Throwing a Wrench into Another Father’s Day, Dr. Robert Zuber

19 Jun

One of the interesting things for me over the years is noticing the difference in moods leading up to the “days” we set aside to honor parents.   Mother’s Day is a huge emotional and commercial undertaking which fathers, lovers and children ignore at their mortal peril.  Father’s Day, on the other hand, barely registers interest:  somewhat greater than National Gingersnap Day (July 1 in case you care to celebrate) and about the same as the dreaded (for many of us in the US) Columbus Day.

I started Father’s Day weekend in the same way that I start most weekends – with my church family at the All Saints food pantry.   On the pantry line, most of the people (and most of the women) seemed to have little recollection of or interest in this ritual time to honor fathers.   Back home nursing sore muscles, those few TV commercials that bothered at all focused on dad’s apparent unending need for tools – wrenches seem to be a popular choice this year.  I like wrenches, especially their metaphorical capacity for tightening and loosening, but again neither grateful recognition nor other emotional content was present.  Checking my policy-oriented twitter feed it was filled, even on this day, with gendered discourse focused primarily on the (legitimate) concerns of women and girls.

Not much at hand to encourage today’s message. Fortunately, I was inspired to start thinking earlier about fathers during a busy UN week punctuated by persons possessing and/or insisting on attention to an array of physical and mental disabilities.  They came to the UN in large numbers from around the world to advocate for more rigorous and comprehensive compliance by states to their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

This may be my single favorite event of the UN year, in part because of the compelling messages that people in wheelchairs or “speaking” in sign language are particularly well suited to communicate to the rest of us. Messages about pushing through limitations. Messages about the blatant inadequacies of our notions of success, beauty and perfection.  Messages about seeking equity and inclusion, about reaching beyond comfort zones to touch the needs and aspirations of persons habitually marginalized due solely to limitations of mobility, learning, communications or psychology, limitations that are only more visible than our own and often seen as a bigger “problem” by those around persons with disabilities than by the persons themselves.

During this particular week at the UN, not everyone could go out for buffet lunches or run on treadmills at the gym.  Not everyone could be fitted for clothes off the rack at Saks or drive to the ocean for the weekend.   These delegates on disabilities weren’t here to impress others or see the sights, but rather to see to it that people like themselves matter, and matter fully.

And my how they did so!  The events surrounding the formal meeting of States Parties were among the most issue-diverse and courageous I have seen at the UN, linking persons with disabilities to needs and concerns across the UN’s vast agenda – from sustainable development goals and employment discrimination to war-related disabilities and involuntary limitations on freedom of movement.  Controversies over “consent” were particularly paramount this week, with disabilities advocates seeking to ensure (rightly) that they have control over any and all decisions made about them, including all those decisions allegedly made “in their best interest.”

The quality of discussions and interactions this week within the disability community, in some ways, reminded me of the best of the fathers in my life:  Willing to ask the next question; willing to push through the latest challenge; willing to explore beyond the immediate horizon; willing to work with people’s limitations (we all have such) to put them in the best positions to succeed; willing to accept the obligations that stem from being the responsible party; willing to honor promises (including one this week to gender balance the CRDP) and not just make them; willing to use wrenches (real and metaphorical) to loosen and tighten the screws that bind us together with the goal of ensuring more fair and efficient public institutions, and more competent and inclusive communities.

I know so many fathers who embody such interests and traits of character.  I know so many fathers who also teach other peoples’ children, bind other peoples’ wounds, open doors to the homeless and hungry, mentor youth through difficult times; even attend to jobs that are literally killing them so that their children (and others in their communities) can have a chance at a better life in these challenging and sometimes discouraging times.

I see fathers in my life pushing their children to be better people, to neither give up nor give in, to resist dependencies that convert character into comfort, to stay both humble and focused, to take the risk of pulling others up short when they wander too far off course.

These are a few of the many things that so many fathers (and other nurturing men) in my life – family, friends and colleagues – bring to this world still very much in-progress.  My “Waffle House” cap, the one which I’m now wearing in my office, is hereby and mostly gratefully tipped to each of you.

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2 Responses to “Throwing a Wrench into Another Father’s Day, Dr. Robert Zuber”

  1. Caleb Otto June 19, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    As always, much inspiration from writings of Dr. Zuber. Yes, we were all inspired again by the perseverance and tenacity of the spirit exhibited by the many persons with disabilities that we saw this week. I for one, in watching them, wondered why I even complain of the challenges I face when they would be so small compared to the life-long challenges that these wonderful brothers and sisters of ours overcome. Thanks for bringing this lesson of blessings on this Father’s Day. Our hearts go to the Fathers whose hearts are so broken at this time from the loss of their loved ones in the Orlando tragedy, as well as the father of the little boy killed by an alligator. Finally, there are many fathers unknown to us whose hearts are broken for one reason or another. Our prayers go up for them also. We thank God for the blessing of gift of children.

  2. marta benavides June 20, 2016 at 1:17 am #

    Important sharing coming always our ways.. connecting, joining the dots to keep track of what matters, how and why..in my country, el salvador, the legislators– though not all men- are referred regularly as the padres de la patria- the fathers of our homeland– i keep twiting that there is no padres de la patria but there is a sovereingn nation they are paid to serve.. gracias bob.. adelate..marta

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