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A Decade Later, Fatherless America Remains Problematic
August 10, 2005
by Tony Zizza

"Yeah, I hope I'm at least half the dad that he didn't have to be. Because he didn't have to be. You know he didn't have to be."

—Brad Paisley, "He Didn't Have To Be"
"He took me from a boy to a man so Phil is my father cause my biological didn't bother."

—Shaquille O'Neal, "Biological Didn't Bother"

My heart absolutely aches and breaks over the loving dedication that both country music star Brad Paisley and professional basketball star/rap artist Shaquille O'Neal express for their stepfather. Their musical genres may be worlds apart, but their musical choice to honor stepfathers is deeply moving. Clearly, Brad Paisley and Shaquille O'Neal have shown their success can be attributed to their maturity in having allowed themselves to be fathered when that was what they needed.

Now, don't get the idea that I believe the myth that political scientist Stephen Baskerville has spent years trying to destroy. That is, American fathers walk out on their families as a matter of whim and fancy. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, our civil society has benefited from the work done on behalf of children and their families by organizations such as the American Coalition For Fathers and Children, the Children's Rights Council, and others.

This being said, it's quite paradoxical that this year is the 10th anniversary of a book titled, "Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent and Social Problem." Written during the witch hunt years of the alleged Deadbeat Dad crisis, author David Blankenhorn proves himself over and over again to be a master of the famed bait and switch.

On one hand, Blankenhorn concedes that children are in fact "safer with a father than without one." But when Blankenhorn talks further about child sexual abuse, he has the naked audacity to proclaim, "too many married men commit this crime." Blankenhorn wrote a very dangerous book in "Fatherless America" because he is all over the place. Up and down. Scrambled. Almost like a family law attorney talking out of both sides of his mouth.

I firmly agree with the concerns that Stephen Baskerville has with "Fatherless America." Baskerville took Blankenhorn to task on September 3, 2004, in an excellent article titled, "The Failure Of Fatherhood Policy." I read the article on the lewrockwell.com web site, and it included more scrambled quotes from Blankenhorn. Namely, "never before in this country have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their fathers."

When Baskerville writes, "the untruth that widespread fatherlessness is caused primarily by paternal abandonment disguises the uncontested truth that millions of innocent children are kept in forced separation from legally unimpeachable fathers by court orders that their fathers may breach only on pain of incarceration", he is properly speaking about fatherhood not being so much abandoned, but more like fatherhood being denied.

Interestingly, there is a facet to Blankenhorn's "Fatherless America" that I don't believe I've heard anyone talk about very much in the past decade. I'm sure Brad Paisley, Shaquille O'Neal, and anyone else who is grateful for having been parented by a stepfather would take serious issue with Blankenhorn's fragmented feelings and false conclusions regarding stepfathers. After reading the chapter titled, "The Stepfather and The Nearby Guy", I truly wonder how Blankenhorn can sleep at night. I still wonder, what is Blankenhorn's real agenda?

Blankenhorn calls stepfathers "nonfathers." This is a contradiction in terms. He makes the mistake of agreeing with William R. Beer, who is under the silly impression that a stepfamily is "like a trolley car that rolls along the tracks, with people getting on and off." A sharply negative view of stepfathers and stepfamilies is enabling to biological mothers and their children when they don't want to "accept" a stepfather, even if the biological father is out of the picture. Horrible images of stepfathers run rampant in our confused culture in movies like "Domestic Disturbance."

There are some uncomfortable truths most people are afraid to admit. That is, the primary reason why stepfamilies end and stepfathers "disengage" from their stepchildren is because sometimes stepchildren make the the poor choice to not accept the stepfather as a parent. This is a costly mistake, particularly when the biological father is out of the picture. It's the worst lose-lose game in town.

While Blankenhorn makes absolutely no sense by stating that in regard to "the great majority of stepfathers" who are "not fathers at all", he relies on studies that don't seem to factor in the choices biological mothers and their children make in relation to the child's stepfather, who is of course, the biological mother's husband. Here's the uncomfortable truth. It's actually easier for a stepfather to want to help out, than not. Again, if the biological father is not in the picture, a good stepfather simply wants to be allowed to be a parent, rather than a substitute father.

I agree in large part with Howard H. Bloomfield, author of "Making Peace In Your Stepfamily", when he writes, "There is no reason why stepparents cannot parent just as effectively as biological parents." Please note the word, "parent." Stepfathers know the "love" stepchildren have for their biological father might always be stronger no matter what. Big deal! Did you hear me? Big deal! We can handle it. What we can't handle, and what ultimately (usually 2-4 years later) makes stepfathers disengage from their stepchildren, is the rejection they subjectively and objectively feel as adults who just wanted to be more than a "guy" in the house.

I must say that the most disturbing part of Blankenhorn's thinking is his unwillingness to look at step-fatherhood through the eyes of, well, stepfathers. How moronic. Blankenhorn is like a biological mother who once had a good marriage and allowed it to die because she just couldn't help but be friends with her child, instead of learning to be a parent and back her husband up as a stepfather. How sad.

Yet, I don't think anything could ever sway Blankenhorn to the reality "the great majority of stepfathers" deserve to hear and feel the R word from their stepchildren that they have spent years, not weeks or months, providing for. So, what's the R word? Respect.

I personally challenge Blankenhorn to reconsider his twisted views on stepfathers and stepfamilies. For him to completely discount the years of sacrifice that stepfathers make, particularly when the biological father is out of the picture, stinks. Real bad. It cannot go unchallenged.

I imagine Blankenhorn is too sophisticated and "educated" to listen to either country music or rap music. Blankenhorn could learn something from Brad Paisley and Shaquille O'Neal. Blankenhorn could surely learn something profound by having a cup of coffee or two with an actual living and breathing stepfather.

He would learn that we're human.

Zizza writes regularly about stepfathers and stepfamilies. He also serves as Vice President for the State of Georgia for the non-profit organization, Parents For Label and Drug Free Education. Read Zizza's "Think Twice" column at: http://www.ablechild.org/newsarchive.htm

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