Archive for the ‘marriage and family and the soundrels who despise them’ Category

It’s been a while since I praised the mainstream media (hint to aspiring writers: understatement is a very effective device) but this week’s Time magazine has a cover story on marriage that is worthy of praise. Caitlin Flanagan writes “Why Marriage Matters” and it is one of the most pointed rebukes to the modern propaganda against marriage that I’ve seen in a long time and, at points, it is astonishing in its straightforwardness.

Flanagan uses the recent, highly publicized infidelities of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Senator John Ensign of Nevada, and reality TV star Jon Gosselin, who recently announced his separation from his wife Kate (mother of their 8 children) to address the crisis the institution of marriage faces in our country. Here are a few quotes from the piece:

“Sanford told reporters the affair had begun ‘very innocently,’ which reveals that he still hasn’t been honest with himself about the willfulness of his actions. When a married man begins a secret, solicitous correspondence with a beautiful and emotionally needy single woman, he has already begun to cheat on his wife.”

“In the e-mails exchanged between the governor and his girlfriend, they trip over themselves to praise the other’s virtues. She was ‘special and unique,’ ‘glorious’; he was a man of emotional generosity who ‘brought happiness and love to my life.’ These two humanitarians were engaged not only in worshipping each other’s high-mindedness but also in destroying another woman’s home, hobbling her children emotionally and setting her up for humiliation of a titanic proportion.”

Ms. Flanagan punctures the myth that single mothers can make up for the absence of a father:

“Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. ‘As a feminist, I didn’t want to believe it,’ says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues and co-authored a seminal book on low-income mothers called Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. ‘Women always tell me, “I can be a mother and a father to a child,” but it’s not true.’ Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. ‘The mom may not need that man,’ Kefalas says, ‘but her children still do.’

She gives a fatal wound to the idea that marriage is no longer necessary: “There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage.” What about co-habitation? Flanagan asked Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation if a father has to be married to the mother of his children to have a positive effect upon the children?

“Not if he behaves exactly like a married man. If a man is willing to contribute 70% of his income to the child’s upbringing, dedicate himself around the clock to the child’s well-being and create a stable home life — a home life that includes his actually living there with mother and child — he might be able to give his child the boon of fatherhood without having to tie the knot. But that rarely happens. When children are born into a co-habiting, unmarried relationship, says Rector, “they arrive in a family in which the principals haven’t resolved their most basic issues,” including those of sexual fidelity and how to share responsibilities. Let a little stress enter the picture — and what is more stressful than a baby? — and things start to fall apart. The new mother starts to make wifelike demands on the man, and without the commitment of marriage, he is soon out the door.”

Where are we headed? Flanagan is not ambivalent:

“The fundamental question we must ask ourselves at the beginning of the century is this: What is the purpose of marriage? Is it — given the game-changing realities of birth control, female equality and the fact that motherhood outside of marriage is no longer stigmatized — simply an institution that has the capacity to increase the pleasure of the adults who enter into it? If so, we might as well hold the wake now: there probably aren’t many people whose idea of 24-hour-a-day good times consists of being yoked to the same romantic partner, through bouts of stomach flu and depression, financial setbacks and emotional upsets, until after many a long decade, one or the other eventually dies in harness.

Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention and function — to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation’s own safe passage into adulthood? Think of it this way: the current generation of children, the one watching commitments between adults snap like dry twigs and observing parents who simply can’t be bothered to marry each other and who hence drift in and out of their children’s lives — that’s the generation who will be taking care of us when we are old.”

Ever think you’d hear this kind of straight talk from the “mainstream media”? Me neither. So, thank you, Caitlin Flanagan. It’s encouraging to hear these things said in public, out loud, where a lot of people will have to hear them . . . and, it’s about time.

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