No Father? No Chance

In Harrisburg, the capital city of Pennsylvania, crime has become such a problem that Stanley Lawson of the NAACP has asked Governor Ed Rendell to call in the National Guard to restore order.

During the month of June, twelve young people were gunned down. Many in broad daylight.

Mr. Lawson said: "We're beyond what the Harrisburg police department can do. We need help." Another NAACP member, Stanley Mitchell, in declaring the need to suspend some civil rights, added: "We have the civil right not to be shot."

It's easy to attack their willingness to demand martial law with a mandatory curfew, or to quote Benjamin Franklin's warning that those who trade essential liberty for security will have neither liberty nor security. But that misses the point. The reaction of the Harrisburg NAACP is the same reaction that will come from anyone forced to live in a war zone.

Yet Mr. Johnson blames the actions of young gang warriors on fear. It would be more apt to say that the problem is fatherlessness.

The statistics are not pretty. Of teen runaways, 90 percent come from fatherless homes. So do 85 percent of all youth currently sitting in prison and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates. The negative statistics continue seemingly without end regarding the social (63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes), economic (75 percent of children in single parent homes experience poverty), and educational (71 percent of high school dropouts are from single parent homes) impacts of homes without fathers -- and how the problem has become pandemic among the African American community.

I had to tip my hat to President Obama on Father's Day for taking special care to remind fathers of their responsibility. The genuine tragedy of the president's life is his missing father, whose acceptance and love Obama could never earn, no matter how much he achieved.

This respect for the president's stand on fatherhood must be tempered somewhat. President Obama is trying a soft sell on fatherhood. He dare not follow in the steps of politicians like former Vice President Dan Quayle, who was viciously savaged for challenging the media's glorification of single motherhood. Nor will the president's toothless support for fatherhood lead him to frontally challenge the cultural prevailing winds that are leading more and more fathers out of their children's lives.

Quayle's attack on Murphy Brown's positive portrayal of single motherhood was mocked. Indeed, it's a common argument that television cannot be blamed for society's ills. Individuals are responsible for their own actions, but to suggest that television plays no role in shaping behavior is silly.

Let's take the following suggestion: "The Cosby Show helped us to recognize the existence of black middle class families and helped American whites see our similarities and not just our differences. Indeed, the Huxtables opened the door to the Obamas." Few would argue back: "Television has no impact on our understanding of other people or the issues. It has no impact on our thinking about anything whatsoever." To allow for the positive impact of television, while not admitting where it is harmful, is a contradiction.

Since Murphy Brown, the positive portrayal of single motherhood on television has skyrocketed. Most of these women are unlike any real single mothers I've known. In real life, I see the harried woman, exhausted trying to hold down a full-time job while trying to do the job of two parents at home. She is constantly on the verge of being fired due to attendance issues while trying to get her child to day care or babysitters and dealing with cancellations.

But I've not seen this woman on television.