From the wild Irishslums of the 19th century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history; a community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder — most particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure — that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1965)
It really sucks when men who have seen a lot in their life and know history make predictions based on experience and a profound understanding of the human condition are ignored, and then proven correct decades later through the loss of social stability.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, yes, was a Democrat, and yes, he was a classical liberal with a number of viewpoints that are not compatible with today’s political right. But the man was not stupid about human behavior and warned at the time of the Great Society that mistakes were being made. He has turned out to be a prophet of sorts when it comes to social issues.
This past week has seen four separate incidents in the United States where young men have “exhibited anti-social behavior” – aka acted like thugs. For the most part, the right has latched onto two of the incidents, the random shooting of baseball player Chris Lane in Oklahoma and the fatal beating (with FLASHLIGHTS?!) of a World War II Veteran in Spokane, Washington. In both cases, the victims were white, and all but one of the attackers was black.
As information continues to come out about the attackers, a pattern is starting to emerge. From the Oklahoma shooting:
James Johnson, who called police to tell them the trio was hiding in the carpark of the Immanuel Baptist Church about 5pm on Friday, described them in all-too-familiar terms. He called them “troublemakers” and “bullies” with no parental supervision, and said that Edwards had threatened to kill his own son using Facebook. ”They threatened to kill my son because they are in a gang, the Crips, and were trying to get my son in it and I wouldn’t let him do it.,” Johnson explained. “I told him he couldn’t run with those boys. He’s a little terrified.” Police Chief Ford believes that the teens’ wanted “to make a name for themselves” on the streets.
…The key factors observers like Sowell and Williams frequently point to are the destruction of the nuclear family and the widespread glorification of social dysfunction. Though they affect all racial groups to varying degrees (after all, one conspirator in the Lane killing was white) no one can dispute their devastating effects on the black community.
And from the beating in Washington state:
A friend, Ted Denison, said he was planning to go to the Eagles Lodge when he heard Belton had died.
“He put his life on the line for our country to come home and 60 years later? Get beat to death?” Denison said. “That’s not right.”
Denison, a veteran himself, said he used to tease Belton about his membership in the Eagles Lodge, saying that place was for “old fogies.” He didn’t make it to the lodge in time.
“I don’t care who you are, you don’t beat up an old man,” Denison said. “You’re supposed to respect your elders, not beat them to death.”
Refraining from bullying, respecting elders, choosing blood family over a gang family…those are all issues that should be dealt with in childhood, when people are taught to be civilized. My four year old nephew has been a challenge on some anti-social behavior, but with consistent effort, love, and a lot of pouting lips, it’s being dealt with.
This is part of being a parent…and aunts and uncles, and grandparents, hopefully all together. It’s our job to civilize the next generation, so that incidents like the ones above are not shrugged off, as seems to be happening from “leaders” in a certain segment of our population.
Tuesday, a young white man armed with an automatic rifle and lots of ammunition walked into a black elementary school in Georgia with every intention of having a loud, messy confrontation with police and lots of publicity. A very brave and very good woman who happens to be black – it really shouldn’t matter – talked him down and managed to keep the incident from being anything other than a few exchanged rounds with police. From initial reports, it sounded like the young man was suicidal. With a decent amount of information from a BRITISH publication, more of what we’ve heard before with the big, splashy school shootings comes out:
His brother Timothy Hill also spoke to ABC and told them: ‘I honestly can tell you he has got a long history of medical disorders, including bipolar, and that could make you snap on a dime.
‘My mom’s almost looked like a drugstore at one point. There was so many different medications he was on.’
Hill, 22, said he is not close to his brother and last saw him in January 2011.
He did not reveal exactly what his mental health issue but said he was taking drugs for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder since he was six-years-old.
‘I had a feeling he was going to eventually, one day, do something stupid, but not of this magnitude,’ he said, adding that he once threatened to kill him.
There’s those psychotropic drugs again. And mental illness. And a mother who depended on pharmacology, probably under the direction of a medical professional. There’s no mention in any of the articles I’ve found on whether or not there is a father in the picture. The brother, who is stable, took a powder.
What is most striking to any American watching all this wondering “how do we fix this with the state of the family in a shambles, the ability of the state and doctors to commit potentially violent people hindered, and the very communities who need to take action blaming everyone else for the problems” is how widespread all the incidents are. Not one took place in Chicago. None were in an inner city. The fourth incident of the week, a beating in the metro area where I live of a hot dog vendor for his cell phone, was in suburbia. Pretty much black suburbia in that part of the county, but suburbia.
This behavior is a nation-wide problem. Acting like a thug is a subculture that is gaining traction among a younger generation who must not have been taught that being a thug is not socially acceptable or desirable.
How did we get to this point? By the systematic dismantling of the social structures that civilize young men. It used to be that kids were almost always raised in a family with both a father and mother, possibly grandparents in the house, where there was discipline, expectations of higher behavior standards, a passing on of what it means to be a man (or a woman), and an understanding that life is a cycle. Youth is a particularly turbulent time of it, but it’s part of life, which is precious.
THAT’s why social issues matter. We are seeing the aftermath of what happens when no one teaches young men that bullying, beating old men, and killing for fun and a chance to have your picture on headline news are unacceptable behaviors. We are seeing what happens when the family is replaced with a gang structure. And we are seeing what happens when true mental illness is not forcibly kept under control.
This has been happening for some time, most noticably in the inner cities, and as Senator Moynihan pointed out, has happened before. But it has now spread to the point where it can no longer be called someone else’s problem.
This is why social issues matter.