Saturday, June 19, 2010

Our Lorax Moment

I became a father four years ago on the eve of Father’s Day. I’ll never forget the first gaze into my daughter’s eyes, with her look of recognition at this man who had sung to her for months in momma’s belly. The feeling that filled my being in those first moments of her existence was the power of love on full throttle.

In those first days, I quickly came to understand that these feelings are universal, shared in equal measure by parents for countless generations in every corner of the globe and in every circumstance. I felt kinship with fellow fathers and mothers in Iraq, Israel, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Spain. Whatever our differences, I understood that the depth of love for our children is a stronger unifying force than all that divides us.

Our daughter Rosie was born at a time when stories of families anguished by the effects of wars, torture and depravity supported by our tax dollars filled newscasts on a daily basis. The notion of creating a more peaceful, humane and healthy world for our children became imperative, urgent. If only we the parents (and grandparents, aunts and uncles) could link up, in honor of the love we have for our children, to insist on a world where no child is bombed or left to suffer, a world where every child is honored and treated with care and compassion, a world where the natural life support systems that sustain all children are restored.

By the time Rosie turned one, we started listening to a candidate for President who was saying things like this: “Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.”

Campaign rallies were populated with new parents and our children, all of us feeling I sensed that “hope” and “change” were not glib slogans but connected to our deepest yearnings. I made “Babies for Barack” buttons and got elected delegate to the national convention in Denver, where I organized a “Families for Obama” rally. Moms and Dads spoke from their hearts about what was at stake for them in the election. This feeling crested in the hopeful tide of humanity that descended in record numbers in Washington, DC to participate as we the people in the inauguration of President Obama.

Now, 18 months later, hope has given way in many instances to anxiety, despair or cynicism. We’ve seen bombs continue to explode in wedding parties in Afghanistan, Wall St. bailed out to reward greed and avarice, and another hottest year on record, with action to confront climate change not keeping up with the speed of melting glaciers.

Then the Deepwater Horizon exploded, putting the effects of our collective addiction to oil on full gory display in the Gulf of Mexico. The stakes for life as we know it have just been raised. Water is life, polluted water is death. We are fouling our nest. We’ve reached a crossroads where we either respond to this catastrophe by transforming the way we live on the planet, or we leave a ravaged world to our children.

The poet Drew Dellinger put it this way, “My great great grandchildren won’t let me sleep: what did you do while the earth was unraveling?” We’re having a “Lorax” moment – Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

The forces of violence and greed are formidable, but they can be overcome by a much more powerful force -- the combined power of love for our children. At the moment we choose to act on that love, everything changes.

The change we believe in and need is not going to be done for us by President Obama. It’s not going to be done for us by anyone else. Your knight in shining armor is looking at you in the mirror, begging for action.

Can we the fathers and mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, summon the commitment and courage to do what is necessary for the well-being of our children, and all those children yet to be born? Yes we still can, and yes we must.

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