My dad, piloting solo, was heading south along the Puget Sound shoreline and had left the wheel of his pride and joy – the inboard plywood boat he’d built – to address a matter near the stern. Unseen ahead was a sandbar which, had dad attended to proper steersmanship, he would have avoided.
As it was he ploughed a significant channel for a good distance into the land mine located where it wasn’t supposed to be, and dad found himself back at the steering wheel but only because he’d been thrown there by the impact.
Bumped and bruised but otherwise unhurt – except for his pride – embarrassed and sheepish to be sure, he awaited the turning of the tide, even fished – when there was enough water – in this most unlikely of spots to pass the time, and eventually floated free and finished the journey home.
Dad shared the story with me, thinking it would be a good lesson about the danger of leaving the wheel.
Our country has left the wheel and the chaos, confusion and catastrophic grief – and consequent outrage – are the cumulative effect of families without fathers.
In the wake of the Florida school shooting, Wisconsin Sheriff Dale Schmidt said that more gun control “will do nothing more than place a very small band aid on a much bigger problem.”
As Andrew Blake writes recently in “Blue Lives Matter”, Sheriff Schmidt said, “parents need to instill respect for authority in their children and discipline their children.”
But what if those parents lack the skills, capacity, wherewithal, time, patience, priority, etc. – or are even home – to properly set and enforce those all-so-important necessary boundaries?
“Among the 25 most-cited school shooters since Columbine, 75 percent were reared in broken homes,” writes Emilie Kao for “The Daily Signal”, this March 13.
“Psychologist Dr. Peter Langman, a pre-eminent expert on school shooters, found that most came from incredibly broken homes of not just divorce and separation, but also infidelity, substance abuse, criminal behavior, domestic violence, and child abuse.”
“The desperate cry of America’s boys” headlined the opinion piece by Suzanne Venker for Fox News this past February 18.
“Deeper even than the gun problem is this: boys are broken,” wrote Venker.
“Broken homes, or homes without a physically and emotionally present mother and father, are the cause of most of society’s ills.”
So, what to do? Where should our focus be?
“Where no counsel is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety,” reads an ancient proverb.
The word for “counsel” – synonym “guidance” – properly means “steersmanship” or “pilotage” according to one commentator. Lack of such guidance and counsel – missing a firm hand at the wheel – can not only sink a ship or, in my dad’s case, set it high and dry, but can prove to be the destruction of any organization, even an entire nation, comprised as they are of families.
The second half of the proverb declares, conversely, that “in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Here, however, a further warning. Remembering that the synonym for “counselors” is “steersmen”, this suggests it is not the numbers of counselors but who in fact these counselors are.
It is not “the superiority of a popular government over the despotism of a single ruler,” that is here contrasted.
Rather “the caution of our homely proverb is net inopportune, ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth.’”
Many people, if not most, have relinquished the wheel of their lives to the so-called ‘steersmanship’ of pop-culture.
Or the majority.
Or follow-the-crowd mentality.
In all such cases we are – as leaders at whatever level – at great risk of relinquishing what is our number one responsibility while tending to other matters not near as important: the family.
It will take refocusing on the family to refloat America.