“Back in our day” is the common refrain from many when discussing the realities of today. Often, the fondness for “the good ole days” is a product of our nostalgia filtered memory. Like most memories, it is rooted in truth yet changed by time.
We face a challenging period as a society. The debates over gun control, violent crime, drug addiction, and lack of responsible behavior focus on the symptoms and ignore the cause. Some of this is a necessary evil; you can’t fix a burning house while it is still on fire. However, once we resolve the immediate need, we must develop a strategy for identifying and mitigating the root of the problem.
In the debate on guns and their use in violent crime, domestic violence, and suicides we face an issue of immediate urgency with sparse information or effort at understanding the social conditions at the root of the problem.
Those who oppose any restrictions have misjudged the changing attitudes of most Americans to a more contemporary interpretation of the Second Amendment and gun control.
Those who want to ban all weapons ignore the truth. The overwhelming number of gun owners are law-abiding, conscientious about their responsibility, and willing to find a solution.
Where do we go from here?
First, we put out the fire with realistic and Constitutionally lawful controls on access to weapons. Manage access to firearms with legitimate purposes, i.e., hunting, security, recreation and ban guns having no proper place in society.
Once we get the issue under control, then we must find the cause and seek ways to address it.
To find the root of an issue, one looks for commonality. Violent criminals, prison inmates, and school shooters share a significant common factor, single-parent households. An absent/uninvolved father being the most common scenario. It is not the sole cause, but it is a shared distinguishing factor.
Another reality, sure to be misrepresented and misconstrued by some, is the unintended consequences of the social welfare system. One in five Americans is on public assistance. The majority are off support within a year, the next most significant group within three years, and some within 4 or 5 years.
Some cycle on and off the system making exact numbers challenging to quantify. But, there is evidence of a cross-generational pattern of welfare dependence as a way of life. Bearing a child at an immature age is often the catalyst. This leads to a challenging-to-avoid cycle of low educational achievement and reduced economic opportunity.
Public assistant serves a critical and necessary role. Seeking ways to reduce such dependence without eliminating the cause will hurt the most vulnerable, the children. But this doesn’t mean we can’t find a solution; we just haven’t set it as a goal.
The burden of childcare, borne primarily by women, is one of the most significant factors in economic disadvantage and low-educational success. An absentee/uninvolved father contributes to the problem. Existing laws try to compel financial responsibility. However, the father is often trapped in a similar cycle of low economic opportunity amplified by limited educational achievement. Many men behave in an immature way. Demonstrating selfish resistance to accepting their responsibilities. A considerable number are in prison, compounding the problem.
This cycle of poverty, emotional deprivation of the positive influence of two-parent environment, and cross-generational behavior is self-sustaining. The conditions for propensity to violence or anti-social behavior continue. Combined with unregulated access to weapons with high firing rates and killing capacity, the likelihood of more mass shootings and violent behavior increases.
Solving these issues is complicated. There is no one solution. It will require time and well-crafted efforts targeting multiple societal and economic conditions with a broad-spectrum approach.
Not every single-parent home is to blame here, but the risk such an environment poses to future behavior, absent personal or family resources to mitigate it, is real and widespread.
There is a practical solution to reducing at-risk single parent environments; safe and affordable birth control. It is not a panacea. However, it offers a real opportunity to alleviate the problem while long-term solutions are developed and given a chance to take hold.
So why, if we have such methods available, do we ignore them?
Because the “moral” issue rears its ugly head and intercedes in any rational discussion. The rise of the fundamentalist religious orthodoxy, and their influence in Congress and the Presidency, stands as a roadblock.
Religious organizations vary in their expressed doctrines, but there is a commonality in demanding secular laws comport with primarily Judeo-Christian teachings.
Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam forbid any birth control except abstinence, (just say no?) This is exclusively within marriage. Some Protestant sects permit the use of artificial contraception, but again it is usually within the confines of marriage.
Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, all oppose pre-marital sex
Statistics and practical experience will tell us that the horse has left the barn on this one. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the average age for Americans to engage in vaginal intercourse for the first time is 17.1 years old for males and females.
The percentage of people living together outside of formal marriage is growing. The reality of changing societal attitudes toward sex outside of marriage, or even long-term relationships, is changing.
This religious prohibition not only fails to curtail this behavior, but it also stands in the way of prevention. This resistance forces young women into having children when they are mere children themselves. Once the hormones kick in, we have physiologically equipped beings capable of producing offspring when they are least able to give financial support and mature emotional nurture.
Absent access to birth control, many enter the cycle of dependence on state assistance. Religious moral decrees hobble secular government programs aimed at prevention. These then create the humanitarian crisis forcing tax-payers to support the single mothers and children.
In these areas, religious influence has done a disservice to humanity. The Catholic Church’s resistance to distributing condoms in Africa has been one of the most significant factors in the spread of AIDS, and the births of AIDS infected children.
Incorporating moral teachings of any religion by choosing one over the other is a dangerous basis for governmental policy. Some fundamental religious groups use religion to argue against well-established effective medical treatments by substituting prayer.
It has proven disastrous. But this is not just about religion. It is about recognizing the urgency of addressing a problem that took generations to develop. Sometimes practicality must outweigh the expressed conflicting morality of religion. Where’s the righteousness in condemning women and children to a life of deprivation out of failed and medieval religious doctrines?
As a multi-cultural society, we must focus on secular solutions while maintaining the dignity of people to make their own choices and bear the consequences.
We can continue unchanged and hope religion reaches more people or accept the changing nature of the world. A rational policy would use the tools available and reduce the number of those at-risk single-parent homes. Leave ineffective moral imperatives to the disjointed inconsistency of the thousands of religious doctrines
Most religious doctrines oppose abortion. The issue is one of the most divisive issues in the US. When presented with a solution to the problem, opponents scream about morality. They say wide-spread birth-control will encourage sexual behavior.
Nonsense, the behavior is natural human sexuality. History shows us that human behavior is universal. Many of the most vocal opponents lead a secret, sexually adventuresome, life. Not to be crass, but the moral imperatives of the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t get priests to keep it in their cassocks. What chance do they stand with hormone ravaged teens? The hypocritical nature of this is offensive.
The stark reality is we’ve lost several generations of Americans to this senseless and ineffective “morality.” We’ve filled our prisons with “prisoners of war” from the war on drugs with little or no commitment to treating addiction. We wail and moan the “murdered children” of abortions yet condemn some to bear the responsibility of child-rearing ill-equipped financially or socially with an inadequate education.
We wrap ourselves in a false morality that fears the wrath of an invisible being if we take practical measures to prevent the need for a woman to make such a difficult choice.
Like the saying from the good ole days. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The cost to society of preventing unwanted pregnancy is exponentially lower than the price of the continuing cycle of poverty and crime.
The government’s function is not saving souls; it is protecting lives.
Morality, like it or not, is a matter of relative choices. The Bible itself is full of once “moral” imperatives that civilized society now finds abhorrent. We no longer stone adulterers or burn witches.
Today, our morality is hypocritical, our efforts weak and ineffective, our outrage disingenuous. We doom ourselves to the continued creation of a disadvantaged underclass held hostage by archaic pronouncements from the dark ages.
Until we devote as much effort to providing quality education as we do to privatizing prisons and housing more and more Americans without any hope of rehabilitation, the cycle will persist.
We cannot fix 21st-century problems with arcane writings, moral platitudes, or ignorance. Until we address both the immediate and long-term issues, we are doomed to the continuity of sorrow.