Letters to the Editor: Nov. 3, 2013

Unwed motherhood persists as pathology

In the event the mayor and council wish to do something substantive about blight, they can begin by considering George Will’s column juxtaposed on your pages last Sunday, Oct. 27, that referencing Moynihan and Santorum. Those worthies point out the salience of the problem of unwed motherhood, the consequent destruction of our families and thereby the destruction of our country.

Tupelo can persist with cosmesis, continuing to put lipstick on a pig, or it can recognize and strive to deal with the underlying sociopathy. While Mr. Moynihan had it right decades ago and both Mr. Will and Mr. Santorum have it right today, America does not.

The statistics given in Will’s piece and those long-ago set forth by Moynihan ignore the more wide-ranging present reality that the disintegration of the family is and has been for some time imbued with ubiquity. It is killing the hopes and dreams of all Americans as the numbers of unwed births continue to exponentiate in the much larger white population, re-tracing the sad experience of our black and Hispanic populations.

The destructive curves described over the years by the consequences, be they crime, poverty, low educational achievement, or neighborhood blight, differ among racial and ethnic groups only in their placement on the historical timeline. Their slopes are reasonably congruent despite being separated by perhaps a quarter century on the temporal axis.

No city, including Tupelo, has the resources to successfully battle this conflagration by throwing water and money at the various arsons perpetrated continually throughout our society by the sociopathy of family failure. Our schools, our criminal justice system, our neighborhoods, our physical infrastructure are all failing as our families fail themselves, their children, their neighbors, and our fractured society and governments.

We are failing, West Jackson is failing, other neighborhoods are failing, because we have allowed single motherhood and unwed births to be held up as gallant, admirable examples rather than the profound human tragedies they are. Whether one views this through a moralistic or pragmatic lens, the view is the same – destroyed hopeless lives which in turn inflict their failures and misery on the present and on future generations.

Public condemnation proceedings should not be restricted to blighted properties. They should be applied to the base causes, and those inevitably devolve to the disintegration of our families. This is a racial problem, and the race in question is human. A truly liberal approach to problems includes an obligation to face them honestly and openly. The Daily Journal, as a liberal voice, should be pushing that conversation. City government can add its voice in involving churches and community organizations/leaders/ in addressing this problem. Someone somewhere must have the courage to begin this conversation and sustain this quest. Why not Tupelo?

Don Riley, M.D.


Editor’s note: A recent week-long series (Sept. 29 – Oct. 5) in the Daily Journal called attention to the connection between poverty and teen pregnancy/unwed motherhood and the direct correlation between these factors and low educational performance in Mississippi school districts. It also spotlighted efforts of several community organizations and churches to reverse the trends.

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    Could the underlying factor reside in demonstrating personal growth opportunity beyond the realm of experience of a teen in MS?

    Think of how we adults politicize educational opportunity: how we promote child-bearing as a mark of personal success – or failure: etc. How much time do we spend teaching our youth what opportunities are out there? Do they know what it takes to be a software or environmental engineer, a biotech scientist, etc. Do they know they too can be these people when they grow up?