Ryland Fisher is an independent media professional. Picture: Facebook
There was a time, in my mind not too long ago, when I would have had a double celebration tomorrow: celebrating as a young father both Father’s Day and Youth Day which, unusually, falls on the same day this year.

But that time has long gone, and, unlike the ANC Youth League leadership, I realise that one cannot hang onto one’s youth forever, no matter how desperately one wants to. I am still a father, however, and can at least enjoy celebrating that fact very proudly. I will, as always, reflect on Youth Day and the many who have sacrificed their lives over the years so that we can have our freedom today. 

Father’s Day, of course, is a commercial construct which often gives families with flawed relationships an opportunity to feel better about themselves - seeking salvation in gifts and other indulgences. For many people, however, it remains a day in which they can express genuine appreciation for their fathers, but these are normally the same people who would express those sentiments throughout the year.

I have never really worried too much about Father’s Day but, like most people I suppose, I have no problem with receiving presents or being spoiled on any day.

But I see Father’s Day also as an opportunity for me as a father to show appreciation to the women in my life, my wife and three beautiful daughters who have stood beside me, behind me and sometimes in front of me over the years.

Commercialism apart, Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, is a good opportunity to reflect on the importance of relationships and to realise that none of us can survive in this world without the support of those closest to us.

Youth Day is a different matter. It was born out of struggle and sacrifice, particularly the many lives lost on June 16 and 17, 1976 after pupils protested against being taught in Afrikaans in Soweto.

The protests quickly spread throughout the country, including the Western Cape, resulting in even more deaths. In fact, more people died at the hands of police in the Western Cape than anywhere else in the country in 1976, a fact that malicious historians often overlook because it does not fit their narrative of a conservative Western Cape.

In many ways, 1976 was a turning point for the liberation movement and the struggle. There had been many quiet years in the struggle after the banning of the ANC and other organisations at the beginning of the 1960s.

Many young people left the country to join the liberation movement in exile and because the ANC was better organised than, for instance, the PAC, most of these young people ended up in ANC camps, becoming umKhonto we Sizwe soldiers, even though their political sympathies were probably closer to the PAC.

For many years, we commemorated June 16 and 17 as Soweto Days, until it was changed in our new democracy to Youth Day, in some ways removing some of the history from the day. The same happened with Human Rights Day, which we always remembered as Sharpeville Day in memory of the people who were killed in pass protests on March 21, 1960.

It is important to remember our history because quite often, one can learn from the mistakes and successes of those who have gone before.

We owe to the youth who died in Soweto and elsewhere, to make our democracy the best it can be.

* Fisher is the CEO of Ikusasa Lethu Media. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Weekend Argus