A white, middle-class, southern boy, born into a single-parent family, raised by his mother alone, who grew up and divorced his first wife, has never paid alimony or child support, has no contact with his children, had an affair, and has a lesbian sister who is starting her own family. Who could such a model of diversity be? Why, it’s Newt Gingrich!
What about this one: A mother of five children, one a newborn with Down’s syndrome, leaves home to pursue a career as the CEO of a major organization. She has a taste for high fashion. Her husband, a union worker and part-time fisherman, goes along for the ride. Her unwed sixteen-year-old daughter is pregnant and the baby’s father is another sixteen-year-old whose MySpace profile says he is a “redneck” who loves dirt bikes, “loves to play hockey”, and does “not want kids.” Then his mother is arrested for selling illegal drugs.
Did you guess? That’s right, it’s Sarah Palin. Granted, this is from a few years ago, back when she had a great view of Russia. (I know, cheap shot.)
These families aren’t really the “traditional” families America is looking for, right? They’re not the husband and wife, 2.5 kids and a pet in a house with a picket fence that dominate our culture. Except this 2.5 kids thing isn’t exactly the norm anymore, and hasn’t been since around 1950 or so, if ever. Only one out of every ten families look like the “norm”. The rest looks like: wife breadwinners and stay at home dads, two working parents, single parents, divorced parents, second marriages, childless couples, adopted children, unmarried couples with and without children, blended families, gay and lesbian parents, etc., etc.
Surely, this is evidence that the family is crumbling; our beautiful, sacred marriages are being corrupted and destroyed. I mean, half of all marriages end in divorce! What other evidence could you ask for?
But it’s not. Americans clearly still believe in marriage. After they get divorced, they get remarried. And if that marriage fails, well then you’re on the prowl for until-death-do-us-part number three! Or in Larry King’s case, wife number eight.
Marriage and the family has been as resilient and diverse as the American people themselves. We’ve been debating for the last century whether or not the family is in crisis. People were sure that if women got the right to vote, the family would collapse. They knew if women were allowed into college, the increased blood flow to their brain would dry up their ovaries and the human species would die. They thought if women went to work, the household would fall into shambles and the children would grow up emotionally-wrecked felons.
Marriage and the family adapts and changes as we see fit, as everything must that is going to survive. And if marriage can survive the family collapsing, ovaries shriveling, human extinction, a generation of rampant child criminals, and the 21st century, I don’t know what we could do to kill it now.
That’s right, even you, Kim Cardassia–Oh! I’m sorry, Kardashian.