, this is just “payback.”
I have also heard this rationale used in discussing why racism perpetrated by those who suffered historically from it is “not as bad” as the past form.
I find these attitudes simple-minded and dangerous.
Being an apologist for prejudicial treatment by anyone toward anyone can only result in backlash and more prejudice. No one gains by injustice, no matter who is involved, nor what their role in history may have been.
America needs strong families, and a strong male presence is clearly a marker for strong families.
I have been blessed with a family structure that has allowed such a situation, a situation that all begins with respect.
My Father’s Day wish is that all families are so blessed.
Freelance writer Bruce W. Burns, a retired teacher and coach, lives in Marysville. He can be contacted at email@example.com.