Monday, May 23, 2011

Dwindling Espousals Down South


The nuclear family seems to be vaporizing in South Carolina. At least fairly recent ideal of man and woman marrying, then having kids they raise together. In The State, a piece on 2010 Census data puts what wingers like to call traditional families at 47.2% there, down from 51.1% a decade ago.

Now, let us pause to reflect on Harold Camping and Lenny Bruce. The former blew it again with rapture/doomsday prophesies and the latter was the least well received prophet — too often damned right.

Surprising to many but well documented through many failures of apocalyptic predictions, believers and the cranks who lead them soldier on. As in just one of many pieces on Camping's 5/21 non-disaster, one in Slate notes the excuses of the prophets and the illogical resilience of their followers. Observable reality need not interfere with personal constructs.

On the other hand, comedian, author and junkie Bruce was cold about self-delusion. As he wrote in How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, "There is only what is." He called what should be "a dirty lie."

That does not provide the now-clichéd inspiration of the Bobby Kennedy paraphrase of a line from a Shaw play. The Kennedy version came out, "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" Isn't that nicer, neater and useful as a call to action?

That is not totally incompatible with Bruce's candor. They both started with what truly is, not a dishonest spin.

More of a Menu


Back to South Carolina, analysis came from a local U. of S.C. sociologist, Lala Carr Steelman, who is a co-author of Counted Out: Same Sex Relations and Americans' Definition of Family. To her, "There's more of a menu to choose from."

From several large studies she and her chums conducted, they found, "(P)eople are growing increasingly more flexible in how they define what a family is. The main thing is alternative family forms are expanding at a very high rate and acceptance of them is expanding."

I'm mildly stunned in two ways. As background, I went to college and worked newspapers there a long time ago. I also followed the overwhelming vote to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions and recognition of legal out-of-state versions.

So now the stats seem to show that even reactionary and anti-gay areas passively accept the likes of gay couples, shacked up straights with or without kids, and amalgamated variations. There is a disconnect between restrictive laws and acceptance of reality.

There doesn't seem to be the insane squealing about SSM having caused anything. After all, there can be no legally married homosexual couples as far as the palmetto state is concerned. The NOM sorts and their loony ilk would have it that there mere existence of legal SSM in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere somehow debases and discourages straights from marrying. They have never finessed the issue of how this could happen in retrospect, affecting the decline in marriage rates that has happened steadily for decades. They don't want to touch the low divorce rates in SSM states, often saying disingenuously, "The worst will happen...eventually."

As we learned in places like Maine, knowing out gay men and lesbians, singly, couples, as parents, makes a huge difference in acceptance. In Maine's case, it also resulted in the defeat of efforts to overturn gay-rights protections. They're working on SSM still and again.

There may be too many leaks in this, if you pardon, dike to plug for the haters. Truth be told, à la Lenny Bruce, adultery, fornication, bigamy, illegitimate kids and such have a longer tradition than straight marriage. Even in the South Carolina and Texas areas, the nuclear family has long been an option, not the mandate.

Now the homosexual couples, with or without kids, are more obvious. This falls into what the I Ching refers to as the preponderance of the small. There's one gay couple, mixed on the street with the two unmarried parent families with the straight ones. Then there are more of this and that.

What's a bigot to do? How many fingers can these metaphoric Dutch boys have?

The answer must be not enough. Not enough to fulfill their fantasy that Americans to a one will live out the never-was world of straight marriage with kids. Not enough to make the majority around them stop that living together unmarried, stop that homosexual love, stop having, adopting and raising kids in very traditional but previously hidden or ignored ways.

Time and culture march on, carrying us like a mighty river.

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