Cultural Clash in Pictures

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Today’s Irresponsible Fathers

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.

Duke de Uzes

Point de Vue, August 17, 2005
In the picture on the left, a father and son pose under a family portrait. The father is dressed in a navy suit jacket with a pocket handkerchief, a buttoned white shirt with cuff-links and a tie, crisp white slacks with a leather belt, and casual but nonetheless refined leather loafers. His son proudly imitates his father’s dress to the smallest detail.

Their clothing expresses something more than the style of the times: it reflects the correct father-son relationship. A portrayal like this was common in the past, and they are still valid today as this August 2005 picture taken in France demonstrates.

There was a time when the father was conscious of the seriousness of life and dressed in a way befitting it. Boys and young men longed to enter the world of adulthood, and tried to act and dress in imitation of the adults they saw around them. A son enjoyed being treated with gravity by a serious father and imitating his way of dress and acting because this gave him a sense of his own dignity.

The second picture below reflects a more modern father-son relationship. The boy wears the typical casual clothing that has become popular since the cultural revolution of the 1960s – proletarian attire composed of a cotton T-shirt and pair of blue jeans.I imagine he is sporting tennis shoes and crew socks, since this completes the current revolutionary uniform for children.

Father Son Guys - big boy
His father jovially imitates his son’s dress except for one detail: on his T-shirt are the words “Big Guy” instead of the “Little Guy” for the child.

In effect, the clothing in this picture expresses the opposite relationship of the first picture: the father is following the model of the son. The words on the t-shirts could just as appropriately read “Little Boy” and “Big Boy.” Fearful of appearing authoritative or aloof, many young fathers try to be a “good buddy” to their sons.

Instead of showing a stable seriousness that a child needs to be confident, calm and secure, the father takes on the air of big child, dressing, speaking, and acting like a boy. Playing, joking, and making life a game, they teach their children not only that life is not serious, but that authority is frivolous.

In a scene like this, apparently amiable and harmless, there is an inherent disorder. The son can easily think he is equal to the father and lose respect for him. The balance of the family becomes upset because paternal authority is lacking.

The disastrous results of this syndrome of a lack of seriousness about life are evident everywhere today. Look around you anywhere – the church, the store, a social event – and it is plain to see that many men, who should be responsible for maintaining the good sense and equilibrium of the family and society, act and look like big boys. The father of the past, respected for his experience, wisdom, keen discernment and strength of soul, is replaced by the foolish figure of a perpetual youth in pursuit of pleasure. How many fathers – and even grandfathers today – have the habits of boys and sport the clothing of youngsters.

St. Francis de Sales noted that the affection borne by fathers to their children is not called friendship, because friendship supposes a certain equality in vocation, rank, or aims. This equality, he continued, should not exist in the affection of fathers for their children. The love of fathers is, he says, a majestic love, and that of children a love of respect and submission. Everything is a Catholic society, including the dress of men in every level of society – from high to low, used to reflect this wise thinking.

To counter this unsound modern thinking, the father should follow the Latin maxim: Esto vir! Be a man! Your son not only expects this from you, but requires it.

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