A Nation of Bastards

Historically the word “bastard” meant someone whose parents were not married.  But even more than just the marital status of one’s parents, the word also carried with it an implication of defective character that was attributable to such an inauspicious beginning.

One might imagine that without the provision, protection, instruction, and correction of a father, children (boys in particular) would find harsh instruction from the world, like a child  thrown into a swimming pool trying to learn how to swim.

Being thrown into the social world with little instruction can lead a child to develop a jungle-type survival skill set.  Often the skills children develop are how to use people to get what you want or what to do to feel good.  Those who are more capable or lucky learn how to manipulate others and indulge themselves without ending up in jail.  Others never quite get the hang of how to function without attracting the attention of the police.

The statistics are clear:

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
  • 70% of juveniles in criminal detention are from fatherless homes.  

The relationship between fatherlessness and imprisonment suggests an importance to fatherhood not often fully appreciated.  The impact of fatherless homes should have been alarming 50 years ago.  Today a 40% rate (80% in many black communities) indicates a society irreparably damaged.  If we consider historical events that contributed to this phenomenon, we can identify three main ones:

1.  The specialized and collectivized work of the industrial age took fathers out of the home.
2.   Compulsory public education took children out of the home.
3.   Feminism took women out of the home.

People may debate the value of these dynamic forces, but most can agree that they are not going to be stopped much less reversed.  Some may attempt to resist these forces by homeschooling or having a home business, but often face great difficulty.  The family of just 100 years ago had more in common with families throughout the ages and cultures than with the vestige that survives in modern life today.  

It is not just illegitimacy that contributes to the bastardization of our country.  Divorce is also a contributing factor in fatherlessness.  There is also that which might be called "de-facto fatherlessness".  The father who resides with a family but is either absent for purposes of work or withdraws into the comfort of TV and alcohol also makes a contribution to fatherlessness.

Paternal influence diminishes with limited time.   However, it almost vanishes when contrasted with the time allocated to the influence from teachers, friends, TV, and the Internet.  Compounding this problem is that since this effect has been progressing for several generations, even if a father had the time to influence his children, he often has little to say because he is unaware of what is happening and why.

The disconnection of children from fathers often makes fathers less interested in the expense and effort to raise them.  Boys raised with decreasing paternal influence often grow to be even less interested in fatherhood.  It has been said that the cure for the disease of adolescence is parenthood.  The implication being that the responsibilities of caring for a child often force a turn away from the selfishness definitive of childhood.  A young man who grows up without seeing the selflessness of a father or benefiting from a father’s correction and discipline often enters adulthood with amplified selfishness.

Like a wolf among sheep, a bastard may grow up thinking that since he has no father (or effectively has none), he has to get whatever he can from others by whatever means are necessary.  The word “bastardize” carries with it the connotation of adulteration.  In a way the young man with little paternal influence may be seen as having excessive contamination with selfishness.  This often plays out through the betrayal of trust.

Americans in particular are somewhat more vulnerable to the betrayal of trust, because we used to be a more Christian nation.  Christianity contributes stability to society in that trust is more easily extended.  A bastard can operate more effectively in societies where there is more trust.  In societies that have few Christians, there is a greater expectation of selfish motives.

We can see where in the past the term bastard used to be reserved for illegitimate children, it now is also applicable to a larger population in proportion to the decrease of paternal discipline, instruction, and correction.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons