Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is marriage’s turkey cooked?

A new survey by the Pew Research Center and TIME called The Decline of Marriage And Rise of New Families is certain to ruffle a few feathers—especially as families gather around Thanksgiving Day tables this Thursday. In it, researchers find that 39 percent of Americans believe that marriage is obsolete, but before social engineers declare this turkey cooked, they ought to take a second look.

Buried in the 108 page study were encouraging morsels to those who still believe in the traditional family. 69 percent of Americans still believe that out of wedlock births are a bad thing; 61 percent say that a child needs both a mother and father to grow up happily; And 58 percent say that marriage is not obsolete. Please pass the gravy.

Yet the idea that marriage is obsolete is capturing the headlines and has marriage deconstructionists as giddy as children on Christmas morning. But before they stick a fork in it, they ought to ask their three compatriots who used to sit on the Iowa Supreme Court about the wisdom of legislating into obsolescence traditional marriage. Of course, Iowa voters unelected them on Nov. 2.

This isn’t the first time in our history that marriage was thought unnecessary. In the 1960’s, no-fault divorce laws swept through state legislatures and paved the way for the divorce boom of the 1970’s. Children, the biggest losers in this societal bargain that promised to eliminate acrimonious divorce proceedings, still suffer from the fallout and emotional trauma from divorce. Marriage wasn’t obsolete for them. Nor is it to the children growing up in single parent homes who yearn for a mother or father. As it is, 41 percent of all children today are born out of wedlock, up from 5 percent in 1960.

The question du jour? Is marriage the bulwark to society or is it just like another ornament that will adorn our Thanksgiving tables this Thursday? Marriages are not as durable as they once were, but just because many marriages aren’t surviving—thanks to easy divorce and a culture that scoffs at commitment, doesn’t mean the entire institution should be scuttled. When the two parts of humanity are joined together in a lifelong covenant it brings untold benefits to themselves, their offspring and society at large.

People who are married live longer, are healthier and happier than their unmarried peers. They earn more and are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and receive public assistance. According to marriage expert Mike McManus “the primary cause of poverty is not joblessness but marriage, or rather, marriage absence.” In September, The Heritage Foundation published the report “Marriage: America’s No. 1 Weapon Against Childhood Poverty,” and found that the probability of child poverty declines by 82 percent when they live with both parents who are married. According to 2008 statistics, only 6.4 percent of married, two-parent families are poor compared with 36.5 percent of families headed by a single mother. The proof is in the pudding: marriage is a key ingredient to family financial stability.

Indeed, marriage is more than just a tool to fight poverty or part of an economic calculation toward prosperity. It is an absolutely crucial social arrangement that civilization depends upon and it’s an institution that our children need to thrive, whether we admit it or not. We should no more give our children homes without marriage than we would give them a Thanksgiving without a turkey.

Fodder for discussion around the dinner table for sure. Let’s hope it doesn’t cause much heartburn.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sensitivity police's war on honesty claims another victim

If America’s freedom of speech is the envy of the world, then political correctness must be its bane. Some political candidates and news commentators this election season are finding that out the hard way. Just last week, the monster of political correctness raised its ugly head and resulted in the firing of Juan Williams by National Public Radio.

Williams, a long-time civil rights advocate, told Bill O'Reilly that "political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don't address reality… when I get on a plane… if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.”

Is this not the same thought also shared by many frequent airline travelers? Yet because of the perceived offense, it was a thought NPR execs believed best kept out of the public arena, so they fired him.

But was it really a wise move in a time when the divide between the political left and right has never been greater? NPR reported that Williams' presence on “Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives.” Why? NPR is known for its eloquence and dialogue, but instead of fostering communication between the two sides, they fired an accomplished ambassador for the left. Even as William’s actually warned O’Reilly against painting Muslims with broad brushstrokes, NPR painted him with a broad brushstroke and fired him. So the cold war of ideology continues.

What thinkers on both the left and right can agree upon is that the war radical Islam has declared on the West has kindled the fears of many, and has sometimes led to intolerance and bigotry toward Muslims who don’t subscribe to violence. But the war on ideas and politically incorrect opinion by the speech patrol has wider ranging consequences. We should insist upon respect and high standards of dialogue, but don’t we expect our leaders and analysts to tell us the truth? Or are some thoughts just too offensive to be aired publicly? Juan Williams is no Bobby Seale. Nor was he advocating the burning of the Koran. So why was he lumped in with extremists?

I have a friend in Belgium who has decried political correctness in Europe for years. It is now a rare individual who speaks out against radical Islam. And for those who do—including journalists who caricature Mohammed, they face death threats. If they are willing to come out of hiding, then they face legal proceedings from a society so steeped in political correctness that it has lost its ability to think or respect individual thought.

A new Rasmussen Reports released on Oct. 19, found that 74 percent of Americans regard political correctness as a problem in the United States today. Rasmussen also found that 63 percent blamed political correctness for preventing “the U.S. military from responding to warning signs that could have prevented Major Nidal Malik Hasan from massacring 13 people and wounding many others at Fort Hood, Texas.”

When the whitewashing of language and laundering of ideas leads to collective stupidity, then it’s time to reevaluate. When political correctness out of fear of offending someone or some group eviscerates civil discourse, what have we gained? Respect and tolerance have always been and always should be benchmarks of civil discussion and standards by which any media should live by. But as George Orwell once said, “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

It’s time as Americans to assert that we still have the right to restate the obvious. Hopefully, the rest of the media will join us.