"For all the attention pain to the Baby Boomers who were into the counter-culture and whatnot, the vast majority of them really did make an effort to create the sort of family life they were raised to believe was standard--young marriage to a high school sweetheart, children, working hard, saving, enjoying some retirement time with the grandchildren. The dream didn't work out for a lot of people as planned, as the high divorce rate is evidence for, but they at least tried. But then they look at their kids who are really becoming full adults and a whole bunch of us clearly don't even care to try to achieve the dream. It's simply unappealing and we're rejecting it up front.
I think this situation is creating a lot of tension, if my fairly average red state family is an indicator. On one hand, the older members of our family fully support our individual decisions, since they obviously make sense on an individual basis. But taken as a whole, I imagine it seems like everything they have really held up as an ideal is being cast aside without much in the way of warning or of mourning, either. That's an odd place to be in--understanding the necessity of the minutia while feeling generally uncomfortable with the big picture, and I think that's why a lot of nostalgic rhetoric about 'tradition' has traction, because it gives people an enemy to rail against and easy answers to some disquieting trends.
The mythical War on Christmas is a perfect example of this, I think. For a lot of average middle class families, the traditional Christmas is changing. But for my cousin's rejection of the tradition of marrying before you have kids, for instance, we wouldn't have had a reason to go through the whole Santa Claus thing this year. Unlike in my childhood where everyone had Santa at their own house and then we all gathered at Grandma's for dinner, getting everyone together now takes serious long-term planning for flights and accomodations, because everyone is scattered to the winds. Because you can't blame individuals for simply living out lives that make traditional Christmas inconvienent, it's easier instead to let Bill O'Reilly tell you that it doesn't feel like Christmas used to because of a few store clerks wishing you a happy holiday instead of a merry Christmas.
Really, I'd say it's the same issue with the gay marriage debate. The right wing war cry about saving traditional marriage makes no logical sense, but it does provide an easy scapegoat for a myriad of anxieties about the very real changes that have already happened to family life and that affect nearly everyone. Most people nowadays, straight or gay, already feel empowered to organize their family lives according to their needs and desires, not according to tradition. All the anxiety this is creating is getting exerted on banning just one choice out of the hundreds, if not thousands, that people feel have opened up to them--in this case, marrying someone of the same sex.
So, in a sense, it's a depressing thought because the culture war is really just one long temper tantrum thrown by people who are frustrated that the world is changing without obtaining their permission. On the other hand, it's a good thing that it might be nothing more than a temper tantrum, something that will pass quickly enough as it becomes clear that there's no putting the genie back in the bottle, no turning back the hands of time. "
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Pandagon: Scattered thoughts on the disappearance of the "traditional" family:
Posted by Rob Pugh at 12/27/2005 06:34:00 PM