It was a horror story in real life. A 28-year-old father of three be­came the object of a West Coast manhunt in the wake of seven mur­ders. Among the dead were his wife and two of his three daughters. The surviving three-year-old daughter was alive only because her body was rescued from a trash dump where she had been left with a slashed throat.

Captured in Mexico, Ramon Salcido confessed to the murders in a television interview. He said he has no regrets about what he did.

How could anyone kill his own family? Feel justified in doing it? Deny any regret over it?

Yet there are other versions of this horror story which are acted out everyday. And the wrongdoers are respected. Honored. Imitated

  • A too-busy father never makes it to his children’s ballgames, plays, or school open house events.
  • A philandering papa destroys his marriage, teaches his daugh­ter to distrust men, and his son to doubt the viability of mar­riage and family.
  • An always-too-tired dad doesn’t have the energy to play with his children or to help them with their homework.
  • A career-driven father forgets that he has a wife and is married to his desk rather than to her.

These men are not arrested. They are promoted! They are not punished for their neglect. They are featured in the company newslet­ter as examples of devotion and efficiency! They are not reprimanded. They get raises!

In the meanwhile, they are killing their families. A wife is starved to death emotionally. Children grow up as strangers to the males who sired them. A therapist may become the wife’s confidant and helper. A coach or teacher may fill the parental role which belongs to a father.

Families die in the process. Disintegrate. Lose their identity.

Those of us who have children might ask ourselves occasionally: If I live to be 70, what will I consider the most significant achievement of my life? Judging by today’s emphasis, the answer might be diplo­mas, impressive resume, salary, or awards for community service.

Most of us would probably say, however, that we would like to look back over a loving, secure marriage and know the joy of being close to children and grandchildren.

If it is to happen, we must stop killing our families.

(Rubel Shelly is a teacher, author, editor, Professor of Philosophy & Religion and President of Rochester College, Rochester, MI)