shock and awe fathering in the 21st century

Talk about ‘shock and awe’ today and you probably immediately conjure up mental images of bursts of light and explosions over Baghdad 3.

Talk about ‘shock and awe’ today and you probably immediately conjure up mental images of bursts of light and explosions over Baghdad 3.5 years ago.

The idea for the cruise missiles and anti-aircraft batteries locked in that deadly light show originated in the National Defence University in Washington, D.C.

The goal behind the massive display of power and the equally gross expenditure of national treasure implicit in a ‘shock and awe’ campaign is the psychological destruction of a given enemy’s will to fight.

While the war planners might have been right in predicting this strategy’s ability to speed the collapse of the conventional Iraqi army, they certainly had their long-range projections all wrong on its damping the will to resist.

Ultimately, the whole exercise may be judged to have been founded on the rather shaky stability of towering egos trying to further their ‘willful mass deception’ rather than any real threat to our global security.

Lewis Lapham, the editor emeritus of Harper’s, spoke earlier this week at a conference hosted by Canada 2020 at Mont Tremblant, Quebec.

This self defined “idea generation council” gathered Lapham, Al Gore, Jeffrey Sachs and others around the theme Progressive Policies, Practical Solutions: Policy Choices for the 21st Century.

Lapham hammered both mainline parties, Republicans and Democrats, for the current erosion of basic liberties in the United States according to an article in Montreal Gazette.

“We don’t have a democracy in the US,” Lapham lamented, “but we have a chance to make one.”

His basic thesis, though, according to Hubert Bauch writing in the Gazette holds that the “redemption for US democracy lies in the recognition that national security lies in the health, intelligence and freedom of the American people — not in fleets and armies.”

When I think of the most direct and personal experience of ‘shock and awe’ in my own life, it came when I cradled my first child, my daughter Ilona, in my arms.

The psychological impact of her birth on me certainly did not diminish my will to go on.

Becoming a father sharpened my commitment to provide for her and, by extension, all other children, the best future possible.

The etymology of the word father lies far back in our linguistic evolution.

Some scholars suggest it is an echo of those first recognizable sounds an infant makes, like ‘papa.’

The word evolved from papa to the Latin ‘pater’ on to the Gothic ‘fadar,’ Germanic ‘vater’ to our father.

Words with negative connotations, such as patriarchy, paternalism or Vaterland, emerged out of the same linguistic root. These words can distort the core meanings of caring for, protecting and rearing.

Another definition of father refers to bringing an idea into being; originating or inventing a new concept.

In this crucial century, we are all being called on to ‘father’ a new way of being on this small planet of ours.

The great transformation from our environmentally destructive, warring ways towards a just, sustainable planet will call for every ounce of fathering skills we can muster.

We can’t afford to shirk on our larger ‘fathering’ responsibilities, even in the face of the ‘shock and awe’ of the dimensions of the challenges before us.

Have a happy and reflective Father’s Day.