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The Death of the Family
Here, Dad. I'd like you to sign this form and have it notarized:
"I, the undersigned Dad, attest that I have never parented before, and insofar as I have no experience in the job, I am liable for my mistakes and I agree to pay for any counseling in perpetuity Calvin may require as a result of my parental ineptitude."
I don't see how you're allowed to have a kid without signing one of those!
Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson, 1993
"The Family Must Go!"
"The nuclear family structure has to be abolished before women can be totally liberated was the opinion of 100 participants in the first statewide [Wisconsin] Women's Liberation Conference..." (The Sentinel, May 11, 1970). The articlegoes on to say that "Feminists at the conference believe a child shouldn't be limited to one mother or father. They say the child would benefit from being reared by a variety of individuals."
Mrs. Carl W. Thompson, then associated with the Center for Women's and Family Living at the University of Wisconsin, and wife of Senator Thompson, prophesied that "In twenty years there won't be the formal marriage as today. It's happening now. These [fluid, unmarried couplings] are meaningful relationships. They just don't want to get into the traditional thing."
While many feminists have decried marriage, parenthood, and child care as oppressive, degrading, and designed to enslave women, most folksyearn for the love, commitment, home, hearth, and attachments that marriage and families provide -- however imperfectly.
Nonetheless, the paranoia and hyper-individualism projected by that conference did accurately portend the destruction of the family. Under the mantle of exaggerated freedom of expression and experience came a loosening of the ties that bind us. No-fault, no-stigma divorce; shacking up without shame; bearing children out of wedlock as a privilege; aborting babies for personal convenience; birth control for pregnancy-free promiscuity; tolerating single parenting and gay adoption as valid social experiments; and constant propaganda promoting child-free parenting through day care have all served to undermine the value and very existence of the family unit.
Family is what kids need and want. "Almost one-quarter (22 percent) of Generation X (ages eighteen to twenty-four) say that a lack of family structure and guidance are the most important issues it faces..." according to a poll reported in USA Today (October 30, 1995). These concerns take precedence over AIDS and illiteracy (each 15 percent), violence (14 percent), and drugs (9 percent). "'The collapse of many of our social institutions, like the family, has left its mark on them,' said Ross Goldstein of Generation Insights that tracks social trends."
There is no question that Generation X has been damaged by the coming to pass of Mrs. Thompson's greatest dream. According to an article on the politics of Gen X in the August 1999 issue of the Atlantic Monthly:
Gen Xers have internalized core beliefs and characteristics that bode ill for the future of American democracy. This generation is more likely to describe itself as having a negative attitude toward America, and as placing little importance on citizenship and national identity, than its predecessors. And Xers exhibit a more materialist and individualistic streak than did their parents at a similar age. Moreover, there is a general decline in social trust among the young, whether that is trust in their fellow citizens, in established institutions or in elected officials. These tendencies are, of course, related: heightened individualism and materialism, as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out, tend to isolate people from one another, weakening the communal bonds that give meaning and force to notions of national identity and the common good.
The article minimizes the influence on Xer apathy of the breakdown of the traditional family where children learn about love, commitment, obligation, compassion, and duty. Instead, the analysis goes on at great length about the importance of the politics of the economy. Yet, later, the text offers that "There are numerous indications that Xers -- many of whom grew up without a formal religion -- are actively searching for a moral compass to guide their lives, and a recent poll suggests that the highest priority for the majority of young adults is building a strong and close-knit family."
No matter what, it always comes back to the family. It is within the family, and best in the context of a relationship with G-d, that children come to believe life in general, and their life in particular, is worth living and has meaning and ultimate purpose. Otherwise, children are left with only the most self-centered survival mode -- acquire and compete. I haven't read too many autobiographies of folks who described themselves as happy with only those two concepts to guide and comfort them. Have you?
In fact, one particular section of Senator John McCain's 1999 autobiography was heralded as "the rare passage in a political book parents will want to read aloud to their children" (Los Angeles Times, September 6, 1999). Noting that McCain spent five and one-half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, the reporter wrote, "In captivity, he demonstrated a personal fortitude that answers any questions about his capacity to handle the pressure of the White House. Yet the book's most powerful moment is his realization, in the darkest hours, that what allowed him to survive was not so much his individual strength as his communal allegiances -- his religious conviction, love of country and faith in his fellow prisoners. The candidate writes, 'Glory...is not a decoration for valor...[It] belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely, and who rely on you in return.'"
This is not what we are teaching our children. As we marginalize the value of traditional family allegiance and sacrifice, we are creating an "each for himself" mindset...Stupid Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kids. Copyright © by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.