Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The heart of the problem

Detroit's interim police chief weighs in:
"America has a problem with guns, but the epicenter seems to be here in Detroit," Interim Detroit Police Chief Chester Logan said at a news conference Thursday, as city officials reported 386 criminal homicides in 2012, the highest since 1992.

"As the chief of police in the city of Detroit, I take a certain amount of blame for the spiraling gunplay in the city," he said, "but one of the things you should realize, and everybody here in this room should realize, is that gunplay is a national problem.”

This is focusing on the symptom rather than the cause.  America doesn't have a firearm problem... it has a family problem, as USA Today examines:
All but one of the 62 mass killings in the past 30 years was committed by boys or men.

For boys, the road to successful manhood has crumbled. In many boys' journey from a fatherless family to an almost all-female staff elementary school such as Sandy Hook, there is no constructive male role model.
Adam Lanza is reported to have gone downhill when divorce separated him from his dad. Children of divorce without enough father contact are prone to have poor social skills; to struggle with the five D's (depression, drugs, drinking, discipline and delinquency); be suicidal; be less able to concentrate; and to be aggressive but not assertive. Perhaps most important, these boys are less empathetic.

There are few things a culture does as important as raising children. We can't continue to fail half of them.

I believe the author is onto something here, although I disagree (strongly) with his proposal for more government intervention via some "Council on Men and Boys."  Government has already played a key role in the breakdown of the traditional family, via which boys used to be groomed into men.  The most important thing it could do to help solve the problem is to remove its perturbing paternal influences.   The debilitating effects of family breakdown were evident as early as the 1965 Moynihan Report.  The "War on Poverty," just then getting under way, exacerbated many of the trends by inserting government as a parental-type provider, instead of encouraging nuclear families to remain strong and independent.  The feminists of the day may have been able to chant "I don't need no man," but it was largely because they could go to Uncle Sugar for support, and he was less demanding in the commitment department.  At least for a while...

At the same time, the portrayal of fatherhood began its sad decline from the "Father Knows Best" model to the "Married... with Children" mockery.  Society found humor in portraying fathers as either clueless morons or overbearing tyrants.  So where is a young boy to turn for guidance as he navigates to manhood?  Left adrift to pop culture and his peers, it's a wonder we don't have MORE nihilistic lone wolves than we already do.

Getting government to step aside and stop trying to perform roles it was never intended to take on is one thing.  But in its place, men will have to step back up to the mandate they have largely been allowed to shirk for a couple generations: that of leading and molding the future.  They need to show that being a man isn't about trash talk, physical prowess or sexual conquests.  It's about mastering self-control, and harnessing one's capabilities to productive purposes... including raising the next generation.  Only when that model again becomes the norm will we see any progress on this front.  Anything else will merely continue to treat the symptoms as more precious lives are wasted for lack of a guide to show the way.

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