Tuesday, May 31, 2011

There is NOTHING He Can Say

Monday morning I got word that my fiend Tom Roeser had died the day before. In the early 1970's, when I was eleven or twelve, I read a series of articles in the Sun Times by Mr. Roeser about the Catholic Church, Vatican II, and how most people held misconceptions about both. They were informative, well written, and they had an influence on me. Years later, when I had the good fortune to meet Tom Roeser, I was able to tell him that these articles were one of about a dozen factors in my decision to become a Catholic. He was visibly touched and said that bringing someone to the Faith was the best work a man could do and that he was gratified to know that he had in some small way helped me to find God. That was fifteen years ago, and we have been friends ever since.

Of course, I'll be going to his funeral. I've already written a letter of condolence to his wife. In a few weeks, I will probably have an opportunity to talk to her after mass and I can think of a dozen things to say that will probably make her feel better. I imagine it is a comfort to her to know that many, many people's lives were touched by Tom and will miss him. He was eighty-two years old, he had enjoyed a good measure of success in his life, he died a loyal Catholic with every expectation of God's mercy, and so his death is not a tragedy, but rather the inevitable final act of a long life well spent.

Somebody else died early Sunday morning.

Sunday we had gotten a call. A boy had fallen off a building. Police weren't giving out any details, but someone we knew in the building called to tell us that one of the two people in the building unaccounted for was my son's friend "D." It wasn't until the next day that we got word that, in deed, D. had fallen to his death in what was probably a senseless accident. My son was told that all of D's friends were going over to be with D's parents at in their dreadful hour of loss. My son spent the better part of the day there, only coming home late in the evening.

When he got home, my son was plainly worn out, depressed, dragging. Wife-mate gave him some soup and no one spoke. After a few minutes, I mentioned that our friend Mr. Roeser had passed away on Sunday. My son nodded and said, "I'll have to write Mrs. Roeser a letter."

"I've already written one; you can just add your signature to mine."

"I'd like to write her a letter, I know what to say to her."

And we all understood what he meant by that. He meant that he had just spent a whole day with people that will never be consoled, who will never find comfort in his words, whose loss is unspeakable. After that, writing a letter to Mrs. Roeser would not only be easy, it would be a comfort to him.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Exactly What To Expect

This post card was sent in to PostSecret, a blog that publishes anonymous cards sent in from all over the world:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thoughts on "Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month"

I picked up a book recently that was simply fascinating in its disingenuousness, “Why We’re Liberals: a Political Handbook for Post-Bush America,” by Eric Alterman. The book’s format is catechial, with his asking a question and then appearing to answer it. The problem is, he never really answers the question.

For instance, Chapter Nineteen is called “Why do Liberals Love “Activist Judges”?” where Alterman simply dodges the questions of why or whether liberals like judges who legislate from the bench, and why or whether this is a good thing, by pointing out instead that conservative judges have in many cases also usurped legislative functions.

Or Chapter Sixteen, “Why Do Liberals Hate Religion” is mostly taken up with a discussion of how there are plenty of religious liberals, like Jim Wallis, and that their only real objection is to “Biblical literalism” that threatens the separation of church and state. Alterman never acknowledges, or even mentions, that the primary role of religion is in dealing with personal sin, whereas the predominant trend in liberalism thought for at least the last forty years is that personal failings are usually a result of social and environmental factors, which largely negates the idea of personal sin.

Which leads us back to Chapter Twelve, “Why Won’t Liberals Admit That America is Suffering from a Crisis in Moral Values” where Alterman devastates the opposition by pointing up that the Teenage Pregnancy Rate has been falling for the last twenty years!
So, let’s look at the "problem" of teen pregnancy.

Like all pregnancy rates, teen pregnancy was at an historical low in 1940, primarily because after ten years of economic depression people just weren’t having a lot of babies. And then the rate shoots up with post-war prosperity to an all time high around 1960, but this isn’t a problem because throughout the 1950’s the average bride was only 20.3 years old. That’s right: about half of all brides were teenagers, so naturally the teen pregnancy rate would be high. Since 1960, the average bride has aged some five years (she is now 25.6) and teenage marriages have become a rarity.

What hasn’t gone down is the rate of Illegitimate Births! The Out -Of-wedlock Birth Rate rose steadily from 1940 to 1990 and has remained fairly stable in the low forties per thousand since then. About twenty times what it was in 1940.

Even more distressing, Birth Out-Of-wedlock as a percentage of Total Births has grown from a negligible one in fifty in 1940, to one in three today. Putting all moral or religious concerns aside, this is still an important issue from a purely practical standpoint. I didn’t have to look very far to find dozens of documented ill effects of bastardy, a sampling of which I offer below:

  • Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality.
  • A majority victims of child sexual abuse came from disrupted or single-parent homes. Whereas only 31% of sexually abused children live with both biological parents, 42% lived in single parent homes, and 27% of the abused children lived with either a stepfather or the mother's boyfriend.
  • According to police reports, 49% of all child abuse cases are committed by single mothers.
  • Children of never-married mothers are more than twice as likely to have been treated for an emotional or behavioral problem and six times as likely to exhibit violent behavior at school.
  • Children in single-parent families tend to score lower on standardized tests and to receive lower grades in school and are nearly twice as likely to drop out of school as children from two-parent families.
  • Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes.
  • The proportion of single-parent households in a community predicts its rate of violent crime and burglary, but the community's poverty level does not. The relationship between family structure and crime is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature.
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes

The fact that nowadays the overwhelming majority of teen mothers are unmarried masks the real problem but, when you separate these variables, statistical analysis shows that the real problem is bastardy. The emphasis on “Teenage Pregnancy” is simply a red-herring, a way of pretending to deal with a social problem while avoiding the real issue. It is a way of being “nice” and “non-judgmental,” of not appearing to “stigmatize” people, when a revival of the social stigma against bastardy is exactly what is needed.

What we need is a Bastard Prevention Month!