The British press, almost monolithically, insists that it's not politics. Peggy Noonan, in an Aug. 13 Wall Street Journal column, blamed "the distorting effects of the British welfare state." In part, that does involve politics -- the politics of dependency where the state has increasingly displaced the family.
The images of children looting and rioting were especially jarring. A photo or video of a kid running from a store having grabbed a bottle of liquor, or a pair of sneakers, or an iPhone makes you wonder who's in charge of these youngsters.
There's no question in the mind of one member of Parliament as to where to lay the blame. He's wondering: Where are the British fathers?
David Lammy, from the Labor Party, is a prominent national newspaper columnist. He's also black. "We are seeing huge consequences of the lack of male role models in young men's lives," he says.
This problem is not confined to minority communities. Another journalist and commentator, Melanie Phillips, points to "widespread social collapse." She speaks of "whole areas of Britain, white as well as black, where committed fathers are a wholly unknown phenomenon." She blames the "liberal intelligentsia" for "its onslaught upon marriage...."
The Bishop of London shares this concern, noting that the "background to the riots is family breakdown and the absence of strong and positive role models." And Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks also worries, writing in The Times that, "Too much of contemporary society has been a vacation from responsibility." He adds, "Children have been the victims of our self-serving beliefs that you can have partnerships without the responsibility of marriage…."
Lammy, the member of Parliament, laments that we can no longer assume a traditional mindset in which parents marry and then "…start a family together, raise children, love them, nourish them and lead them to full independence." Too often, he says, "… the father isn't present, and isn't expected to be." Increasingly, he says, boys find their role models in hip-hop, gang culture and peer groups.
Think the U.S. is largely escaping this phenomenon? We're not. Kids are using social media to organize flash mobs in Philadelphia and other cities. They'll converge on a store to steal from, or on a person to beat up and rob. It happens at McDonalds, the state fair, the subway.
Drastic fixes like curfews and silencing the Internet are being implemented. These are Band-Aids, probably necessary given the emergencies.
But they won't solve the deeper problem. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter imposed a curfew but also gave a 30-minute sermon at a local church, telling the mostly African American congregation that it took two to conceive these kids and both parents "need to be around now…. Maybe you're sending them a check or bringing cash by. That's not being a father. You're just a human ATM…." or "just a sperm donor."
Peggy Noonan says, "The problem, at bottom, is love," noting that, "Little children without love and guidance are afraid." That fear turns to rage, then to violence.
While true, Noonan's explanation falls short. The love she's talking about is easiest to find in homes with married parents. That's God's design for a strong culture. Melanie Phillips declared: "Repairing this terrible damage also means, dare I say, a return to the energetic transmission of biblical morality."
Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the "Point of View" syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody radio networks.
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