...if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing - missing from too many lives and too many homes...
You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled - doubled - since we were children. We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.
Ryan T. Anderson, a scholar from the Heritage Foundation, has drawn the same conclusion from this that I have done many times at this site:
“If the biggest social problem we face right now in the United States is absentee dads,” Anderson said, “How will we insist that dads are essential when the law redefines marriage to make fathers optional?”
There are mixed messages being sent to men. On the one hand, Obama is using the authority of his office to encourage African American men to believe that without their input there will be a destructive breakdown of family life within their community. Men, he is saying, your involvement is necessary - get to it.
But Obama also believes that marriage should be legally redefined so that it is no longer between a man and a woman. The message to men here is that families do not need fathers. The paternal role is a merely optional one.
How will this contradiction be resolved? Early indicators point to a victory of the "men are optional" side of things.
When Australian Senator Cory Bernardi argued that children being raised by both their biological father and mother was a gold standard to aspire to and that boys from single mother homes were statistically more likely to end up before the courts an avalanche of criticism descended on him.
His views were described as nonsensical, judgemental, offensive and old-fashioned with "no place in Australia of today."
And that's what you have to expect. A society cannot forever run on contradictory lines. Either fathers are merely optional within families or they aren't. Our society has decided that fathers are optional.
That is going to have momentous consequences over the next couple of generations. In the meantime, traditionalists will be distinct in insisting that the paternal role is a necessary (a foundational) rather than an optional one.
I'll finish with a brief extract from Senator Bernardi's book, summarising his views:
"Social policy should continue to advocate for the best possible social environment for children. More often than not, as studies have shown, that environment is a family with a child's married biological mother and father. Of course, there will always be exceptions to this - some traditional families fail miserably at childcare and some step-families do a wonderful job of raising children - but it should not deter society as a whole from encouraging its citizens to pursue the traditional family model."