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.
On television, super single mother has nearly perfect hair and makeup and her burden doesn't come close to reality. On top of this, celebrities routinely put their needs to feel loved and gratified above the needs of children to have a father in their lives, and thus set the example that single motherhood is cool.
Our society affirms the statement of Gloria Steinem that a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. That message has been sent to fathers in a thousand different ways by academic writers, entertainers, and government programs, which subsidize illegitimacy and discount the role of fatherhood. No amount of "The More You Know" public service announcements can stem that tide without confronting the forces that like a corrosive acid eat away at the institution of fatherhood.
When one begins to talk about this issue, our society's oversensitivity kicks in. To say that you believe fatherlessness is a problem is taken as bashing single mothers (which is something only David Letterman's allowed to do.)
Of course, I'm not bashing single mothers, but I refuse to allow political correctness to claim that one plus zero equals two. No how matter how great mom is, she's not dad. She cannot take his place in their child's heart no matter how hard she tries. And yes, this is also true in the reverse. Dad can't take mom's place either, but that social problem is less prevalent with little statistics available. We do, however, have statistical evidence revealing the negative impact of absentee fathers. Those who argue otherwise are arguing for the worthlessness of fathers from a mathematical standpoint.
Recall, from early algebra, if you were given the equation "M+ F = M" and told to solve for "F," it would be a simple exercise. F = 0 as it adds nothing to the equation. This is exactly what many modern feminists allege about fathers.
Nor should this be interpreted as a call for more abortions. Abortion, if anything, has separated men from a sense of responsibility, as our nation's laws in effect declare a child the sole property of the mother.
On the issue of fathers, the "reality-based" community denies social studies, citing people who grew up well with only one parent or grew up poorly with two parents. These arguments are much like a smoker's justification that Uncle Joe smoked three packs a day and lived to be eighty-five. Exceptions to a general rule don't disprove the rule when a large body of science backs it up.
The science is ignored because it undermines the institutional ideal of self-actualization. The unhappy married couple that stays together "for the children" is mocked. The man who "comes out of the closet" and leaves his wife and children is celebrated for following his heart. Commitment and obligation are cast aside for happiness and immediate personal fulfillment.
There is a price to pay, and, like with government spending, the future generations pay the most dearly. Children have been treated as secondary considerations, as worth less than the personal gratification of their parents.
It may have been their choice to make, but I'm reminded of the words of the knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade after Walter Donovan drank from the false grail. "He chose poorly."
Hundreds of billions of the dollars we spend on government expenditures are the direct result of fatherlessness, from health care for poor children, to welfare, to prisons to house the young men whose substitutes for dad led them into a life of crime. America has a higher percentage of its population in prison than any nation on the face of the Earth. Somehow, there's never quite enough space. We continually debate how we will find new space to house all the new prisoners, while ignoring the decline of fatherhood that has created the problem in the first place.
Yet with Harrisburg on the brink of martial law, this news reminds us we can only build so many jails. The message of Harrisburg is clear: a day of reckoning is coming. It seems far more likely America's largest cities will be under siege from their father-hungry children than from al-Qaeda.