[UPDATED] Sorry, Hallmark; Men are forgetting to be Fathers!

“Men have forgotten God!”  Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously thundered this verdict in a 1983 speech after his exile from Soviet Russia.

He was speaking of both Western and Communist civilizations, and he clearly referred to “men” in the generic sense of all humanity, of both (or, as we might say today, all) genders.  It is hard to argue against his conclusion.

But today, on the eve of what the Hallmark Corporation has dubbed “Fathers’ Day”, another aspect of our amnesia is also evident.  Men have forgotten to be Fathers!  Our civilizational collapse is a clear result of both these plagues of memory loss.  (Of course, the two are pretty obviously linked.  One might identify the first forgetting as the ultimate cause, and the second forgetting as the proximate cause. Or vice versa.)

An overly-sweeping generalization, you say? Yes, of course it is. But it is a widespread and growing phenomenon. The statistics are hardly debatable, or even debated.  More than a quarter of the 121 million men in the United States (that is, over 30 million men) are biological fathers of at least one child under the age of 18.  Of those children, 17 million live in fatherless homes. The reasons are many: divorce, abandonment, incarceration, etc. But except for the death or overseas service of a father, they shed no credit on the modern father.

Children from fatherless homes account for:

Suicide: 63 percent of youth suicides

Runaways: 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths

Behavioral Disorders: 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders

High School Dropouts: 71 percent of all high school dropouts

Juvenile Detention Rates: 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions

Substance Abuse: 75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers

Aggression: 75 percent of rapists motivated by displaced anger

And now SCHOOL SHOOTINGS:  82% are boys from fatherless homes!

(These statistics even understate the damage, as some so-called “stepfathers” all too often turn abusive against “their children”.)

As I wrote a while back in “Suffer the Little Children”, “the importance of this issue cannot be exaggerated. The social pathologies that plague western society today may be traced to many causes (“we have forgotten God”), but one of the most obvious is the weakening of families.  Poverty in America is largely traceable to single-parent households, as violent crime is largely traceable to boys raised in fatherless households.

Too many men have forgotten everything about fatherhood. They have forgotten the “how” of it (except the biological inception part at the beginning). And the “why” of it is a blank, unasked and unanswered.  The presumption is that it is an unwanted side effect, an accidental result to be avoided or evaded at all costs. 

The “how”, after the first fun part, is the support of the mother as she nurtures the child they have created together.  After the birth, fatherhood means the building of the family to support both the mother and child as the child grows into adulthood.  It means being a role model of love and strength and maturity and responsibility.  It is a heavy thing, but men are built to carry heavy things.

As I said above, this is a sweeping generalization. There are many, probably most, fathers who are good supportive parents doing the best they can to raise and protect their children in this increasingly child-unfriendly environment. But the “other” fathers are helping to create and exacerbate the problems that are imperiling us all.

On the other hand, maybe I am worrying too much about this. We have now officially decided that women can be fathers at least as well as men can.  (Indeed, women can do anything as well as men except, apparently, most athletic events and sports.)  Men are increasingly regarded as superfluous. And they know it.

Ray Davies of the (aptly named ?) Kinks predicted this way back in 1970:

Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, 

It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world…”  [except for Lola, of course.]

What can we do about it?

1. Raise our children to understand the nobility and importance of being a good father.  Show him how it is done.  (Show our grandchildren too.)

2. Pray for a rebirth of appreciation of fatherhood in our society.  (If you are Catholic, direct a prayer to St. Joseph, the patron and model of fatherhood.)

3. And celebrate your own father every day. Pray for him, whether he is living, dead, or unknown.

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