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Fatherless America

By | November 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

My father was a respected physician and family man. All my life I have tried ‒ with varying success ‒ to live up to his example. But what if I believed he was a convicted felon who abandoned my mother and me? What if I had been taught since childhood that he was a worthless good-for-nothing?

My whole life would have been changed. I would have been deprived of my role model of a husband and father. I would have felt the need for someone or something to fill this gap, perhaps a gang or a cult. And like many boys whose fathers walked out on them, I probably would have been chronically angry ‒ angry at men in general, and angry at authority figures in particular, including the ultimate one, God.

By father I mean a male who takes responsibility for raising children, whether he is a biologic father, an adoptive father, a teacher, a coach, or a friend who assumes the role. Much has been written about the harmful effect of fatherlessness on kids, especially boys. For but one example, consider that the Las Vegas mass murderer’s father was largely absent in addition to being an armed robber.

What I wish to discuss here is not the effect on individuals, but the effect on the nation as a whole. What effects can we expect if we come to believe that our Founding Fathers ‒ our spiritual fathers ‒ were slave-owning, racist, warmongering, genocidal, adulterous, money-grubbing racists?

Human beings are social. With rare exceptions, they prefer to live in groups. So what happens when the group believes itself to be fatherless and lacking any guiding principles?

● The “Father of His Country” was George Washington. But he owned slaves. True, he freed them at his death, but he was still a slave-owner. Doesn’t that invalidate all the good things he did, and all the principles he stood for?

● Lincoln held the nation together through the Civil War, ended slavery, and was murdered for his efforts. But he also expressed (by today’s standards) racist views. Doesn’t that cancel out whatever good he did?

● Teddy Roosevelt was an inspiring leader and reformer. But he was also an avid hunter. Doesn’t that mean he was a despicable killer?

● Franklin Roosevelt overcame polio and led the nation to victory over Nazism and Japanese imperialism. But he had a mistress, and ‒ horror! ‒ he smoked cigarettes in public. Doesn’t that make him a bad role model?

If our past leaders weren’t perfect, does that mean they are unworthy of our admiration? Since no human being ever was perfect, this type of thinking destroys all role models, leaving young people with no one to admire and emulate.

For a few individualists, this may not matter. But for the great majority who need landmarks toward which to aim, this destructive process leaves only a confusing, bewildering vacuum. Vacuums tend to be filled with something. If we deprive kids of positive role models, they often will find negative ones.

Washington and Lincoln weren’t perfect, but don’t they make better role models than Adolf Hitler, the idol of the Columbine High School killers? Aren’t they preferable to Osama Bin Laden, the guru of John Walker Lindh? Aren’t they more beneficial for kids to emulate than the local drug dealer or gang leader? But we no longer observe Washington’s or Lincoln’s Birthdays. Instead, we observe Presidents’ Day. Which presidents are we honoring? Millard Fillmore?

We are trying so hard not to produce super-patriots that we are producing no patriots at all. We are trying so hard not to produce fanatics that we are producing people who believe in nothing. We are trying so hard not to produce intolerance that we are producing people who tolerate anything.

And as if it weren’t destructive enough to do away with our nation’s “fathers,” we went on to undermine and belittle the ideals they stood for:

● The key provision of the Declaration of Independence is that all people are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. But we built a “wall of separation” between church and state. We can’t have a “Creator” in a public document. So we now teach kids, and even law students, that the government endows us with rights. But what the government gives, it can as easily take away. If we have a problem with an all-powerful Creator, should an all-powerful government make us feel more protected?

● The Founders viewed the Bill of Rights not as granting us rights, but as recognizing pre-existing rights that were God-given. Of course, that idea is out as well. So now we teach that if the First Amendment were repealed, we would have no right to freedom of speech or religion. Should that make us feel more secure?

● High-school students used to be taught that the Constitution has a fixed meaning as intended by its authors, and that it limits the powers of government. Now we teach that it is a “living document” and is to be interpreted as judges see fit. Should that make us feel more safe?

● Law students used to be taught that the purpose of the law is only secondarily to punish those who break it. The primary purpose is to tell people what the law is and encourage their compliance. Now our Constitution and laws and subject to frequent and capricious reinterpretations, so the law is losing its predictability ‒ and its justification for requiring our obedience.

● The “wall of separation” prevents a moment of silent prayer or posting of the Ten Commandments. But somehow it does not prevent California schools from requiring kids to memorize the Five Pillars of Islam, or from teaching about the “Holy” Koran and the “Prophet” Muhammad. Imagine the uproar if teachers referred to the “Holy” Bible, to the “Prophet” Moses, or to Jesus as the “Son of God.” Apparently the “wall” keeps out only Judeo-Christian beliefs, while any others pass through freely.

● Kids used to be taught that the Civil War, the bloodiest in our history, had complex causes, but the bottom line was that one-third of a million white men and boys died fighting for the Union, and slavery was ended. But now the complex causes are emphasized, and the bottom line is all but ignored. So why be grateful to men who died fighting for “economics”? (Would anyone you know die for “economics”?)

● Kids used to be taught that the westward expansion of the nation came at the expense of Native Americans, but ultimately a great and free nation resulted. But now the expense is stressed, and the end result is belittled. So why be grateful to the pioneers and soldiers who risked their lives to settle the West?

● The Founders believed that free people have a duty to stand up to tyrants. But now we teach, “Violence never settles anything.” So why be grateful to all those who suffered or died fighting George III, Santa Ana, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, Tojo, Kim Il Sung, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein, or Osama Bin Laden?

● War is “imperialistic” and soldiers are “brutal,” so why be grateful for freedom? Police and firefighters are “Neanderthals,” so why be grateful for safety? Business people are “exploitive” (or perhaps even exploitative), so why be grateful for a profusion of goods? Farmers “despoil the earth,” so why be grateful for abundant food? Scientists are “elitist” and “abusive of research animals,” so why be grateful for new medicines? Come to think of it, why be grateful to anyone for anything? How narcissistic. And how convenient.

Is it possible that the various aspects of fatherhood are interconnected? Is it conceivable that in pushing actual fathers out of the picture, we also weakened the role of the Founding Fathers and of our Father in Heaven as well? Is it plausible that in weakening the role of our Father in Heaven, we weakened earthly fathers also? At least we can say with assurance that all three aspects of fatherhood were weakened during the same period. A causal interrelation seems obvious.

Yet we continue to ask, why should we look up to anyone, if everyone is imperfect and riddled with faults and contradictions? Why should we stand up for principles, if those principles are hypocritical, uncertain, and fundamentally meaningless?

People who have no role models to emulate are, in a very real sense, fatherless. People who have no firm principles to hold onto in times of trouble are rootless. People who have no moral compass to steer by are likely to become lost. People who have no distant landmark to aim for are likely to stay lost.

If you teach a generation of young Americans that the great individuals of the past, and the principles they championed, are without value, you do a great disservice to that generation, and to America as well. Indeed, you do a disservice to the world ‒ if Americans don’t stand up for their principles, who will?

If you convince me that my father was a worthless bum, you do me serious harm. If you then tell me that everything he believed in was bogus, you make things even worse. Only an enemy would do that.

Author’s Note: Thanks to Rabbi Daniel Lapin for pointing out in “America’s Real War” that belittling one’s father can change one’s whole life for the worse.

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