Physician: American Children ‘Immersed in a Culture of Disrespect’ | Intellectual Takeout

Physician: American Children ‘Immersed in a Culture of Disrespect’

America’s children are immersed in a culture of disrespect: for parents, teachers, and one another.

Source: Physician: American Children ‘Immersed in a Culture of Disrespect’ | Intellectual Takeout

“America’s children are immersed in a culture of disrespect: for parents, teachers, and one another. They learn it from television, even on the Disney Channel, where parents are portrayed as clueless, out-of-touch or absent [fathers, in particular]. They learn it from celebrities or the Internet. They learn it from social media. They teach it to one another. They wear T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like ‘I’m not shy. I just don’t like you.’”

– Dr. Leonard Sax

This is, I am quite convinced, one of – not the only, but one of – the factors leading to the kind of society in which incidents such as mass murder at schools or other locations is even thinkable. Dr. Sax sites the example of Kyle, one of his patients:

“Kyle was absorbed in a videogame on his cellphone, so I asked his mom, ‘How long has Kyle had a stomach ache?’ Mom said, ‘I’m thinking it’s been about two days.’ Then Kyle replied, ‘Shut up, mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And he gave a snorty laugh, without looking up from his videogame. Kyle is 10 years old.”

There are several – interlocked – problems, here. One is that Kyle is “absorbed in a videogame on his cellphone,” at a time when he should be focusing his attention on the doctor – after all, he’s there for his own benefit! That his mother allows this is another. And that he is thus emboldened to be openly disrespectful and derogatory toward her – at all, but especially in public – is the crowning blow. And he’s not even a teenager, yet! With a start like this, what’s he going to be like when he is?

Now, does this mean that Kyle is going to become a mass-murderer? No, not necessarily. But there is some fertile soil there, for such an extreme version of acting-out. That he cares only for himself – and at that, his immediate desire for electronic gratification, even though he’s at the doctor’s because he has a stomach-ache – and neither those around him (including his mother, who presumable loves and sacrifices for him), nor even his own larger benefit, does not bode well for the future. Nor does the fact that he is dismissive and even belligerent toward those (again, including his mother) who are trying to help him.

Disrespect breeds disrespect. Self-centeredness breeds self-centeredness. And we don’t know what kind of video-game he’s playing. Is it an active-shooter game? Wouldn’t surprise me. If he’s like this at 10, what’s he going to be like at 15 or 16? If people irk him, tick him off, bully him, etc. – as inevitably happens in life – is he going to react to them in real life like his video-game character reacts to an imaginary scenario? By blowing them away? Again, no guarantees. But it’s certainly a concerning situation.

At minimum, if he’s like this at age ten, he’s not setting himself up for a very happy, pleasant, productive, or socially-adjusted life. But while I’m all about personal responsibility, I’m also realistic enough to know that a ten-year-old isn’t in a position to practice a whole lot of that, absent parental support and instruction – and discipline, if or as needed. In other words, it’s not entirely his fault: he’s been allowed, or perhaps even tacitly (if unintentionally) encouraged to adopt this attitude, by things his parent(s) have done, or not done; allowed, or even encouraged.

But the article points out that “while disrespectful children have become the norm, Dr. Sax has found that respectful, obedient children still exist out there, largely because there are still a few parents who practice authoritative parenting.” In other words, the disrespectful ones are the ones whose parents have adopted a laissez-faire, “best friend,” or disengaged model of parenting. And not only they, but society, are reaping the bitter fruits of that planting. Fortunately, solutions exist – and they are basically what many of us would call traditional parenting.

Dr. Sax suggests three basic points: 1) Put the family before the child; 2) Remove distractions, and 3) Draw a line in the sand, and don’t look back. I would say that, better than #3, don’t let it get to that point in the first place! Practice #1 and 2 from the beginning, and you may not get to the point of needing #3 – or if you do, you won’t have as much re-education to do. But in any case, as this article asks,

“Americans have tried the kinder, gentler, let-me-be-your-friend approach to parenting for the last several decades. If the behavior problems in schools and the heightened level of sensitivity on college campuses are any indication, this parenting approach hasn’t produced the positive outcomes we were hoping for. Is it time for today’s parents to reverse course and begin teaching their children to respect others first instead of their own little selves?”

I would think the answer to that question was self-evident. So I’m going to assume that it’s merely rhetorical!

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“Tolerance is not a Christian virtue.”

Tolerance is not a Christian virtue

“We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty — these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it’s never an end itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil. Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square — peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation.”

– Archbishop Charles Chaput

What the Archbishop says about (Roman) Catholics applies to all other Christians, as well.

Fatherless Shooters … as Liberals Push for Fatherless Families | Crisis Magazine

Boys need dads. Just as daughters need dads. Children need fathers. They also need mothers.

Source: Fatherless Shooters … as Liberals Push for Fatherless Families – Crisis Magazine

I have a variety of interests, so I have a variety of stories coming through my Facebook news-feed – one of my chief methods, as a former op-ed columnist and lifelong student of human nature, for keeping my finger on the pulse of society. One of these was an essay by Paul Kengor, contributor to the online Roman Catholic magazine “Crisis,” citing a claim that I have seen before: that all but one of the 27 deadliest mass shooters in American history was raised in a home without his biological father.

Correlation, of course, is not causation; but if true, that would be a pretty stunning correlation. However, the essay was prefaced by an editor’s note that the figure cited was inaccurate, and containing a link to a new article discussing the complications in arriving at an authentic figure (the original article is well worth a read, even so, as shall become evident below). Kengor notes, with evident frustration, that “this is a dissertation project for an aspiring sociologist.” As it turns out, however, even the revised / updated estimates are still pretty stunning.

In “Shootings and Fatherlessness: A Clarification on the Data,” Kengor concludes that

“At most, and this is probably being generous, we found maybe four or five of the 27 shooters that we could definitively conclude (without doubt) had been raised in an intact family, or a family that included the biological dad at home, or a biological father who was consistently at home… what is clear is the vast majority of shooters came from broken families without a consistent biological father throughout their rearing and development. Very few had good, stable, present dads.”

Indeed! Something like one in five, if that. As Kengor goes on to note, “The overall thesis holds: the correlation between certain bad (even criminal) behavior among boys in fatherless homes is undeniable and terrible. In this case, the number of fatherless boys might not be 96 percent, but it’s certainly a highly disproportionate number.” He hastens to add that “Obviously, this doesn’t mean that boys raised in fatherless families are likely to become mass shooters. But it’s yet further affirmation of what we already know: boys need dads. Just as daughters need dads. Children need fathers. They also need mothers.”

This used to be self-evident, and widely accepted on both sides of the political aisle. Here is one quote from a former American President, cited by Kengor:

“We know the statistics—that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

Who spoke these words? Ronald Reagan? George W. Bush? Nope. Barack Obama. I am no fan of the 44th president, but if even the poster-child for modern American “liberal” and “progressive” ideology recognized, in 2008 – ten short years ago – that children need their fathers, that is a pretty clear indicator that it is, or should be, an issue that transcends partnership.

That it no longer seems to be so is a reflection of the changing parameters of progressivist ideology, but tracing that is not the concern of this present essay; Kengor does a rather good job of that in his piece, if you wish to pursue the matter. I will here simply note that even if the figure of 26 out of 27 mass shooters growing up in broken homes is erroneous, 22 or 23 out of that number is still stunningly high. It is not a number which can or should be dismissed by a thoughtful observer.

Now, as I say, I have a variety of interests. And so one of the other articles that came through my newsfeed on this day was this one, from the UK’s “The Guardian”: “No hugging: are we living through a crisis of touch?” The tagline notes that “Strokes and hugs are being edged out of our lives, with doctors, teachers and colleagues increasingly hesitant about social touching,” and asks, “Is this hypervigilance of boundaries beginning to harm our mental health?” My response to that question is that it contains its own answer. Of course it is!

As the essay itself notes, “Touch is the first sense humans develop in the womb, possessed even of 1.5cm embryos.” And insufficient touch – hugs, cuddles, etc. – has long been recognized as a contributor to “failure to thrive” in infants and children, and difficulties in childhood development in general. See, for example, this article in Scientific American, which notes that “Many children who have not had ample physical and emotional attention are at higher risk for behavioral, emotional and social problems as they grow up.” And something which is so critical to our early development does not suddenly become inconsequential once we have reached a certain level of maturity.

Furthermore, many mass shooters (though not all) are adolescents. With current studies suggesting that full brain maturity does not occur until somewhere between age 20 and 25, they are in many cases still in the development stage. So that leads me to wonder: are these people getting hugged enough? Are they – and particularly, were they during the most critical stages of development – receiving enough affection, enough positive emotional and physical stimuli? Were they, children of broken homes as so many of them have been, hugged, cuddled, read to while curled up in bed or their parents’ arms? This is not snowflake-safe-space la-la-land, this is a serious mental, and therefore public, health issue.

In fact, it leads me to have a little more sympathy for the seekers of “safe spaces” on the Left, because maybe they themselves did not get enough physical affection as children. Is that why so many of them seem so alienated, so angry, so out of touch with culture, history, heritage, traditional norms, and much else – that they did not, in fact, receive enough affection growing up? That they did not feel safe in their parents’ arms, surrounded by the comfort of home and family traditions? That, being also children of broken homes in too many cases, they never had a real sense of security and at-home-ness?

If so, that would not totally justify some of the looniness, but it might help to explain it. And, with our increasing prohibition on touch – out of an almost hysterical fear (not entirely unjustified, but excessive) of sexual predation – are we breeding more of the same? More alienation, more separation, and potentially, more violence? It’s a sobering thought, at least to me.

We are, at least and at last, starting to wake up to the role of mental illness in violence as more than just a convenient criminal defense (“not guilty by reason of insanity”). But we run the risk of over-reach – not everyone who has ever sought the aid of mental-health professionals is a risk to him- or herself, or others – and we also run the risk of stopping too soon, before we’ve followed the road for long enough. Okay, yeah, these folks definitely have some mental health issues. You don’t attempt to kill large numbers of people (or anyone, except to defend yourself or others) unless you’ve got some pretty serious mental health issues! But mental health issues don’t exist in a vacuum. Where do they come from? What is their source?

There is no single or easy answer to that question; but fatherlessness, and the larger issue of living in broken homes, dysfunctional and divided families, and the consequent loss of physical and emotional affection, positive reinforcement, and overall security that may result, do seem to be fruitful areas of inquiry, to me.

As well as the societal assumptions driving these problems: the idea that relationships are disposable – that people are disposable! – and that “my” short-term happiness and gratification is more important than the hard work of creating long-term, nurturing relationships; that marriage is no longer a sacred institution, but a short-term (or even optional) arrangement that may be ended or dispensed with according to  my own sense of what’s convenient; that children are an imposition (better to have “fur-babies”), not a gift from God; even that gender is fluid and interchangeable (which is one way of saying that objective reality is optional) – and the list could go on.

Guns are low-hanging fruit, easily observed and therefore easily blamed. I have discussed this issue many times and many places in the past, so all I will say at the moment is that a sufficiently draconian ban to have a realistic chance of making it impossible, or even difficult, for would-be mass murders to get their hands on firearms would a) be almost impossible to achieve in the U.S., even if it were desirable, and b) is not desirable, because it would involve an extreme infringement of our rights and liberties, and would unfairly burden the law-abiding while being unlikely to deter killers from finding other ways to kill.

The real issue is this: what causes people to choose to use firearms, not (as most of us do) as useful and interesting tools for hunting, for recreational shooting, and – if it should sadly become necessary – to defend ourselves, our loved ones, or even (God forbid) our country and its Constitutional system of government and way of life against malefactors, but instead to take innocent life? That is the real question, and the one which is being studiously avoided by the majority of media, academic, and political commentators.

But I would suggest to you that broken homes and families – fatherlessness in particular, but the absence of either parent is a major handicap – along with the loss of security, stability, and (by no means least) physical affection which accompanies that brokenness, are some areas in which we need to take a long, hard look at what we are doing and where we are going as a society.

As a driver-education instructor, I have many times told my students that since beginning to teach driver’s ed, I have come to realize that traffic and driving laws are not there to hold you back and make driving a chore. They are there to help you, to protect you, to save your life and the lives of others. In a similar way, I have over the years come to realize that the family and societal norms embodied in the Judeo-Christian religious tradition are not right because they are tenets of the religion. They are tenets of the religion (most of which are not entirely unique to that particular tradition) because they are right.

Don’t believe it? Look around you at the society in which we are living today, deeply and honestly, and I think you may change your mind.

And if not, I’m sorry to say, it may be some time for you to do some serious introspection and soul-searching.

Cardinal Erdo: Democracy’s foundations are ‘shaking’

Cardinal Peter Erdo_Credit Thaler Tama?s CC 3.0_CNA

A Hungarian cardinal has said that free societies must depend on the wisdom of religion to address the moral and social problems of the modern world.

Source: Cardinal Erdo: Democracy’s foundations are ‘shaking’

Addressing Columbia students and faculty, Erdo warned about the dangers of moral relativism, and discussed the necessity of the Church in a secular state.

The cardinal said that relativism— the inability to declare something as objectively right or objectively wrong—is a “grave crisis” of modern secular states. Without a foundation in natural law, he argued, societies become unstable, and moral evil becomes permissible.

“It is difficult for the state to decide what is good for man,” said Erdo, without some foundation in natural law and a religious worldview. Absent natural law and “by a weakening of belief in the rationality of the world,” societies lose trust in democratic institutions.

”Even the majority can end up with wrong or harmful decisions, especially if the concept of the common good becomes uncertain, because there is no consensus even on the anthropological foundations of law,” explained the cardinal.

Erdo said that until the philosophical Enlightenment, societies were effectively governed with an understanding that moral law was based on transcendent realities.

“Law, morals and religion prove to form an organic whole, which is characteristic of Western society right up to the age of Enlightenment,” Erdo said.

Our Founders were well aware of this problem! I am reminded of the famous quote by John Adams, in an address to the Massachusetts Militia on 11 October 1789, in which he reminded them that

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

And no less a personage that George Washington, in his Farewell Address on 19 September 1796, enjoined his countrymen to recall that

“Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.”

And the growing number and intensity of laws, passed in an attempt to reign in the unleashed appetites of humans who have forgotten moral obligation, religious duty, and philosophical self-control alike, is a reminder of the pithy observation of G.K. Chesterton, who, though neither a Founder nor an American, aptly noted,

“If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they will be governed by ten thousand commandments.”

Chesterton also observed, along the same lines, “When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.”

We often – and by “we,” I mean not the readership of this blog, but the larger secular society of which we are a part, or at least within which we find ourselves constrained to operate – often think of religion and morality as constraints upon freedom, liberty, and democracy (although we in the United States are not and were not intended by our Founders to be a democracy, but a representative, constitutional Republic, characterized by an ordered liberty grounded in classical moral standards).

But as the words of Cardinal Erdo, and the others quoted above, make clear, religion and morality are not the enemies of liberty, but its foundation.

Plausible distractor: gun control, contemporary culture, and school shootings

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Many or most, if not all, of my readers will be aware that there was a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, which resulted in 17 deaths and wounded 14 others. I shall not here identify the perpetrator, who appears to be a deeply disturbed and sinister young male – I certainly will not dignify him with the title “man.”

It has not taken long for the left-wing media – following Rahm Emanuel’s infamous dictum “never let a good crisis go to waste” – to politicize this latest tragedy, and use it as the latest argument in favor of stripping Americans of our God-given and Constitutionally-guaranteed right to defend ourselves. The irony in that will not be lost on those who have not succumbed to leftist ideological indoctrination.

Fortunately, not everyone has, and a good friend of mine posted the above on Facebook. I shared it, with a few added points which I reproduce here:

  1. Automatic weapons were available to civilians for a brief period following the First World War, and prior to the National Firearms Act of 1934, after which they were and are NOT available to anyone who is not the holder of a Class III Firearms License – which is very hard to get, and requires extensive background checks and monitoring (and expense). When they WERE available, use of them in crime was limited to gangsters, which in those days meant organized crime families (which is why they were limited). So “automatic weapons” or “assault weapons” are a non-issue: as regards the civilian population, they do not exist.
  2. And lest you say, “b-b-b-but large-capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles…!” let me remind you that the Texas Tower shooting, the first “mass shooting” by modern standards, which occurred in 1966, was committed largely with bolt-action and pump-action firearms.
  3. Let me remind you further that mass shooters are highly motivated individuals, who are unlikely to be deterred by such minor details as lack of availability of their preferred (or any) firearms. The Oklahoma City bomber did not need guns to kill 168 people and injure 680 more. The 9/11 hijackers did not need guns to kill nearly 3,000 people and terrorize a nation, scarring its psyche in ways that still linger. Terrorists in various locations, including New York City last year, have not needed guns to kill large numbers of people by ramming them with vehicles. Someone who is sufficiently determined to cause a massacre will find a way of doing so. And while banning guns may make them think a little harder for a little longer, it’s not going to prevent it; it is going to make things more difficult for law-abiding citizens who want to defend themselves and their families, or use firearms for sporting purposes.
  4. And that “18 school shootings in 45 days” meme that’s making the rounds? That includes eight incidents with no injuries or fatalities, two attempted suicides, one shot fired during the course of a fight, and two others that resulted in a single student being slightly wounded. And that is according to records found at “Everytown for Gun Safety,” Michael Bloomburg’s anti-gun advocacy group, which uses a very lenient (one could argue, highly misleading) standard: “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds,” it counts as a school shooting, regardless of whether or not the shooting results in injury or death. While any and all of these are regrettable, placing them in the same category as what happened in Florida is disingenuous, to put it mildly.

It is very easy to place the blame for tragic incidents like the recent Florida shooting on firearms. But – although the military is working on autonomous (AI) weapons (a concerning development, but tangential to this) – no firearm currently available to civilians is capable of engaging a target on its own. It requires a human being to make that decision and act on it.

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The 1931 girls’ rifle team outside Huntington High School, Huntington, New York.

In the 1950s and 60s, it was commonplace for students to bring firearms to school, for hunting purposes, often leaving them plainly visible in gun-racks in their pickups on the parking lot, or sometimes keeping them in their lockers. Yet there were no school shootings. During the same period (and for decades prior), high-school shooting teams were common. Again, no school shootings. Teenaged students even carried firearms on public buses and trolleys, on their way from their homes (or schools!) to the outskirts of town to hunt. Again, no shootings resulted.

The issue is not a gun issue. That’s an obvious but a misleading target – a “plausible distractor,” in testing terms. The issue is a societal and cultural issue, and a moral issue. It is a whole lot easier to say “ban guns” than it is to wrestle seriously with where we, as a culture, might have been going wrong – might be continuing to go wrong. And there is no single answer to that question, either; it is almost certainly a multiplicity of wrong steps, in a variety of areas.

These include, but are not limited to, the failures of parenting Sandy mentions, plus breakdown of stable family units in general, the rise of media and recreational opportunities (including music, videos or other visual media, the video gaming Sandy mentioned, etc.) that glorify amoral or immoral violence while minimizing its consequences, the breakdown of traditional religious observances and the moral guidelines religion has traditionally provided (see Washington’s Farewell Address), and the breakdown of cultural cohesion – and the stability that provides – in a variety of ways. There are probably many others that I have missed.

And until we seriously and constructively address these issues, the problem will continue. Banning or limiting (any more than they are already limited, which is severely) firearms will not solve it, it will only make things more difficult for law-abiding citizens, and chip further away at our freedom.

P.S. I have seen a number of worthwhile comments come across my newsfeed today. Here is one:

“We have to understand that even if we secure every school to were a mouse couldn’t get entry with a pea-shooter, it’s a band-aid. What then: shopping malls, fast-food restaurants, hospitals? We have a much more fundamental, philosophical and spiritual problem. When was the last time the great works of western philosophy and ethics were taught in our schools? When did we last focus our children on the big questions of the human condition, questions addressed by the great thinkers of Western Civilization? Could it be back in the last days when we had no mass school shootings? Do we really believe we could turn our back on the great projects of Western Civilization and not loose a hold on civil society itself?”

Indeed. To tear a plant up from its roots and not expect it to whither is the height of insanity. And of course, the diminution and marginalization of traditional religious faith – particularly the Judeo-Christian religious tradition – and the moral standards which come from it has played a major role in stripping our society of its moral compass.

And then there was this comment, from a Washington sheriff, interviewed today:

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Here is the video clip, in which he reinforces a lot of what I’ve said, above – only a lot more succinctly:

We have viewed abandoning traditional social and cultural norms, traditional moral values, traditional religious faith, traditional child-rearing practices, and much more, as being “progressive,” and trumpeted this abandonment as great advances in the human experience. But as C.S. Lewis presciently put it,

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world it’s pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We’re on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”

C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

Amen.