My Turn: Searching for causation in a violent time

For the Monitor
Published: 9/7/2019 7:00:09 AM

At the risk of sounding like a philistine, I’m not a fan of poetry. After the forced march through haiku in middle school and learning the naughty delights of dirty limericks, I never developed an appreciation for the poetic form.

Every generalization has exceptions. One such was referenced in “Blowback and Mass Shootings” by Taylor Lewis in the Aug. 8 American Thinker. Lewis quoted W.H. Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939,” about the day Germany invaded Poland, setting off the Second World War. Though it’s been 80 years since that terrible event, Auden’s search for causation provides insight to terrible events today.

Auden’s exploration focused on the psychological state of the German people: “Accurate scholarship can / Unearth the whole offence / From Luther until now / That has driven a culture mad, / Find what occurred at Linz, / What huge imago made / A psychopathic god.”

Then comes this warning: “I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn, / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.”

“Accurate scholarship” is hard to come by in today’s politicized culture. But divining some truths doesn’t require a Ph.D. Just as nations that are disconnected from the community of nations can burn with rage at perceived injustices, people disconnected from the community of fellow citizens can lash out brutally, unpredictably. This, I think, is at the heart of America’s gun violence: We are growing in miniature our own “psychopathic gods.”

What evil was done to young men that turned them into shocking headlines from El Paso, Dayton, Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine and most recently Midland that they would do such evil in return? What evil propels the non-headline-grabbing, more deadly violence that has become little more than urban background noise?

No matter who they are or what weapons they chose, the most common thread connecting these killers – besides being men – is their detachment from society. Such have always been in our midst, but today we seem to be growing more men who suffer nihilistic, violent social detachment. What is “the whole offense” behind this phenomenon?

That question can be answered with another question: What else should we have expected when we detached children from the moral laws and traditions that guided mankind for millennia?

In a social experiment of unparalleled scope and destruction, the progressive movement has sought to replace the foundational truths of human behavior with something artificial and alien. In the process, it has despoiled everything it’s touched. When called out, progressive apologists attack the messenger, using everything from social media censorship to antifa criminals.

It is by design, not accident, that 50 years after the Sexual Revolution, 40% of America’s children are born out-of-wedlock (up from just 5%) and the number of children living in single-parent (usually female-headed) homes doubled. Our welfare system has devolved into a “husband and father replacement system,” with a third of our nation’s children being raised without a father. A government check can’t be a role model for a boy.

It is by design, not accident, that many of our public schools are violent places where students fail to master even the basics. All students suffer, but the system has become a device to alternately bore and torment boys – or turn them into tormentors. Rather than channeling and cultivating their natural energy, we use medication or ineffectual discipline in a futile attempt to tamp it down. Many boys tune out or drop out. Since 1982, women have earned 13 million more college degrees than men.

It is by design, not accident, that jobs once available to high school-educated men were shifted overseas or undercut by illegal labor at home. In the last recession – dubbed a “mancession” – 80 percent of job losses were among men. Female-dominated professions in the health, education and government employment sectors grew faster than the rest of the economy.

No role models at home, poor educational preparation, fewer opportunities in the economy: The real wonder isn’t that we have so many violence-prone young men, it’s that we don’t have more.

Our boys are self-destructing because as a society we’ve forgotten how to raise, educate and prepare them for adulthood. What did we expect would happen?

(Ken Gorrell of Northfield is a self-employed child advocate.)


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