Night after night I watch my World War One and World War Two documentaries. I just finished the BBC’s The World at War, 30 hours or so on WWII, surely as fine a piece of work on film as there has ever been. The writers got the Battle of Midway totally confused with the Marianas Turkey Shoot and got quite a bit wrong about Leningrad. But the series in general is magnificent. Laurence Olivier’s narration is subtle beyond belief. His command of the material is stupefyingly potent.
It offsets the puzzling use of Alger Hiss as an expert witness on Russian intentions in the War and John Kenneth Galbraith’s sneering words about Nixon. Well worth watching.
I watch these documentaries because I am compelled by the World Wars. Nothing like them has ever happened before or since. The full power of the world’s great powers mobilized to kill as many people as possible. And how they went at it!
Roughly 100 million killed in Europe alone, in both wars, the great majority in eastern Europe, six million of my fellow Jews, helpless noncombatants murdered to satisfy Hitler’s insane adaptation of Darwinian evolutionary theory.
As my pal Phil says, if you told Europeans in 1910 what the next 35 years held for them they would have thought you insane. Serene France and Belgium turned into slaughterhouses. The Tsar and his family shot down and their bodies so battered as to be unrecognizable. Forty thousand British men murdered by machine gun fire at the Somme in little more than 24 hours.
Horror upon horror and then the second act, in which industrial methods were used to kill civilians deemed by a sick “science” to be unworthy of life, in which 80,000 Germans were incinerated in hours in what was, undoubtedly, a good cause.
(Now, the third act is playing out in Europe in which Europe ceases to exist and becomes a Moslem Arab madhouse. No documentaries on that yet.)
I watch all of these because I am interested in history. I had planned to be a historian but my classes got screwed up at Columbia and I became an economist.
That’s part of it but I watch them mostly because when I was a little lad, I sat down in the sparsely furnished basement of our fifties modern house in Silver Spring and watched Victory at Sea. I sat on one couch eating popcorn I had made and my father sat on the adjoining couch also eating the popcorn I had made.
My father has been in the Navy in World War II, planning the invasion and administration of Formosa. As far as I know, they eventually decided to skip the invasion. But my Pop knew all about the War and offered smart, detailed commentary as we watched. It was the most time I ever spent with my father doing any one thing except playing ping pong, at which he was very good. He had learned that in the Navy, too.
I associate war documentaries with being with my Pop. So, I love to watch them.
As I watched, I used my trusty Google to endlessly study one of my obsessions: why our nonwhite young men relatively are so violent and undisciplined and commit so many crimes and do so badly in school when the ones I meet and work with are smart and pleasant and hard working.
The answer I came up with was this:
Our country needs a great many things. More stealth bombers. More Marines. More medical care for Veterans and their families. More good teachers. But our most urgent need is for more fathers.
In every study, by every metric we have, we see that young people of color who grow up without a father present in the household do far worse in school than kids with a father present, have FAR more trouble with the law, are incarcerated at a far higher rate than young people who grow up with a father present.
The fatherless kids have wildly more mental illness, commit more violent crimes, have more suicides, more rapes, have incredibly higher rates of illiteracy, higher rates of dropping out of school than kids with fathers present.
Fatherlessness predicts trouble for kids of any race. But roughly 30 percent of white kids grow up fatherless. Roughly 3/4 of black kids do. This is a national catastrophe. One out of every three black youths will spend time behind bars, a rate astronomically higher than that of whites. A large majority in some urban areas are illiterate. Fatherlessness is behind much of this.
Something terrible is going on with these Americans. The terrible thing is that they don’t have fathers to impose structure and order and self-discipline and a sense of right and wrong or even a sense of the difference between love and sex. (What was the last rap song you heard that talked about love?) They do not have a flesh and blood super ego at home to give them an idea of how to behave.
What happened? Blacks used to live lives not that different from whites in terms of law and order and family and then it all fell apart starting in the early sixties.
Was it drugs? Maybe. Drugs are poison to morals. Maybe it was the welfare system that paid women to be pregnant and unmarried. In many states in America, a single mother with three children and no husband gets paid as much in welfare as a starting computer programmer or teacher. You usually get what you pay for.
There’s a horrible echo here: Slave women were valued for how many children they could breed. Now, under the welfare plantation system, women can create value by having as many children as possible without a husband.
This is serious stuff. The emotional pain that these kids feel is cruel. Their rate of death at an early age is horrifying. They are a rapidly growing fraction of the population. The majority of first graders in America are now nonwhite. Close to half of all first graders have no father at home. We are creating a new generation of largely illiterate, violent, fatherless Americans. If this continues, America’s days as a first world nation are numbered.
What to do? I don’t know. But maybe have a President who talks about it. A sensitive subject for the incumbent, to be sure. But it’s his duty to inspire men to be better at fatherhood than his father was. Maybe pay men who knock up their women to stay with the kids. Maybe ask the music companies to stop glorifying sex without love.
Maybe a grandfathers’ corps of men like me to spend some time with fatherless kids and give them some little bit of male energy.
But the country is falling apart from the ground up. Fatherlessness is a huge part of the problem. Do I practice what I preach? You bet. I spent endless time watching cartoons with our son, pushing him in the swing (world’s most boring occupation), watching him play soccer early on Saturday mornings (correction — THIS is the world’s most boring occupation). Did it work? Well, he hasn’t killed anyone except in his video games and he’s a super dad himself to our granddaughter (to whose mother he has long been married).
It’s hard for me to preach to some nonwhite kid who had none of the advantages I had growing up — especially a father who cared for me and spent time with me. And being a father is often incredibly challenging.
But something has to be done. I don’t hear any of the politicians talking about it, but they should. They won’t tell you because they want ethnic votes. I’m not running for anything, but I love this country and I have some feeling for these heart-breaking human beings and their victims. The politicians won’t tell you. I just did.