We fathers are blessed by peace - Keith Roulston editorial
As we approach Father’s Day, I can’t help thinking of all those fathers for whom this will be a day of mourning, not celebration on Sunday.
There are, of course, fathers who have lost children through illness or accident, but the fathers whose plight moves me to tears are those who are deprived of their children through senseless acts of violence.
Top of mind are the parents of the children of that senseless shooting in a school in Uvalde, Texas. A troubled teen with a gun
he had purchased soon after his 18th birthday locked himself in a classroom and began shooting 19 young students and two educators before, eventually, being shot by police.
There were 14 high school children among the 17 killed by a gunman at Marjorie Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Just before Christmas, 2012, 29 youngsters and six of their supervisors were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut,
Further back, in 1999, two students murdered 12 classmates and one teacher at a high school in Columbine, Colorado. Given the American love affair with guns, it seems only a matter of time before there will be more such incidents by deranged individuals who have access to dangerous weapons.
Of course, not all killers are individuals. Currently top of mind is the plight of young children in Ukraine, victims of invading Russian troops, carrying out the will of a leader who sees it as his duty to re-establish the “glory” of past Russian empires. As of June 9, 274 children have been among the 4,339 civilians killed in Ukraine by invading Russians. Many thousands, of course, have been displaced as their parents seek safety for them, sometimes in Canada. They have nearly all been separated from their fathers for this Father’s Day as fighting-age men are needed to stop the invasion. (Up to 15,000 young Russians serving as soldiers have died, too.)
In Africa, young lives will be lost as children suffer malnourishment, since they are not getting grain and other foods from Ukraine, which before the war was one of the world’s greatest food producers. Russia has cut off Ukrainian farmers’ access to ports, trapping that food at home, while parents in Africa watch their children starve.
All of these fathers can wonder what might have been had fate, and sick individuals, not intervened. What kind of lives might these young people have lived? What might they have accomplished?
Most, of course, would take a more mundane path. All parents could, as a minimum, have expected that their children would grow up, find partners and most likely make them grandparents. North American and Ukrainian fathers might expect their children to go to university or some sort of college to live the most prosperous and interesting lives they could.
We will never know if there were extraordinary people among those killed who might have improved the lives of others. Surely there were people who would have become doctors and nurses and prolonged the lives of others. There were likely teachers who would have guided the next few generations toward achieving their best. There might have been a future Prime Minister or President.
Who knows if there might have been geniuses who would have made huge improvements in the quality of the lives of generations. There might have been innovators who left North America or Europe to improve the lives of future generations in Africa or Asia. There might be inventors who would enrich the lives of millions.
On the other hand, we must admit, we might have been saved the odd mass killer, whether he be like those warped teenagers who conducted the shootings in Buffalo or Uvalde or a Gabriel Wortman, the sick mastermind behind the killing rampage in Nova Scotia.
Grieving fathers, of course, don’t picture their children being mass murderers. Most of those fathers, who sacrificed to give their children the best advantages they could, imagined their children growing up and having families of their own. Most envisioned successful careers, whether performing some professionalized skill like medicine or education or repairing malfunctioning cars.
Jill and I brought four children into the world, with various skills and successes. They, in turn, have given us eight grandchildren (plus a foster child who recently graduated from university). So far, four of those grandchildren have graduated or are studying at university.
We’ve been fortunate that our children and grandchildren have been blessed in growing up in relatively peaceful Canada. Here’s hoping our country continues that tradition.