The Incredible Bravery of Fathers

He's taxed to have the state undermine his authority; buys his kids tickets to see movies making him out a fool, or worse; pays for an educational system ridiculing everything he holds dear. He is Don Quixote, except these dragons are real.

Pop culture loves portraying Dad as a comic and clueless figure. Much of what used to be a father's role and prerogatives – provider, disciplinarian, protector – has been restricted or usurped by the state. Feminists have no stronger term of condemnation than labeling something as “patriarchal.”

Why, a man nowadays must be crazy to start a family.

Fortunately, there’s still enough brave souls around who are willing to risk everything to found a little platoon whose members will bear his name, whether in glory or in ignominy. I'm proud to be in their number.

Father's Day gives us a chance to honor our nation's dads and also reflect upon their importance in our lives. Most are neither the cruel villains nor air-headed buffoons that Hollywood portrays them to be, but earnest, hard-working men dedicated to the difficult task of raising their families. Dads today may face different difficulties than their forefathers did, but the modern world hasn’t made fatherhood any easier or less adventuresome.

A woman's childbearing ability guarantees a social role for mothers, as a biological necessity. Fatherhood, on the other hand, is a role that every society must re-invent; that's why so much variation exists among cultures, such as the extreme sovereignty of the Roman patriarch, the laws of English primogeniture, or the power invested in the male hierarchy of the American Indian tribes.

All were designed to establish and preserve the authority of fathers, and thus ensure continuity and stability for society's building block, the family. Incurring paternal wrath meant risking the loss of one's land, wealth, place in society, or even – in the case of the Roman paterfamilias – one's life. Loved or not, fathers in these cultures were certainly respected.

But American fathers bequeath no titles, tribal authority, or even much real property. Even genealogy bestows little. Time was when children could claim a share of glory by tracing themselves to a distinguished ancestor. Preservation of the “family's reputation” was a powerful disincentive against wrongdoing; nowadays, worrying about one's reputation sounds almost quaint.

Thus, there's little motive today to revere a father; it seems we worry now more about the judgment of our children than of our parents.

But fatherhood is one of those natural callings that can be neither explained nor satisfied by human reason. All the disadvantages bachelors love to cite about becoming a father – financial cost, loss of freedom, the geometrical increase in life's complications and worries – are completely true, and then some.

Yet, despite all this, most gladly shoulder the duties and responsibilities that come with the job, knowing full well what's at stake. For within most men, there lies a yearning deep inside, a longing to fulfill the most important vocation any of them will ever undertake: that of father.

Charles Peguy is right: Fathers are the wildest and most courageous of daredevils, society's boldest risk-takers. Compared to him, Mike Tyson's a sissy, Evel Knievel a wimp, the matador a milquetoast. Every Father’s Day celebration should center around the incredible bravery of dear old dad.

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