May 27, 2005

May 27, 2005 | Commentary on Family and Marriage

Connecting the Dots

Crammed upside down at the bottom of a trash bin with cement blocks piled on top of her tiny body, yet another of America's little girls was seen as nothing more than garbage. Kidnapped, raped and left to die a horrible death, the eight-year-old child is the latest in an ever-growing torrent of victims of a toxic culture.

We may never know exactly what drove 17-year-old Milagro Cunningham to treat Lisa Taylor as if she were nothing more than a thing to be used and discarded at will -- as if she were a tissue and not a precious human being created, like the rest of us, in the image and likeness of our Creator. Only God knows how such dark depravity could come to grip his mind and bring him to commit such a sickening act.

But we are fooling ourselves if we pretend that the reality of his abandonment by his own parents, his illegal presence in America with no one responsible for him, combined with a toxic culture that surrounds all of us, didn't play a significant role. Milagro couldn't have missed the signals sent by a raunchy media culture that says: Do whatever you like, whenever you like. Consequences? What consequences? Struggling, undoubtedly, with his own feelings of rejection, and with no stable family to help him sort through the lies, he took the selfish, hedonistic messages of pop culture that teaches everyone else is disposable and took them to their horrifying, and in his warped mind, logical conclusion.

My heart is breaking for America's children.

We now live in a society where it's not unusual to have metal detectors and armed police in our nation's schools. The latest debate about enforcing the peace in our classrooms centers around police using tasers to subdue unruly students. But while pundits take one position or the other on the appropriateness of stun guns at school, the reason for the escalation in the madness is largely ignored by the mass media. Few seem to be "connecting the dots" from the obvious cultural corruption, to the failure of parents to truly "parent" their kids to the brutal consequences being suffered by our children.

Consider:

  • According to a 2004 report by Advocates for Youth, a full fifty percent of the new STD cases are in our young people, ages 15-24
  • A series of recent articles in the Chronicles of Higher Education reveals that greater numbers of freshmen are entering colleges with diagnosed depression and other mental illnesses
  • A September 2004 report in the medical journal Pediatrics reveals that teens that watch a lot of sexualized programming on television are twice as likely to engage in intercourse than their peers who don't watch much TV
  • The London School of Economics reports that 9 out of 10 children ages 8 to 16 that go online (usually while looking up information for homework assignments) will stumble across hard-core pornography

As I discuss in my new book, Home Invasion www.HomeInvasion.org, my Heritage Foundation colleague, researcher and policy analyst Patrick Fagan points to the sad state of the American family as one key causal factor that has led to what he calls our "culture of rejection:"

"In 1950, for every hundred children born that year, twelve entered a broken family - four were born out of wedlock and eight suffered the divorce of their parents. By the year 2000, that number had risen fivefold, and for every one hundred children born, sixty entered a broken family, with thirty-three of those born out of wedlock, and twenty-seven suffering the divorce of their parents."

The combination of a culture gone mad and parents gone AWOL has turned out to be lethal for America's children.

The good news is that American parents are becoming increasingly disturbed by a pop culture that glorifies gratuitous sex, senseless violence, incivility, broken families and narcissism. In the one hundred plus interviews I've done since my book launched in mid-April, the calls and e-mails I've received from parents reflect a universal concern over the future of our children. The bad news is that far too many parents still don't realize that the first step in protecting our children's innocence and lives is for us to step up to the plate and truly parent.

Rebecca Hagelin is Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Rebecca Hagelin Senior Communications Fellow

First appeared on World Net Daily