Of Elephants and Men

Saturday morning saw frost in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, with the temperatures dropping enough to cancel my plans for venturing out.  Instead I spent an interesting few hours watching the Smithsonian Channel, and in particular a special on the mystery of elephant deaths in India and Africa (“Nature Shock:  Elephant Murder Mystery”). 

I’m normally a news and movie buff, but the movies were old or boring and the news cycle taken up with the mainstream American media finally (gasp!) realizing that the Affordable Care Act is unfolding as a national embarrassment.  I used to watch the History Channel, until that network devolved into bad reality shows, explanations of why the world ended in 2012, and how extraterrestrials really are living among us.  Really.

So it was elephants being raped and murdered mysteriously.  Spoiler alert:  it turns out that the problem is young male elephants.  Stoked full of testosterone, some have turned to raping and killing.  And not just other elephants.  In Africa, they are killing the rhino population as well.  This is, the experts intone, because poachers have killed off the senior bull elephants for their ivory, leaving the herds with no authority figures to teach them how to get along in elephant society.  No dads in the family equals unruly and violent teens.

I don’t like to make blanket comparisons between animal behavior and humans, because animals generally don’t have to deal with the idiocy of big government, corrupt politicians and social democracy.  But I was stricken by the fact that we have, in fact, done the same thing to generations of poor young men in this country.  And particularly, but not exclusively, poor young men of color.

In the Sixties, when Lyndon Johnson and his fellow Democrats ushered in the Great Society – to “end poverty in our lifetimes” – we had little understanding of how much damage we would wreak on the nation’s poor.  But the facts, after some 50 years and more than $5 trillion in taxpayer funding, attest that the “War on Poverty” is by any measure the most colossal policy failure in the history of the American Government.  Yes, even worse that the US Postal Service or the idiotic “War on Drugs.”

By the time leading Democrats and Republicans could begin to sound the alarm, the damage was done – and is now almost irreversible.  More poor families in poverty than ever before, with welfare evolving from a social safety net to a way of life for millions of families.

Worse yet is the collateral damage.  The policies of the War on Poverty have dictated that more money goes to families with no wage-earner present.  And those who have the most children to raise.  By the time Bill Clinton joined with a Republican Congress to reform welfare, the program was so deeply entrenched that reform lasted only a small while before well-intentioned but mathematically-challenged politicians ramped it up again.

The result is a massive army of young, poor males.  A staggering out-of-wedlock birth rate.  A staggering unemployment rate.  Staggering rates of violence of every kind.  And no mature males to teach the young rogues how to act in proper society.  We have removed the venerable senior men in our poor communities by way of bad social policies, and are now paying the price.

Rape?  A rite of passage for the gangs that have arisen to replace parenthood in poor communities.  Violence with guns?  Nearly 80 percent of homicides with guns are committed not by rural whites clinging to their rifles and their Bibles, but by gang-bangers in the inner cities.

When this violence begins to spill over into other segments of society, as it has in other nations and may here, politicians will be quick to point fingers in every direction in an effort to avoid responsibility for their ignorance and their criminally poor social policies.  They will, in fact, point fingers at everyone but themselves.

For politicians at the federal and state levels who promote welfare as a way of life in order to get themselves re-elected…those who attempt to blame the mentally ill or gun owners for rampant violence with guns…those who continue to promote power without responsibility…these are the poachers who have decimated the families and communities of America.


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