The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)

Of children, a policeman’s death, and parents’ influence

- Christine Flowers

When I heard about the murder of Officer Christophe­r Fitzgerald, the Temple University cop who was allegedly killed by an 18-year-old last week, there were tears, there was anger and then came the thought that this young man’s demons were not just his alone. His parents had a role.

That’s not a very popular thought these days, where compassion is considered the highest virtue and in a society where pointing fingers is as much of a moral failing as holding people accountabl­e.

I posted this on Facebook: “A child can indeed be a Bad Seed, but far more often, he or she is a reflection of the love (or lack of it,) values (or lack of them,) and experience­s lived with family. As the child is father to the man, so does the father (and mother, and siblings) shape the child. To treat humans as deracinate­d plants that take no nourishmen­t from the larger garden that surrounds them is blindness, foolish libertaria­nism and ignorance.”

Most of the over 150 people who commented agreed at least to some extent that parents were central to the success or failure of the human beings they’ve put into the world.

The youth accused of shooting multiple bullets into the head of a 31-year-old cop did not come into the world destined to be a destroyer. He was likely a beautiful baby.

Children are clay, and the first imprints made in them are by their parents. My father had cruel sculptors for his tender years, people who treated the precious material in their hands as if it was trash.

He had the ability to transcend that unjust beginning, that thwarted entrance into this miracle of a world.

Not all do. The individual accused of assassinat­ing Fitzgerald apparently had a troubled existence, which might have been rich in physical accoutreme­nts but lacking in the type of care and guidance that might have blunted the edges of some inner torment and disjointed thoughts.

It’s true that we don’t know everything about his upbringing, but to just completely discount the influence his parents had on him, as a not insignific­ant minority of people did, is to guarantee that it will happen again.

I disagree with Hillary Clinton that it takes a village to raise a child, if that means we are able to farm out parental duties to the villagers. While neighbors and teachers and friends all play a role in forming a healthy and productive member of society, the first and most important people, the ones who are the alpha and the omega of all that amazing potential, are mom and dad.

My own father died when I was 20, and therefore I had him for a good quarter of what I hope will be a long life. My mother had to raise my four younger siblings, children under the age of 16, by herself. She did a magnificen­t job, and we were blessed.

But not everyone is given that gift.

In a world where social media is constantly firing away at the ramparts of protection for children and exposing them to influences they should never encounter, and at a time when depression is a greater pandemic than the one with the actual vaccine, parents are more important than ever.

They are like the 300 Spartans, trying to keep the enemy at bay at least until the child is old enough to function on his own.

Those who reject that theory do so because they don’t want to admit failure, or responsibi­lity, or even the possibilit­y that all their good actions will be irrelevant. Perhaps in the smallest of cases they will be.

Perhaps there really are Bad Seeds. But the best antidote we have for that is Good Parents.

It costs nothing, it’s plentiful, it doesn’t need boosters.

And the resulting benefits are permanent: immunity to the harsh and debilitati­ng influences of life.

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