It’s been said that America can always be counted on to do the right thing, once we have exhausted all the other alternatives. As of Father’s Day 2022, America has spent about 60 years exhausting the alternatives to fatherhood — and the collateral damage is all around us.
Broken families. Gutted communities. Betrayed women. Terrified children. Busy morgues. And overflowing prisons.
The evidence is so overwhelming that it’s not really controversial anymore. Children who grow up without their fathers — especially in communities where fatherlessness has become the norm —carry the heaviest social, economic and psychological cross social science can measure. The mountain of data is nothing short of Himalayan.
Children raised in single-parent homes constitute:
- 63% of teen suicides;
- 90% of runaways and homeless children;
- 85% of behavior disorder patients;
- 71% of high school dropouts;
- 75% of teenagers in substance abuse rehab centers;
- 85% of young prison inmates.
This is what we have to show for the trillions of dollars spent and the decades of research conducted. If there was a way for a social worker or a bureaucracy or a government check to fill the Dad-shaped hole in America’s broken families, we would have found it by now.
It doesn’t exist. Three generations of elites — from Washington to Hollywood — have promised young Americans that severing the natural connections between sex, marriage, commitment, kids, and parenthood would be “liberating.” As the statistics above show, it’s been anything but.
The only solution to fatherlessness is fathers. And we have to figure out a way to say so, even in these hypersensitive times.
Our culture has gone to such laudable lengths to de-stigmatize single motherhood that we now accidentally denigrate married fatherhood. We work so hard to affirm non-traditional gender roles and family structures that we have forgotten just how valuable they have always been.
Fatherhood isn’t about being a male. It’s about being a man. Fatherhood harnesses masculinity to the good of society, so the community benefits along with the family, and each individual father as he grows into his vocation. The strength, courage, dependability, honesty, accountability, gentleness, toughness and protectiveness that define real masculinity keeps children safe, wives happy, and trouble at bay. A fish may or may not need a bicycle, but women and children very much need men.
We know what actual toxic masculinity looks like. It looks like boys raised without men: insecure, vulgar, misogynistic, angry, ignorant, violent, confused and above all, scared.
In every poor community in America, from opioid-riddled Appalachia to violent inner cities, every boy who doesn’t know how to be a man and every girl who doesn’t know she deserves one, is crying out into that empty void in their homes and in their hearts, “Father, father, why have you abandoned me?”
That question cannot be answered, or that agony soothed, with universal health care or a “Build Back Better” plan. The measurable, material benefits of intact families — the second income and additional caregiver — are the least important ones. What really matters is not what fathers do, but what they are.
For two generations now, America’s elite institutions have devalued what they are, through a welfare state that penalizes work and marriage, through an education system that punishes boyishness and a culture that scolds chivalry as abusive and masculinity itself as toxic. It turns out, dads are just one more thing our failed elite class was wrong about.
Father’s Day is a reminder that what our broken culture, struggling single moms, frightened kids need is not another program or policy, but a person.
Dads: accept no substitutes.
Kevin Roberts is the president of The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).
Opinion from Kevin Roberts for The Daily Caller.