Thursday, June 30, 2022
June 30, 2022

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Local View: Becoming different kind of dad after gun violence

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For the past 30 Father’s Days, I’ve written Father’s Day reflections in two journals my wife bought for me — one for my daughter and one for my son.

I’ve taken stock of where they are in their lives, and I’ve chronicled the ups and downs of the past year leading up to each Father’s Day. I have committed to words what it has meant to be their father, how each of them has filled my heart and my life.

As I anticipate sitting down this Father’s Day to write in these journals, I can’t stop thinking about the fathers of the children brutally murdered in Uvalde, Texas. I can’t stop thinking about the fathers of the men and women gunned down in Buffalo. I can’t stop thinking about all the fathers who have lost a beloved son or daughter in the senseless mass shootings present and past.

I feel the presence of these grieving fathers as I write these words. They are looking over my shoulder. I am haunted by the questions I imagine them asking themselves:

Why me?

Why us?

Why my son? Why my daughter?

Who truly cares and understands?

How do I go on with my life?

How many other daughters and sons will other fathers have to lose before something, before anything is done?

I have no answers for these fathers. Like so many of us in the aftermath of these mass shootings, I am anguished. I am outraged. I am frustrated. I am drained of hope. I have my own questions:

Why?

Who could do this?

Why is nothing being done?

How can we allow tragedy after tragedy to happen?

What could I and should I be doing?

In past years I’ve confronted these troubling questions and have done nothing.

This Father’s Day I am not turning away from these questions. To do so would be to dishonor those grieving fathers and their departed daughters and sons.

I am making this Father’s Day, and I hope others to come, a day of remembrance, reflection and action. As in past years, I will celebrate my love for my daughter and son. And I will make this a day of accounting as well.

I will challenge myself by asking what I am doing to keep all our fathers, mothers, sons and daughters safe from the gun violence that threatens communities throughout Washington and our country.

Am I using my voice to communicate my views to elected officials here in Washington state and Washington, D.C.?

Am I supporting groups committed to reducing gun violence?

Am I speaking to others — family, friends, neighbors — and encouraging them to act as well? What will I do between this Father’s Day and next year’s?

Fred Guttenberg is one of those fathers whose presence I feel looking over my shoulder this Father’s Day.

Guttenberg lost his daughter Jaime in 2018 during the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. Since that time, he has become a strong advocate for reducing gun violence.

When asked in a recent interview what drives his advocacy work, he responded, “I’m a father of two people and I visit one of them at a cemetery. This is me continuing to be a father to my daughter.”

Guttenberg had to become a different kind of father after the loss of his daughter.

So do all those other fathers who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

So do I.


Jerry Goodstein is a professor emeritus at Washington State University Vancouver and resident of Camas.

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