Government solutions for its irreparable damage

The Wilmington, N. C. city government has taken on the task of solving a long-term cultural problem. Despite the fact that the American government model was “instituted” only to “secure” our individual “Rights,” politicians and bureaucrats continue to meddle in every aspect of our lives, including trying to substitute for parents in dysfunctional family relationships.

City officials have conducted a series of panel discussions beginning last fall to determine “how the city can solve the gang problem that plagued it” for the past year (it’s easier to talk about problems than to solve them). The last panel was held this Tuesday at the Martin Luther King Center. It featured four young people (apparently wise beyond their years), including one who “spent time in prison” and “a 20-year-old former gang member.” Adam Wagner reported this story in the Wilmington StarNews. (link)

The story headline quoted a panelist: “There’s nowhere for any of the kids to go.”—“Panelists say more community centers in the city can help,” comments Mr. Wagner. Does anyone believe that community centers will prevent criminal behavior by people who haven’t learned right from wrong? Underlying this pathetic call for help is a deeply embedded problem: breakup of the traditional family structure and dependency on government. How can government facilities substitute for stable families? Community centers, basketball courts and public housing cannot correct a societal malfunction, but they help people feel good about their intentions and rid them of guilt.

Regardless of what feel-good schemes the public adults hatch up, these abandoned youngsters are on their own; left to figure out how to cope with life without parents to guide, encourage and discipline them. Scattered through the StarNews report we find statements by the young panelists that reveal the hopeless problems they face:

Children with no fathers (“a lot of single moms…no mentors”); lack of guidance and discipline in the home (“…it’s hard to get the kids some kind of leadership role or anything to look forward to without any help in the home structure.”); children with no functional family desperately in search of belonging (“You have these kids joining these gangs out of fear of being isolated….They feel like there’s no way out….”); joining gangs as a substitute for belonging to a stable family (“I felt like we was all family and we made money together, we ate together”).

It seems almost insulting to offer sterile, cold public facilities to substitute for the safely, comfort and love of a home with a mother and father. Sadly it’s too late for most of them. They had the misfortune of being born to irresponsible people who make bad decisions; the results now a burden on the innocent children–and the rest of us.

Wilmington City Manager Sterling Cheatham will write some “brief recommendations” within the next month. Mr. Cheatham is a black man. He probably knows, better than most of us, the futility of his task. No bureaucratic statements, or proposed “solutions,” can overcome these tragic conditions.

Historically, black families in the South, even under slavery, kept family structures, Christian values and their pride (still true of older Southern black people today). Sadly, many displaced from their rural roots moved to urban places and became trapped by government-sponsored “plantations” that has ruined generations of lives. The damage has been done and for now is irreparable.

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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