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Patriarchy & the Violence of Fatherless Men




Along with several dozen other prospective jurors, I recently was ushered into an Illinois state criminal courtroom. On our left sat the defendant, a young man, with his defense attorney. Seated directly in front of us, facing the judge, were two men and one woman from the state's attorney's office. Three state prosecutors? It looked like trouble to me.

Sure enough. The judge instructed us that we were to judge the guilt or innocence of the defendant on one count of first-degree murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

It was grim. This was not television. One victim was dead, three injured (one paralyzed, one blinded). The life of the accused man might be over. I did feel pity for him; if found guilty, his could be a wasted young life, in a far country, estranged from our heavenly Father.

In reply to the judge's interview questions, I affirmed that a family member is a policeman, that I know other policemen, and that I have been a victim of armed robbery. While the judge accepted me as a juror, the defense objected, so I was sent home.

As soon as I turned on my car radio in the courthouse parking lot, I heard about the killing of Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer, which had occurred about an hour earlier.

In a government building downtown, Bauer had been attending a seminar on responding to mass shootings. Afterwards, on his police radio, he heard a description of an armed suspect nearby. He saw the suspect and confronted him in a stairwell, where the two struggled and fell; the suspect then shot Bauer six times, killing him.

The next day, Valentine's Day, there was a mass shooting of high-school students in Florida. The killer escaped the school campus, but a clear description of him went out to the police. Officer Michael Leonard spotted and arrested the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Leonard said, "He looked like a typical high school student."

Robert P. George commented on Facebook:

These crimes are almost always committed by men, frequently young men (and sometimes even boys). So the very first question I want to know the answer to is this: What do we know about the perpetrator's father and the young man's relationship with him? . . . [T]ime after time the answer has been that the father is (and was) absent (for one reason or another) from the boy's life or had virtually no relationship [with] the son or effective authority over him.

I would be surprised if fatherlessness were not the number one predictor of criminality. I recall hearing a veteran Texas prison chaplain say he often asked prisoners if they were raised by their biological fathers. The vast majority—well over 90 percent—said no.



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