At nine months you are too young to understand anything I am going to tell you today. None-the-less, your education in the world has begun and I am of the belief that for some things, early is better.
Baby Jack, you have come into the world at the perfect time. Obviously, our family and our world urgently need the dream you are here to manifest. I am excited to watch the unfolding of your life for the time I have to witness the miracle. You have already made a strong impact. You (and our new puppy) have commandeered the whole family! We are so obviously here to do your bidding, a task we all enjoy even if it leaves your parents bleary-eyed most days. To nurture and protect beauty, innocence and vulnerability must be the priority of the family, if not our society at large.
You are the first boy. I can't tell you how relieved I am at your arrival. I raised three daughters and have endured much at their hands. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Britney Spears, the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys were the cultural diet my girls - and I by proximity - lived on. I barely saw a hockey game for twenty years. The suffering was great! I can see you already have the soft hands of a great goal scorer.
I don't want to give you the impression I am complaining about my girls. I am not. I love being a Dad to daughters. It has been one of the great blessings of my life; a blessing and a challenge at the same time.
Ours is not a world that treats women equally with men. While great strides have been made, especially in the last forty years, we are living at a time where great strides are necessary. That alone is an indictment.
The news of the day is filled with accounts of violent oppression of women. Recent statistics show one in four women in the workplace has suffered sexual harassment. That represents only those incidents that are reported.
Sports figures, entertainers, politicians, clergy and business leaders have too often misused their power and authority to commit these crimes. Every 17 minutes a woman in Canada is assaulted.
First Nations women seem especially targeted with over a hundred women and girls currently missing and over one thousand murdered in the past twenty years. One young woman, Rinelle Harper, is a survivor of such violence. She was attacked and ended up in the frigid waters of the Assiniboine River. Somehow, she managed to crawl out. The same men attacked her again.
Ms. Harper - like Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist for female education shot by Taliban gunmen - has chosen to fight back. It is a fight they should not have to endure and one that our legal and social systems do not facilitate.
Too often these crimes go unreported because of fear, shame and trauma. Estimates place that number at 90 percent. The treatment by police and the court system of women who have been physically, sexually or psychologically abused often causes even greater trauma. Kirk Makin, writing in The Globe & Mail newspaper, articulates the serious dilemma facing victims:
"Without independent, corroborating evidence, there was little chance of convicting assailants. This, despite the fact that, according to the Justice Institute of British Columbia, 80 per cent of sex crimes happen in victims' homes - and are committed by friends, acquaintances, husbands, sometimes family members."
Those who are brave and strong enough to pursue justice within the system recognize their personal lives will be served up in court. They will be targeted by defense attorneys and offered no personal legal representation in the court. The Crown represents the interests of the Crown, not necessarily the interest of victims. That is a gross disincentive to justice.
Women are fighting back, speaking out and demanding change. Men should be standing with them and speaking out too. Sexual assault is a terrorist act. It poses a serious threat to civil society. Men cannot stand by idly and allow their partners, sisters, daughters or friends to fight this fight alone.
Jack, back in the olden days there was a code of conduct called chivalry. Knights in the medieval times swore an oath to live ethically - to be truthful, courteous, defend justice, protect the poor and weak, and support women. Living to a standard of chivalry gave purpose and meaning to life. It was the definition of decency for men's conduct in the world. We seem to have forgotten this model of ethics.
I think it is high time to restore the notion of honor and respect as a true measure of power. To that end an organization called The International Fellowship of Chivalry (www.chivalrynow.net/articles/chivalry.htm) proposes Twelve Trusts. These commitments provide a gentleman's guide to conduct:
THE 12 TRUSTS
Upon my honor...
- I will develop my life for the greater good.
- I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth.
- I will never boast, but cherish humility instead.
- I will speak the truth at all times, and forever keep my word.
- I will defend those who cannot defend themselves.
- I will honor and respect women, and refute sexism in all its guises.
- I will uphold justice by being fair to all.
- I will be faithful in love and loyal in friendship.
- I will abhor scandals and gossip - neither partake nor delight in them.
- I will be generous to the poor and those who need help.
- I will forgive when asked, that my own mistakes will be forgiven.
- I will live my life with courtesy and honor from this day forward.
Baby Jack, I know you will grow up to be an honorable man. You have as a model, a father who embodies all of these traits and two Grandfathers who will support you too. I think it might be a harder journey today than ever before but it is a journey worth making.
Much love and respect to you, Grandson. There is much work to do to make the world you will inherent a fit place for you - and any future sisters you might have - to live in peace. Merry Christmas.