Tag Archives: divorce

[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.

What About the CHILDREN?

The Obama administration’s latest use of children as political props has, as usual, called forth much praise and very little outrage. We have become accustomed to such things. We hardly notice. And this latest is by no means the worst.

The irony is that while children are moved to the fore when useful as window dressing on issues to which they are peripheral, they are so often shoved off the stage when they are central to the issue.

EXAMPLE ONE: DIVORCE, also called dissolution of marriage. Marriage is an act of union between two adults, and so is its dissolution. As things now stand in America, children, if any, are collateral issues, like joint property. Their interests are to be addressed in working out the details, not in the basic decision to permit the dissolution.

Divorce involving only two married adults, at least one of whom is unhappy with the marriage, is one thing. It is hard to think of any reason why law or society should stand in their way.

But what about the other kind of divorce? What if it means the breakup of a family with children, often because one of the adult partners (usually the husband) is tired of the responsibilities and limitations imposed upon him by his role in the family.

The results of such “divorce” is all around us. Poverty in the US is largely caused by fathers abandoning (or being thrust from) families and leaving behind single mothers with children.  It is the result of easy divorce.

Of course, it is also the result of easy breakups of unwed cohabitation “families”, where no formal divorce is required because no formal marriage was thought necessary. And it is increasingly the result of single women making a choice to bear children without a resident father at all. But all these phenomena may be regarded as facets of a generalized downgrading of the importance of the “traditional family”, and especially of the role of the father, as a general concern of society.

We have taken the sexual and libertarian mantra that society should not interfere in the “private affairs of consenting adults,” put the children out of our minds, and gotten to our present state of affairs.

Yet no legislature, as far as I know, has ever seriously debated treating adult divorce as one thing (tolerable as being of no concern to society), and family destruction/abandonment as the terrible destructive act that it is.
Such is the confusion caused when our language is used to facilitate this child vanishing act.

EXAMPLE TWO: GAY MARRRIAGE.

In the cause of ending the cruel persecution of gay people, “civil union” laws were proposed. While they were being adopted or considered in many states, it was proclaimed that only full “marriage rights” were acceptable.

The debate proceeded like this:

“Children are the real point of marriage,” the traditionalists said.

“What about childless couples? Aren’t they married?” the advocates countered. “Marriage, like sex, is about consenting adults. Besides, science shows that children only need caring adult parents, not mothers and fathers.”

And so, a few shoddy social-science “studies” supporting their position are cited. Contrary studies (and common sense) are ignored or brushed aside.

The courts have led the way in airbrushing children out of the picture of marriage. In a typical example, when the Iowa Supreme Court decided that marriage is not an institution between man and woman and that society has no interest in the traditional family, it cited:

 “an abundance of evidence and research, confirmed by our independent research, supporting the proposition that the interests of children are served equally by same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents. On the other hand, we acknowledge the existence of reasoned opinions that dual-gender parenting is the optimal environment for children. These opinions, while thoughtful and sincere, were largely unsupported by reliable scientific studies. The research appears to strongly support the conclusion that same-sex couples foster the same wholesome environment as opposite-sex couples and suggests that the traditional notion that children need a mother and a father to be raised into healthy, well-adjusted adults is based more on stereotype than anything else.” (April 3, 2009, p.54; my emphasis. No information regarding the court’s “independent research” is provided.)

And, by a remarkable bit of circular sophistry, each debate victory reinforces the other. Because marriage isn’t about children, gay couples can marry. And because gay couples can marry, they must be free to adopt children (like any other married couple). Gay adoption is OK because children don’t need mothers and fathers. And because gay adoption is OK, gay marriage must be OK too, so that the children will have families. Not that there is anything wrong with single parents…

And so on.