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Controversial author Suzanne Venker, a mother and former teacher of at-risk youth who frequently writes on family and culture, has a deadly serious message for America.

She says her research, (and that of others) has shown a vast majority of those who commit mass shootings in schools and otherwise come from fatherless homes. “Indeed, the consequences of fatherlessness are simply staggering,” she writes.

In that undeniable pattern I, too, believe lies the taproot of our national dilemma: Homes without positive, caring fathers as role models for sons and daughters.

It’s only logical that the stresses from the crippling degeneration of our families has been enormous as mothers for decades now have filled the roles of mother, breadwinner and head of household while on the payroll of some enterprise that demands the majority of their waking hours and energies.

Who, I wonder, can possibly do that effectively, especially over extended years as too-often fatherless children grow from being helpless infants into adulthood, becoming ever more unrestrained and rudderless less the guidance of a loving father?

Venker writes, “The root of fatherlessness rests in two things: our culture’s dismissal of men as valuable human beings who have something unique to offer and its dismissal of marriage as an institution that’s crucial to the health and well-being of children.”

You don’t have to accept Venker’s conclusions (classified by some as anti-feminist) any more than we have to believe in gravity until we step off of Hawksbill Crag in the Buffalo. Yet the common-sense correlations for most Americans can’t be denied.

Broken families, bloody and violent video games and peer pressure that have steadily poisoned forming minds, the need for two-parent incomes to stay afloat, and particularly the missing fathers, largely caused by divorce, all play into our nation’s complex and serious problem.

Still, we immediately blame the easiest political target, the chosen weapon, when a killer decides to use one to slay classmates or other innocents. The national problem created by missing fathers is far more intimate and complex to address and resolve.

Saluting Marshallese

The thousands of Marshallese who have legally immigrated into Springdale over the past 30 years have steadily become relatively quiet yet valuable contributors to society in Northwest Arkansas.

I recall a column written more than a decade ago about a compassionate Marshallese man known as “K.K.” who found a wallet containing money in a Springdale Walmart parking lot just before Christmas. He quickly went to great lengths to locate the grateful owner and return it to her.

I like to think K.K. is representative in many ways of the majority of Marshallese citizens who chose Springdale as their primary place to legally relocate to America beginning in the 1980s.

They’ve immigrated steadily to settle in a group, bringing with them their customs along with a willingness to assimilate rather than resist or oppose Western culture and our American society. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

A recent news release from the offices of 3rd District Rep. Steve Womack and U.S. Sen. John Boozman about a resolution to recognize the Marshallese said the 2010 census estimated 4,324 out of the 22,400 Marshallese individuals living in the U.S. are in Arkansas. But their actual Arkansas population is estimated to be between 8,000 and 14,000.

Well worth seeing

I always begin these sorts of observations with a disclaimer: I am neither a paid film critic nor a student of cinematic achievement in scene lighting, foley sound effects or costuming.

However, I do recognize a movie that richly satisfies my imagination for a couple of hours devoted purely to escape (and a lot of popcorn). With that in mind, here’s my advice for two films you shouldn’t miss, not only for their message, but for how they leave you feeling as you head for the exist.

Both of these feature child actors. Jacob Tremblay in Wonder and Abby Ryder Fortson in Forever My Girl steal the show and your heart as you relate to their situations.

Wonder is a movie that just can’t help itself from leaving us ordinary people smiling and feeling good (we all need that in these times for sure). The storyline and acting are top-flight, and this is one of those films that just fits together well in every respect. I’ll not go beyond that simple statement except to say you won’t regret seeing the film.

Forever My Girl, while sounding like a tear-generating chick flick cut from the mold of Nicholas Sparks’ classic The Notebook, really isn’t that at all. Instead, it’s the compelling hate-love and life story set in a small Southern town while offering lessons that unfold like layers of an onion.

As with Wonder, this one captured my attention from beginning to end, and the music is outstanding. When Forever My Girl faded to black, the audience of about 80 stood and clapped, I suppose because so many could relate in one way or another.

So if you enjoy movies as much as I do, don’t let these two slip past. And if I’m wrong where you’re concerned, please drop me one of those nasty emails I occasionally get from irate readers and share where your life took a turn for the worse.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at

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