GrassTopsUSA Exclusive CommentaryBy Don Feder 12/02/2010
â€œWho Needs Marriage? A Changing Institution,â€ read the celebratory headline in the November 18 cover story in Time, based on the findings of a Pew Research Center survey, done in conjunction with the weekly views magazine. First we create the news, then we report it.
â€œWhat we found (based on the surveyâ€™s results) is that marriage, whatever its social, spiritual or symbolic appeal is in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be,â€ Time enthusiastically reported. Thatâ€™s because, â€œNeither men or women need to be married to have sex or companionship or professional success or respect or even children â€¦.â€
Among the trends Time couldnâ€™t wait to tout:
â€¢ â€œNearly one-in-fourâ€ (39% of Americans) said marriage is â€œbecoming obsoleteâ€ â€“ almost exactly the percentage who favored Democratic control of Congress (40%) in a recent Rasmussen poll. Coincidence?
â€¢ Census data shows the number of cohabiting couples jumped 13% last year, to 7.5 million.
â€¢ 34% think the â€œgrowing variety of living arrangementsâ€ is good for society, versus the 29% who find said social disintegration â€œtroubling,â€ and the 32% who think it makes no difference.
â€¢ â€œThe young are much more inclined than their elders to view cohabitation without marriage and other new family forms â€¦ in a positive lightâ€ â€“ no doubt based on their vast life-experience and the wisdom that comes only with youth.
â€¢ In 1960, 68% of twenty-somethings were married. In 2008, just 28% were grownups (my description). What else were Gidget and Moon Doggie to do, back in the days without video games and Facebook?
â€¢ Time: â€œOn the more accepting side (note the loaded language), only a minority say trends toward more cohabitation without marriage (43%), more unmarried couples raising children (43%), more gay couples raising children (43%) â€¦ are bad for society.â€
â€¢ And, this must have made the Pew crew and Time staff borderline euphoric, â€œ63% say a gay or lesbian couple raising a child is a family.â€ And I thought it was abuse. Go figure.
How did public attitudes change so dramatically in 40 or 50 years? Did half the population experience spontaneous enlightenment? Upon careful consideration, did a majority of us say: â€œIllegitimacy â€“ whatâ€™s the big dealâ€? Without prompting or input, did we one day decide that it didnâ€™t matter whether children are raised by a single mother, two men, two women, or a tribe of apes, a la Tarzan?
Social attitudes and behavior donâ€™t exist in a vacuum. They are shaped by a number of factors and institutions, including religion, tradition and the culture.
Itâ€™s culture that has played the dominant role in the explosion of diverse living arrangements. Public attitudes toward sexual morality and whatâ€™s best for children have been inculcated by the popular culture. The revolt against marriage has been led by the left â€“ judicial, academic, journalistic, but mostly in the entertainment media.
The 1965 movie â€œThe Cincinnati Kidâ€ was one of the few films up to that time to show an unmarried couple (Steve McQueen and Tuesday Weld) living together. A few years earlier, on â€œThe Dick Van Dyke Show," Rob and Laura Petrie, though legally wed, had twin beds.
Now, itâ€™s impossible for Hollywood to portray romance without the couple making a headlong dive between the sheets within days, if not hours, of their initial meeting. Even couples who are about to wed go from the apartment they share to the church.
In the popular culture, sex outside marriage is the norm â€“ pre-marital, extra-martial, who-cares-about-marital.
Based on data collected in 2007-2008, the Parents Television Council found that on the small screen, â€œverbal references to non-marital sex outnumbered references to sex in the context of marriage by 3 to 1; and scenes depicting or implying sex between non-married partners outnumbered scenes depicting or implying sex between married partners by nearly 4 to 1.â€
Back in the day, Hollywood depicted families as close-knit, cohesive units. Parents were caring and protective. Despite the vicissitudes of married life, husbands and wives stuck together. Couples were faithful. Sacrifices were made for children.
Today, the culture tells us that marriage is for conformists, fogies or â€“ on a more positive note â€“ gays.
Sex outside marriage is more spontaneous, more natural â€“ more fun, the entertainment industry tells us. If Hollywoodâ€™s philosophy can be summed up in two words, itâ€™s â€œbe yourselfâ€ â€“ be true to your nature.
And if your nature tells you to father children on a free-lance basis, unencumbered by vows and legal niceties, thatâ€™s what you must do.
As a woman, if your nature tells you to bear a child out of wedlock, who has a right to object? In 1992, recall the stink when Dan Quayle criticized the TV character Murphy Brown for deciding to have a child solo.
As a man, if your nature tells you to have sex with another man, your love must be celebrated.
Whatâ€™s best for children, never mind society, is hardly given a passing thought.
A mountain of social-science data shows kids do best in families with both biological parents who are married â€“ do better academically and are less likely to use alcohol and drugs as teens and experiment with adolescent sex. Theyâ€™re also less likely to be abused or neglected. As adults, theyâ€™re more apt to have stable marriages.
Almost 75% of children living in single-parent households will experience poverty sometime before they turn 11 years-old, versus 20% in two-parent families.
Children from fatherless families are twice as likely to drop out of school. Male children born out-of-wedlock are twice as likely to become chronic offenders.
The lionized â€œgrowing variety of living arrangementsâ€ is the driving force behind the increase of child abuse. According to British data, the safest environment for a child is with both biological parents who are married. Even in the second best (a blended family), abuse is 6 times greater.
Measured against the safest environment, abuse is 14 times higher for a mother living alone, 20 times higher with biological parents who arenâ€™t married and 33 times higher where mom is cohabiting with a boyfriend.
This growing variety isnâ€™t great for adults either â€“ although, unlike kids, at least theyâ€™ve chosen their poison.
Naturally, thereâ€™s less fidelity among those shacking-up. (Forgive my use of archaic language.) Of cohabiting women, 20% cheat on their partner. Only 4% of married women commit adultery.
After marriage, the divorce rate for women who cohabited first is 80% higher than the rate for those who didnâ€™t. While 55% of cohabiting couples do eventually marry, 40% end the relationship within 5 years â€“ to move on to other beds, other hearts and other lives.
The answer to the Time cover-story of November 18 is found in a Time story of July 2, 2009 (â€œIs There Hope for the American Marriage?â€) by Caitlin Flanagan. How this one got by Timeâ€™s censors is one of the mysteries of the universe, along with who built the pyramids and why do the French find Jerry Lewis funny.
Flanagan describes modern marriage as: â€œAn increasingly fragile construct depending less and less on notions of sacrifice and obligation than on the ephemera of romance and happiness as defined by and for its adult principlesâ€¦. It is buffeted by affairs and ennui, subject to the eternal American hope for greater happiness, for changing the hand you dealt yourself.â€
The writer continues: â€œThere is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in the country as the collapse of marriage. It hurts children, it reduces mothersâ€™ financial security, and it has landed with particular devastation on those who can bear it least: the nationâ€™s underclass.
When children are born into a co-habiting unmarried relationship, says Rector (Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation), â€˜they arrive in a family in which the principals havenâ€™t resolved their most basic issues,â€™ including those of sexual fidelity and how to share responsibilitiesâ€¦. The new mother starts to make wife-like demands on the man, and without the commitment of marriage, he is soon out the door.â€
Having offended the gods of political correctness, Iâ€™m guessing that Caitlin Flanagan is now working for a weekly newspaper in Boise, Idaho.
The leftâ€™s game plan for deconstructing the family was laid out almost a century ago by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.
Writing from one of Mussoliniâ€™s prisons (okay, Il Duce did get a few things right) Gramsci speculated on why Marxism wasnâ€™t succeeding in the West â€“ why the proletariat wasnâ€™t shaking off their chains.
He decided it was due to the corrupting influence of family and religion, which acted as a firewall to agitation and indoctrination. In order for the revolution to succeed, Gramsci declared, these institutions would have to be undermined and eventually destroyed. In pursuit of these goals, Gramsci called for the â€œlong march through the culture,â€ which has come to be known as cultural Marxism.
First, Marxists would subvert those institutions vital to shaping public opinion. From these commanding heights, it would rain fire on the family until it was demolished.
In the United States, the long march began with the introduction of oral contraceptives in 1960, proceeded to no-fault divorce and abortion-on-demand in the early 1970s and included media hosannas to new family forms. Other milestones included the 1960s Sexual Revolution, so-called comprehensive sex education, the normalization of homosexuality, de-stigmatizing fornication and illegitimacy, ridiculing virginity, and the welfare state assuming the role of father for many poor families.
An Alinskyite who's learned from Gramsci, Obama wants income redistribution, government control of business, and the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which would allow judicial activists to impose same-sex marriage on the nation. He also repealed the Mexico City Policy (to facilitate overseas abortions) and staffed his administration with radicals like Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings, an in-your-face gay activist.
Having come close to killing the natural family â€“ along with accomplices galore â€“ the media now want to deliver the eulogy at the premature funeral of its victim.
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.