We Are Reliving the Lord of the Flies
Timothy S. Goeglein
Timothy S. Goeglein is the vice president of External and Government Relations at Focus on the Family, Washington, D.C.
In 1954, the Nobel Prize winning author William Goldring published the book Lord of the Flies. The novel, and subsequent movie made from the book, deals with a group of British boys who find themselves stranded on an uninhabited island with no adults. The boys try to govern themselves — with disastrous results — as they struggle with emotions, morality, cruelty, and other issues.
As I read about the increased violence in our inner cities, as well as the attacks on innocent human beings by alienated, unsupervised young men, I cannot help but to harken back to Goldring’s sadly prophetic novel.
One such example, as reported in a recent City Journal article by Michael Torres, involved a group of seven Philadelphia teens who beat a 73-year-old man to death with a traffic cone. Their heinous actions were caught on surveillance camera. The footage showed them laughing and recording their brutal assault on the defenseless man. The elderly man’s niece would ask, “Where are the parents?”
The answer is that the parents, and particularly the fathers, are nowhere to be found, and so these teens are playing out the scenario of Lord of the Flies daily in cities across America.
Take Pennsylvania, for example. Torres reports that data from the state’s Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission shows that in 2021, more than 80 percent of juvenile court dispositions involved a young person coming from a broken home. Nearly 48 percent were raised by a single parent, and only 15.5 percent come from intact, two-parent families.
These young people, like the boys in Lord of the Flies, find themselves stranded, with no adults to help guide them. Thus, they have no idea of how to govern their emotions — whether it concern anger, sex, or basic regard for human life.
Yet, instead of asking the question, “Where are the parents?” many government officials respond with, “Show me the money.” That is the wrong response, because no amount of money can heal the broken soul of a young person growing up without a father, or in some cases, with no parents at all.
For instance, Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Jason Riley states that despite more than $22 trillion dollars spent on so-called “Great Society” policies over the past 50-plus years, four out every five American children raised by a single mother live at or below the poverty line. In contrast, for married Black Americans, the poverty rate is below 10 percent.
He writes, “the likelihood of teen pregnancy, drug abuse, dropping out of school, and many other social problems grew dramatically when parents were absent.”
In addition, consider this 2021 report on the state of the Black family. It found that 64 percent of Black children live in single-parent families, with approximately 60 percent of Black women between the ages of 15 and 50, being either unmarried or living with an unmarried partner when they had their first child, and approximately 40 percent being either not married or living with an unmarried partner.
Meanwhile, the government continues to throw money at the problem, often subsidizing single-parent families, while ignoring the root of the problem.
Perhaps the best explanation of the problem and the solution came from Rev. Eileen Smith, the executive director of the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace. She understands that money is not the issue. Torres quotes her as saying:
“We are seeing fearless perpetrators in these young people. We’re seeing young kids who have cold hearts and who are not concerned with consequences of any kind . . . it is a spiritual problem, along with a lack of home and a lack of love. They’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”
Or as criminologist Jennifer Schwartz states in a report published by the Justice Department, “father absence continues to exert significant, destructive effects on gender-disaggregated violence rates.”
If we are to stop teenagers, and particularly young men, from reenacting the Lord of the Flies in our cities and towns, we need to reemphasize that children need to be raised in two-parent intact families, with both a mother and a father. That is what government should be encouraging, instead of continuing to bandage open wounds with dollar bills.
Otherwise, we will continue to hear the question, “Where are the parents?” when another tragic attack or shooting takes place. It is my hope that someday, we will no longer have to ask that question, and that question has found its answer: a loving two-parent home regardless of socioeconomic status is once again the norm, and not the exception. *