Monday, August 31, 2009

four years ago -- still we wade

A few months after I started rad dad, hurricane Katrina hit. The aftermath was still a news story in the media as I sat down to write the intro to the second issue. So here's an excerpt of it as a reminder that, like parenting, the affects continue long after hurricanes or mothers and fathers are gone...

tomas

Of all the pictures of the devastation that hurricane Katrina wrought, there was one that stopped me cold, that had me mesmerized, overwhelmed, that just seemed to contain all that I wanted to believe about people in general but in particular, about men, about fathers. The picture transcended all the racist media spin, it eased the pain of the decimated street scenes, the moments of panic. One man. One child. Not his even. He was wading through water; he was holding that child like it was the most important thing he could do, like not just that child‘s life but his life depended on their safe arrival. He asked no questions about whose child it was, no need to ascertain ownership, or ask permission. No pathetic excuses about needing to wait and see, to try hard like we kept hearing from the “men” in charge of the federal response. He just knew: I help this child, I help myself; I help all of us get by. There was such humanity embodied in his arms, in the determination in his eyes. It spoke to me as the epitome of “fathering,” of caring for not just our immediate family but for all our relations. It reminded me of how much of an impact we can have on the children in our lives, how easy it is to overlook, to forget, to deprioritize others as we take care of our own.

I had an argument about this a few weeks ago with a man who said it’s not his responsibility to know how to be around other people’s kids. I think he feels this way because of the silence around parenting (especially male parenting), around the public perception of children being seen not heard, of good behavior equaling good kids…

I am always puzzled by the responses I get when I say I edit a zine on fathering, on how parents impact the world and the children about them. Most people smile and say I ain’t a dad, or I don’t know anyone who’s a parent. And when I ask if there are children in their lives or if they’re uncles or if they still talk with their parents, most people just smile and say something like, ‘well I’ll deal with that later, those things don’t relate to me now. ‘

Tell that to the man who picked up the child, held her close to his chest and waded out in the waters which were destroying the very place he lived. How we relate to our own children, how connect with the kids and teenagers on our blocks and in our communities is analogous with how we envision a better world, a more compassionate, loving, sustainable world. If we continue to curtail that relationship, we will continue to live our lives surrounded by levees that cannot hold…

2 comments:

Scott said...

Wow! Beautiful. Can you upload the photo to your blog so we can see it? I understand the comments that non-fathers have made to you, though, as a new father they make me sad. The quantum change from non-parenthood to being a Dad can only be experienced - at least that's what I think. My entire perception of the world, of what's important, and of how to be has changed since Ruth was born almost two years ago.

Scott

Dani Saves The World said...

This is perfect. Thank you.