The Founding Father — In Your Home...
It takes a father and a family, not a village, to raise a child.
“The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families… In vain are Schools, Academies, and Universities instituted, if loose principles and licentious habits are impressed upon children in their earliest years… The vices and examples of the parents cannot be concealed from the children.” —John Adams (1778)
In late May, I read a report about a Craigslist ad seeking a “Substitute Generic Father Figure” for some young men in Spokane, Washington. In this instance, they were looking for somebody with grill skills to mentor their BBQ gathering ahead of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
The ad noted, “Duties include: Grilling hamburgers and hotdogs. Refer to all attendees as ‘Big Guy.’ ‘Chief,’ ‘Sport,’ ‘Champ,’ etc. Talk about dad things, like lawnmowers, building your own deck, Jimmy Buffet, etc. Funny anecdotes are highly encouraged.”
It also stipulated, “Qualifications: A minimum of 18 years experience as a father.”
The ad was intended to be amusing, but for millions of young people who’ve been abandoned by their fathers, it was anything but. The number of dads who have or will ever have 18 years’ experience today is declining.
In 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton published a treatise on raising children, “It Takes a Village,” which, not surprisingly, was an instant “first lady” New York Times bestseller. Clinton and her uncredited ghost writer, Barbara Feinman, adapted the title from an old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The proverb implies that children have a better chance to become healthy adults if raising children is communal.
You may ask, why, in a column ahead of Father’s Day, would I revisit a book written two decades ago by a corrupt, dethroned Demo-gogue luminary? Because “It Takes a Village” still serves as the primary template for flawed statist policies that, by way of government “education” and social welfare mandates, seek to subordinate marriage and family to the will of the “village,” the state.
In her book, published just ahead of Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign, Hillary implies that welfare organizations outside the family can meet the needs of fatherless children, and that society (read: government) has an obligation to meet those needs wherever and whenever it is deemed that the family has failed.
Sen. Bob Dole, Bill Clinton’s 1996 opponent, countered Hillary’s thesis, saying, “With all due respect, I am here to tell you, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.” While Dole didn’t stand a chance against a young, charismatic populist (also see: Obama v McCain), he was right about families versus villages.
Affirming her paternalistic government theme 10 years later in her first presidential bid, Hillary Clinton stated, “I still believe it takes a village to raise a child.”
When launching her second presidential bid in 2015, Clinton defined more clearly her statist “inclusive village” views, given that she and Barack Obama had spent eight years “fundamentally transforming” marriage and family, among other things.
According to Clinton, “Fundamentally, [Republicans] reject what it takes to build an inclusive economy. It takes an inclusive society — what I once called ‘a village’ that has a place for everyone.”
I should note that a fragment of Clinton’s original thesis was correct — millions of children are victimized when their parents, particularly fathers, do not fulfill their parental obligations. Indeed, there is a great need for extended family and community support for children who’ve been abandoned by one or both parents.
I disagree with her thesis — not in principle, but in scope.
Unfortunately, Clinton also implied that children can thrive without fathers, that fatherhood can be outsourced. Neither of those assertions could be further from the truth.
It is astounding that Clinton did not better comprehend the consequences of ineffectual or absentee fathers. Her husband, then-president William Jefferson Clinton, was and remains a case study in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the result of never knowing his birth father and growing up with an abusive stepfather who never affirmed him.
In fact, there are remarkable parallels between Bill Clinton’s pathology associated with his broken family model and that of Barack Hussein Obama, who was rejected by his father and never adequately affirmed during his formative years.
I am quick to note here that the neglect suffered by both Clinton and Obama was not of their own making — they were both genuinely victims of circumstance, and in that respect they both deserve our compassion. But the policies they formulated out of that brokenness deserve nothing but our contempt.
Politically speaking, there are many lines along which to divide leftists and conservatives, but few are more consequential for the future of Liberty than the leftist view that the state is superior to individuals and families, and that it has power to redefine them at will.
Fellow Patriots, always remember this: Natural marriage and family relationships are antithetical to the power of the state. And that’s precisely why the Left is constantly searching for ways to weaken these institutions.
Founder James Wilson clearly defined the relationship between families and freedom: “That important and respectable, though small and sometimes neglected establishment, which is denominated a family. [The family is] the principle of the community; it is that seminary, on which the commonwealth, for its manners as well as its numbers, must ultimately depend. As its establishment is the source, so its happiness is the end, of every institution of government, which is wise and good.”
If Liberty is to be extended to the next generation, then the place to start is within our families, and particularly with fathers.
This is not a new paradigm. In 295 BC, Mencius wrote, “The root of the kingdom is in the state. The root of the state is in the family. The root of the family is in the person of its head.”
In 50 BC, the great Roman Republican orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero, wrote, “The first principle of society consists in the marriage tie, the next in children, the next in a family within one roof, where everything is in common. This society gives rise to the city, and is, as it were, the nursery of the commonwealth.”
And so it has been through the millennia. But during the last 50 years, the role of fathers and families in the West has been systematically degraded. Today the statistical social and cultural consequences of fathers abandoning their responsibility for their families is tragically, statistically well-documented.
It’s no small irony that the demographic group which has suffered the most devastating consequences of statist social policies that divest fathers of their role and responsibility in families is also the most loyal Democratic Party voter bloc. Black families have been eviscerated by policies that have, in effect, enslaved them on urban poverty plantations for generations.
Fortunately, some young people reared by a single parent, or in critically dysfunctional or impoverished homes, have overcome that impediment. Either they were blessed with a single parent who, against all but insurmountable odds, instilled them with the values and virtues of family and citizenship, or they were mentored by someone who modeled those character traits.
However, the vast majority of children from homes without fathers are not so fortunate, as statistically confirmed above.
While Father’s Day should be a day of celebration, it urgently needs to be a call to action. An almost universal common denominator for all the manifestations of social entropy afflicting our nation today is homes without fathers.
When I think about “fatherhood,” the word first invokes my relationship with the person who irrevocably shaped my own life. My “Old Man,” as I affectionately called him (and as my sons call me today), was the “founding father” in our home. I am humbled and grateful to be my father’s son and my children’s father. He was always a devoted husband to my mom, and always there for my siblings and me. He was a real man, a man’s man in every sense of the word, and though he was imperfect as a husband and father, as am I, I thank God that I could call him “Dad.”
For those who lack such fathers or mentors, we, as American Patriots, must bridge the gap for these kids, both in service to them and in opposition to those who would perpetuate the statist policies that have eroded our nation’s family fabric.
With this in mind, I encourage you to support these good marriage and family advocacy organizations:
Tony Dungy, the former professional football player and Super Bowl-winning coach, has devoted much of his post-football years to coaching fathers. His All Pro Dad fatherhood mentoring organization produces an outstanding resource, a daily email for dads called the “Play of the Day.” Read a recent edition, “Father’s Day: Ten Things to Ask From Your Kids.”
Also visit First Things First, an outstanding organization under the leadership of my friend Julie Baumgardner. There are other fine national fathering resources at the National Center for Fathering and the National Fatherhood Initiative, Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, the Art of Manliness website for skills, and a great mentoring organization operated by my friends John Smithbaker and Scott MacNaughton, Fathers in the Field.
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776