The Kids Aren’t Alright: Broken Families And Teenage Extremists
Slate’s popular advice column “Dear Prudence” ran with an eye-catching headline Tuesday: “Help! My Boyfriend’s 14-Year-Old Son Is a Nazi.”
The headline referred to a request for an advice from a woman who is considering marrying a man with a problem child. “My boyfriend’s 14-year-old son is a Nazi. He is addicted to alt-right sites and uses white nationalist rhetoric. Worse, he has acted aggressively toward my daughter and me (my mother was Persian and my ex is South Asian). He was encouraged by his mother until he was suspended from school for stalking and threatening a girl.”
Sounds like the kid has some serious issues, even though we should take the assertion he’s a “Nazi” and “uses white nationalist rhetoric” with some grain of salt considering how liberals have come to see everything from The New York Times to President Trump’s amnesty offer as “white nationalist.”
Who knows what this kid is saying actually constitutes alt-right extremism or is just the typical banter of malcontent teen gamers.
Either way, this is a kid with serious issues who likely needs his father to be more involved in his life. But the girlfriend strongly opposes that idea.
“Now my boyfriend is trying to get full physical custody of his son to ‘save’ him. I don’t think it is possible, at least short of sending him to a boarding school. (His older son is at college and is a sweetheart.) My boyfriend works long hours, and a few hours of family therapy is not going to cut it with this kid,” she tells Slate’s “Prudence.”
The woman asks whether she should stick with the man of her dreams, even if it means putting up with his troubled son, or leave him. Slate’s advice columnist offers sound advice that the woman should do what’s best for her own daughter and herself, and if the boy is a legitimate threat, then she should leave.
But what is curious is how the woman believes the best thing for her boyfriend to do is to abandon his son to a disciplinary boarding school and not question how his lack of involvement in his son’s life has led to the current predicament.
An absent father is never a good sign for troubled sons. The kid may be acting up here because his life was ruptured by the divorce of his parents and his father works too much to give him any attention. So the kid turns to 4chan to vent his frustration with the world, while the adults in the situation focus on their own happiness and refuse to take any responsibility.
There’s a possibility that so many young white males are turning to the alt-right as a result of the breakdown of the American family.
My colleague at The Daily Caller, Peter Hasson, pointed out last August the correlation between extremism and unstable family life. James Fields, the white nationalist charged with Heather Heyer’s murder, was raised by a single mother. Dylann Roof’s biological parents largely abandoned him. The Tsarnaev brothers rarely saw their father. (RELATED: James Fields The Latest In Pattern Of Extremist Young Men With Absent Fathers)
These are just some of the more prominent examples of this pattern. Famous sociologist David Popenoe has argued “fathers are important to their sons as role models. They are important for maintaining authority and discipline. And they are important in helping their sons to develop both self-control and feelings of empathy toward others, character traits that are found to be lacking in violent youth.”
Kids lacking those role models to provide guidance and answers on life may end up turning to political extremism as a surrogate for that role, as it might possibly be the case for the Dear Prudie advice seeker.
But the solution preferred by the woman is the father forsaking any responsibility for his son and leaving that burden to others. That’s probably what led to the son’s trouble, and a disciplinary boarding school, which he would be sent to because his dad was convinced to not raise him, is not likely to transform the teenager into a well-adjusted moderate liberal.
There have been dozens of think pieces wondering what inspired so many young men to embrace the alt-right, but this one Dear Prudence column may have given us a better idea of how that happened than all those articles combined.