CHRIS POWELL: Connecticut needs to learn from murdered teen's life

Published on Wednesday, 1 September 2021 20:57
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When 14-year-old Tyshaun Hargrove was shot to death last week in New Haven, Acting Police Chief Renee Dominguez called it an "isolated incident." The chief meant that the murder did not seem connected to any other recent crime, but "isolated incident" it was not. For it was the city's 19th murder of the year and was emblematic of the social disintegration sweeping Connecticut's cities.

While journalism had trouble finding Tyshaun's parents or guardians, it was reported that at 14 he was already the father of a 1-year-old son.

Of course, the mother of Tyshaun Junior is not likely to be much older than the murdered boy himself was. So their 1-year-old may need much luck reaching the age at which his father was killed.

Hapless New Haven is doing what it can about its explosion of violent crime. The city has brought back its shooting task force, established an agency to work with men returning to the city from prison with few skills and prospects, and is trying to put more police on the street.

But all this responds only to the symptoms of the social disintegration; none of this relates to the disintegration's causes, for which New Haven is no more to blame than Hartford and Bridgeport are to blame for their own social disintegration.

Connecticut's cities are what the state has made them – repositories for the poor, fatherless, neglected, abused, and uneducated. Even if the cities began asking about the causes of poverty's pathologies, they could do little about them.

For poverty and its pathologies are the consequences of state and federal welfare and education policy, especially the catastrophic presumption that children are better and less expensively raised by one parent or a grandparent or two subsidized by the government than in a group home or foster home or by adoptive parents.

This policy of subsidizing incompetence and irresponsibility has only encouraged more fatherlessness, single parenting, child neglect and abuse, and educational failure. But the new Democratic national administration's policy is to double down on the subsidies, as if that will increase the parenting. Maybe it will in some cases, but it still may leave most neglected children without fathers in their home.

As a matter of simple arithmetic it may seem obvious that two parents are better than one. That sort of family came through the millennia as the wisdom of the ages.

But these revolutionary times disdain the traditional family.

Today's prevailing wisdom seems to be that children having children really isn't so bad and that children hardly need parents at all if they have their own therapists, special-education teachers, social workers, police officers, public defenders, prison guards, and probation officers.

The worse social disintegration gets, the more government grows to minister to it, and the more government grows, the more it becomes self-absorbed, loses sight of its nominal objectives, and disregards results.

The most urgent policy question in Connecticut – more urgent even than anything about the virus epidemic – may be: Where are all the messed-up kids coming from?

A General Assembly that sensed this urgency might hold public hearings examining the short life of Tyshaun Hargrove and the lives of similar young victims of the mean streets, just as it might hold public hearings examining how the secret juvenile justice system handled the many offenses of the 17-year-old boy charged with running a stolen car into and killing Henryk Gudelski in New Britain in June, having been released despite 13 arrests in the previous 3½ years.

Once the legislature gave Connecticut the details of those cases it might have much expertise to draw on – not just police officers and social workers from the state Department of Children and Families but also teachers and school administrators, social scientists, and court personnel.

Someone somewhere might be able to explain exactly who and what undermined and contradicted the wisdom of the ages and who benefited from it, and to explain why, despite more than a half century of "war on poverty," that war, viewed from Connecticut's cities, seems no more successful than the recently repudiated "war on drugs."

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Wednesday, 1 September 2021 20:57. Updated: Wednesday, 1 September 2021 20:59.