Friday, June 17, 2011

Gender 101: The Third Sunday of June

Note from Pierce Harlan: I've never interrupted Connie's essays, but am compelled to do so today to urge our readers to be certain to savor this one. It's a love letter not only to Connie's father but to all fathers, and there isn't a false note in it. Thank you, Connie.

by Connie Chastain*

There are any number of websites that will tell you the origins and significance of Father's Day. One of them, titled "Father's Day In the United States," says the holiday "...celebrates the contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children."

Father's Day is celebrated across the globe and dates back to ancient Babylon, according to "Father's Day Celebrations Around the World," which gives visitors a glimpse into the many ways different cultures honor fathers on their special day.

Of course, the websites I visited do not mention what the era of modern feminism has done to fathers--minimizing their involvement in and influence on the lives of their children and society as a whole. From my observations, it appears that the men's rights movement began as a father's rights movement, a creation of fathers who were cut out of their children's lives by ex-wives and the courts after divorce. But fatherlessness has also resulted from legislation that encourages and finances single motherhood. This, despite statistics that fatherlessness results in some of the most damaging social pathologies plaguing our culture.

Children from fatherless homes are:

4.6 times more likely to commit suicide,

6.6 times to become teenaged mothers (if they are girls, of course),

24.3 times more likely to run away,

15.3 times more likely to have behavioral disorders,

6.3 times more likely to be in a state-operated institution,

10.8 times more likely to commit rape,

6.6 times more likely to drop out of school,

15.3 times more likely to end up in prison while a teenager.

More here:

I was fortunate to have both of my parents with me until I reached the edge of retirement age. This year marks my second Father's Day and Mother's Day without them.

My father was not an extraordinary man, but he did experience some rather remarkable circumstances in his life that this holiday for fathers brings to my mind.

He was raised in a fatherless household himself. On October 7, 1924, two days before he was born, his father was killed, along with two neighboring couples and a school child, in a horrific car-train collison in Dalton, Georgia. My grandmother was in labor at her husband's funeral. In addition to the new baby, she had four older sons to raise.

It wasn't easy, particularly when the Great Depression hit, but she had help. Her sons all had a father-figure in their maternal grandfather, a hardworking mountain man -- a logger before he moved to the flatlands to farm. As an adult, my father fondly remembered his grandfather and often shared memories of him with me and my sister.

When he was five, my father contracted rheumatic fever. The resulting damage to his heart valves would last a lifetime and, thirteen years later, prohibit his service in World War II, in which all of his brother served, and one was killed.

Decades later, when he was in his sixties, doctors wanted to replace his faulty heart valves with artificial ones but he wouldn't hear of it. His own heart valves, damaged though they were, had served him until then. And they continued to serve him until his passing at age eighty-five.

He met my mother at a gospel singing for a local radio station -- he was singing in a quartet and she was in the audience. They were married in 1945. He supported his young family -- a wife and two daughters -- selling life insurance, working in textile plants and operating a printing press. Sometimes Mama worked, too, but Daddy was the undisputed breadwinner and head of the household.

On Sundays, he preached. That was his first love -- my grandmother said as a young child, he had stood on tree stumps and preached to their pets and farm animals. When I was a second-grader, he became a fulltime minister, so my sister and I were raised preacher's kids. He was not of the hellfire and brimstone school. His approach was how to live the example of Christ in everyday life. He was an engaging public speaker and much loved by his congregations.

A high-school dropout, he obtained a GED and completed several hours of college coursework, but he was mostly self-educated. My sister and I thought he was the smartest man in the world. And one of the funniest.

When I was a teenager and read some of the Foxfire books about life in the Appalachians, I told him, "This book says mountain folk believed posthumous children could cure oral thrush in a baby by breathing on its face. Did anyone ever ask you to do that?"

"Oh, yeah. Many times,"

"And did it cure the baby?"


I, the skeptic, asked him, "How?"

He looked at me with a sly smile and a twinkle in his eye and said, "Magic."

I'm no expert on what has transpired in our society during my lifetime. I've seen it change from a place where family and parents were respected, children grew up to be productive members of society, and old folks were honored and cared for, to a place where family is viewed with indifference, children are neglected and old folks forgotten -- with negative, and sometime tragic, consequences.

Many factors figure in the decline of our culture. People who read my essays know I lay a lot of blame at the doorstep of feminism, although certainly other influences share some of the blame. But I can't help believe that men like my father, and other fathers of his generation, share negligible responsibility for the societal decline we see around us today.

So this Sunday, I will honor his memory and celebrate the contribution my father made to the lives of his children, and be grateful for the way he and my mother raised us.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.

Father's Day In the United States

Father's Day Celebrations Around the World

*Connie is an FRS contributor. Her personal blog is