To be begin with, we offer our prayers for those who died, the injured and their families. May God give them the strength and consolation to carry on with their lives. The entire city has great need of God's help. Much has been said in reaction to the tragedy about gang violence and the easy access to guns. Even more has been written on the need for better policing, on cracking down on illegally smuggled weapons from the United States, on the banning of handguns, on poverty, on improved social services and on tighter security for public housing. All these measures sound good, but they miss the point because we are mostly in denial about the major causes of the gun violence and the deaths in out streets. Most of our politicians at all levels of government are too eager to either pass the buck or keep hiding behind the deceptive language of political correctness and thus fail to tackle the truth about the root cause of the problem head on.
We shouldn't be afraid as a society to confront the important F-words: Family and fatherhood. When I was teaching students in the care of the Catholic Children's Aid Society, it was almost always family dysfunctions that brought the children to our group home. As the Catholic teacher, I spent nearly eleven years working with many well meaning youth workers trying our best to get these broken and troubled young men and women back to regular schools. These students were placed in our program because they were going through a time of serious personal crisis, many by the time they got to our program had spent time in jail, but the underlying problem had for most of them started long before they arrived to our alternative school: the physical, mental, social and emotional scars had begun in the family, even as far back as the time they were merely babies.
These students without exception knew only hurt and pain and so naturally it's what they were good at dishing out to others. Our profit driven culture and the media offer no remedy here. Just think of the steady diet of violence most children are exposed to in the movies, the video games, the television shows and the music that morally anesthetizes them and exploits them for profits daily.
In our care and treatment centre, we enrolled close to 200 students over the years that I was there. Here are some of the presenting issues: they were students who would intentionally cut themselves, students who had committed crimes of theft, breaking and entering and assaulted others, students who had been abused at home by a parent, a step-parent or an uncle, students who were prostituting themselves, students who were depressed and suicidal, students with drug abuse and the list went on. In one way or another there were all badly damaged souls in need of redemption. In all those years I never met with one parent, not one father or mother who came to see us concerned about the well being of their child. How do you think a child feels when they are abandoned by their parents?
Once a child completely loses the love and support of his/her parents and joins a gang, committing crimes, hurting someone even shooting them to kill and ending up in jail aren't as bad as not being cared for and loved. Violent behaviour is rewarded in a gang because it gives a member a sense of belonging, of power and acceptance. When there's nobody there in the lives of children to tell them that the are made in the image of God, that God loves them and so do the parents, they too easily can end up finding destructive and corrosive images of themselves to turn to and sadly act out.
From my experience, it's a strong, caring and loving family unit that can help solve gun violence, gang membership and the injuries and deaths among young people. We should be asking ourselves: Why do we abandon a single mother to try to raise two or more children on her own? Why are there so many absent fathers who shirk their responsibility as fathers? Once the all-day kindergarten progran is fully implemented, our province plans to spend billions of dollars in order to pay for this baby sitting service. This is the state's early start to child brainwashing. It will do nothing to build healthier families.
The money would much better be spent on social policies that would encourage parents to work and stay together for the good of the children. Instead of attacking the family unit and help it fragment further, the government ought to promote initiatives that help keep the family strong in order that the children grow up healthy and will one day contribute to the betterment of society. Imagine the societal good for parents and children that could result if every couple wanting to get married in Toronto was urged to take a course on the Theology of the Body?
We end this entry with a quote from Bill Cosby from his honest address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NCAAP in 2004. He was not being funny when said this: "... In our streets we have 50% drop out rate. No longer is a person embarrassed because they are pregnant without a husband. No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child. ... In the neighbourhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on. I'm talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were they when he was two" Where were they when he was twelve? Where were they when he was 18, and how come you don't know he had a pistol?" Cosby was seriously talking about America, and Canada too, since the problem of violence, gangs and guns was and is regrettably the same, in both countries, so many years later.
We should not be afraid of speaking the truth about the importance of strong, loving fathers in raising good, spiritual and responsible children. We should not be afraid of saying that fathers and mothers have a duty to do all they can to make sure their children are living healthy and virtuous lives. If the parents are Christian, they have the added vocation of introducing them to the faith by faithfully practicing it. If as a society we are willing to speak the truth on this issue, then we can hope to begin solving the violence and senseless killings on our streets, or will we continue to be in denial and afraid of truly addressing the F-words with our lives?