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Tom Finneran: What Are You Afraid Of?

Friday, January 25, 2013


Americans have become afraid. Afraid of leadership, afraid of the future, afraid of disagreement, even afraid of words.

Let’s try an experiment, doing something that your parents and grandparents did every day—let’s be judgmental. You know what that is. It’s an old-fashioned concept of criticizing someone or something and not worrying about bruised feelings. Heaven forbid that someone might be offended in modern America. Soon enough, the nation will need a therapist-in-chief.

On with our experiment—I think it is wrong the way we glorify and celebrate single motherhood. It’s wrong for many reasons, not the least of which is that it lets men, not to be confused with fathers, too easily off the parental hook. It lets those men take the easy way out as the culture creates a modern mythology of the struggling single mom bravely making her way forward in the world. What baloney.

Life is miserable for the overwhelming majority of single mothers. Utterly miserable. And, it’s equally sad for their children, no matter how resilient we think children can be. If you think that I exaggerate, consider this—do you really think that a single mom, or dad for that matter, can provide all that a young child needs? Forget the material things for a moment. They matter not. I’m talking about school, play, friends, activities, attention, supervision—the real needs of young children. I’m also talking about what older children need—structure, discipline, example, vigilance, and even more attention and supervision. I’ve met a lot of very impressive and talented people over the course of a lifetime and I have yet to meet the single person who can do all that. In the strongest and best families I know, the mother and father work themselves to a frantic but happy exhaustion trying to address these facts of life.

Now let’s factor in the essential material things that count for a family—rent, clothes, food, and transportation. Not Disney, not multiple cars, not vacations, not second homes, not even cable, but rather those few basic things which barely separate a family from the homeless.

So, for our heroic single mom or dad, how do they do it all? The answer is they don’t. That’s the simple fact, as large as an elephant in the living room. It’s a sad fact, but it’s a real fact, and no amount of wishful thinking can make it any less sad for the mom who is left in such a predicament. Her life is one of constant struggle and sacrifice, attempting to find an impossible balance. The lives of her children, their physical, mental, spiritual, and material needs all suffer. And this is what we glorify today, in newspapers, on television, and in movies.

A more sane and more judgmental society would take note of these obvious realities and condemn the behaviors that lead women into these impossible situations. The sexually reckless behaviors of men for one. What a message we’ve been sending them for a few generations now. And look what we reap—a staggering rate of illegitimacy and virtually no sense of responsibility for the babies those men have fathered.

Where is the righteous anger about this? In days gone by, when young men’s hormones were no less on fire, there was a sense of caution and a sense of propriety. Caution about infuriating two sets of parents, caution about getting a bad reputation, and a certain propriety about the woman you were seeing. Today, we have none of those healthy social restraints. Today, we have a neutered class of adults who are afraid to say that certain behaviors are terribly wrong. Those behaviors are wrong at every level—for the woman involved, for the child, for the society, and yes, even for the father who has had his “fun” and now moved on to other entertainments. Parents and pulpits should be howling about this turn of events. Instead, they cower. What are they afraid of?

Sure, taking a moral stance might seem quite old-fashioned today and it certainly puts one at odds with Hollywood’s depravities, but let’s stop right there—is there a better place to end up than being in complete disagreement with that sick segment of our society? Can you name one parent, married or single, who thinks that it is acceptable for their unmarried sons or daughters to indulge and engage in such harmful behaviors? Why are they intimidated into silence? They would surely shout at the top of their lungs if they saw their child run out into a busy street. Yet their silence on casual routine sexual activity begets tragic outcomes for their children.

I haven’t given up hope that we can find our moral footing once again, that we will find the courage to use the word “moral” without timidity, that we will resist the greed-driven messages from Hollywood or the frowns of those who have so sadly surrendered, and that we will raise our children to respect themselves, to respect life, and to respect others. For that we pray.


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