By Dean Malik
Contrary to the already stale claim that conservatives are waging a "war on women," there is instead a war against the traditional American family, and it is being waged by the left. Many Americans may not realize the multiple ways in which the traditional family construct has been under attack because so much of the attack is by now the unquestioned status quo:
1. The 'anti-war' movement
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Baby boomers are the children of the generation that came of age during the Great Depression and fought in World War II and endured its sacrifices on the home front. In his 1993 book, "Slouching Toward Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline," Robert Bork discusses how the existence of the Vietnam War served as the trigger point for this privileged generation to rise up and rebel against its parents. While military service had always been concomitant with citizenship, in the 1960s, for the first time, rejecting this traditional American duty became "normal." The movement was also the first great manifestation of the wholesale rebellion of American youth against the values and practices of its parents; its legacy is the permanent weakening of the parent-child relationship in our society.
2. Sexual-identity politics
In a televised speech from the spring of 2010, President Obama made an appeal for "young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women who powered [the Democratic presidential] victory in 2008 [to] stand together once again." These words also betray the left's long-standing goal of eviscerating the traditional American family, pitting not only non-whites against whites but also young against old and women against men. Simone de Beauvoir, pioneering 20th-century feminist, once stated: "No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one." Left-wing gender-identity politics is not a means of fighting for "women's rights"; it is a movement whose aim is to deprive women of choices, to deconstruct the traditional American family and to stigmatize choices women may make that conflict with that goal.
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In 2008 then-Sen. Barack Obama said that if his own daughters "make a mistake" – presumably through unprotected, non-marital sex – that he "does not want them punished with a baby." Ever since Roe v. Wade in 1973, we as a society have accepted that access to abortion is fundamentally an argument over when "life" begins. But as the president's statement reveals, the argument is more specifically about the moral dimensions of our sexual behavior. The left contends that sexuality, in and of itself, is morally neutral. The president's statement is in accordance with this view, suggesting that people can somehow unintentionally wander into a blind alley of promiscuity, and that they should not be forced to deal with the consequences. Unrestricted access to abortion renders the incredibly serious business of human sexual behavior seemingly inconsequential. And it renders marriage superfluous.
4. Gay marriage
In a June 1996 interview in the gay and lesbian magazine The Advocate, President Bill Clinton stated, "I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered." Later that year Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which provides that no state may be required to accept the legality of a same-sex marriage entered into in another state. In 2009, when Carrie Prejean, Miss California and a contender for Miss U.S.A., expressed the same views, she was savaged by the mainstream media and ultimately stripped of her state pageant title. Then, in 2011, the Obama administration decided to presidentially nullify the DOMA through deliberate non-enforcement. Proponents of gay marriage say they want "equality." But freedom of association is an uncontroversial constitutional right, and since Lawrence v. Kansas, the states have been prohibited from outlawing homosexual conduct. What gay marriage advocates truly want is the mainstreaming of homosexuality, and they wish for homosexual unions to be accorded the same social, moral and economic deference traditional marriage has long been given. Gay marriage does not advance the cause of freedom for gays; to the contrary, if it becomes the norm it will violently dilute the very essence of matrimony and serve only to weaken the institution of marriage itself.
5. The proliferation of civil marriage
Throughout most of our nation's history, the institution of marriage fell predominantly within the purview of private religious organizations, subject to state recognition. Most mainstream religious clergy, even today, will not officiate over a wedding without first meeting the couple and understanding its history and motivations. This close inspection by clergy is said to be intrusive, and as a result many have turned to non-religious civil weddings, or have abandoned marriage altogether choosing non-committed cohabitation instead. However, the involvement of religious institutions serves the invaluable function of validating the fundamental health of a couple's relationship. Requiring people to embrace the solemnization of denominational marriage is the best guarantor or future marital success and a healthy environment for children. Secular marriage circumvents these protections and allows a couple to blithely enter into a relationship with enormous personal, legal and economic consequences, the failure of which leads to poverty, illegitimacy in future generations, drug abuse, depression and myriad social and emotional problems for all involved.
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6. No-fault divorce
Prior to 1970, every state required a showing of cause before granting a divorce. This requirement revealed an unquestioned societal preference for preserving intact marriages. Then no-fault divorce was passed in California and swept through the rest of the states over the next 15 years. No-fault divorce eliminates the necessity of showing any marital misconduct and instead makes dissolution of the marriage as easy as filing a simple pleading. The legal protections previously in place to preserve marriages have been stripped away, and pursuant to the no-fault regime the states all now have an attitude of indifference as marriages fall apart. In contemporary society, little contemplation is occasioned either by the act of marriage or now, also the act of divorce.
According to the pious narrative, men worked hard to develop their careers while their wives sacrificed their own professional prospects in order to stay home and raise children for the sake of their husbands. Then, a man once successful at his wife's expense, was at liberty to forsake her and dissolve the marriage leaving the woman alone, impoverished and without any credible means of supporting herself. Alimony was supposed to be the cure for this hypothetically grave injustice. Then, the common law concept of alimony met the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce. What was intended for women to take the rough edges off of divorce has now become an incentive for marital infidelity and bad behavior. We now see the unseemly spectacle of husbands demanding alimony from their more wealthy wives and women who met and married men whose careers were already established demanding to be "kept" even as they voluntarily end the marriage and cohabit with other men. Alimony as it now exists is simply one more legal fiction bolstering the false impression that divorce can be consequence-free.
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8. Child custody laws
When a marriage comes to an end, the courts are required to take the "best interest of the child" into consideration when making a custody determination. Though virtuous on its face, in practice, the application of child custody laws is infected with the political agenda of the left and the typically left-leaning predispositions of the judges making the decisions. Factors such as a parent's sexual orientation and, to a great extent, even the spouse's criminal record will not be considered by judges in many jurisdictions. Moreover, under the no-fault regime marital infidelity is deemed irrelevant to parental fitness. As a result, the child custody process lends itself to manipulation by angry and vindictive parents, aided and abetted by lawyers, and provides no clear incentives for couples to stay married or consequences for culpability in destructive, faithless and selfish behavior causing marriages to end.
9. The marriage-counseling industry
There are few people more vulnerable, desperate and trusting of others than couples whose marriages are on the rocks and who seek outside guidance to fix their relationships. This function was traditionally provided by the clergy and lay leaders of religious congregations. As marriage became secularized, the role of offering support was co-opted by non-religious "counselors" and "therapists." Over the past generation, an entire cottage industry of providers ranging from licensed clinical psychologists to social workers to new-age "life coaches" has emerged under the rubric of "marriage counseling." What ordinarily keeps professionals accountable is the existence of a generally accepted level of required competence and ethical practice known as a "standard of care." Deviation from this standard is professional negligence, a basis for a civil lawsuit, and potentially puts a practitioner's professional licensure in jeopardy. But in the nebulous area of "marriage counseling," there are no recognized standards of care. Frequently, such "counselors" are in fact divorcees themselves, politically hardened leftists and cultural Marxists with a personal agenda quite different from that of saving troubled marriages. More often than saving marriages, "marriage counseling" will instead hasten their dissolution leaving the shattered couple more angry, entrenched and hopeless than they were before and worse off financially.
One of the principal purposes of the family unit is financial stability. The fear of privation has always been a strong incentive for couples to remain together and develop a sensible division of household labor. The lower on the socio-economic ladder, the greater the incentive to preserve the marriage. With the advent of the modern welfare state, for those in the lower socio-economic classes, financial security was uncoupled from the necessity of a committed long-term marital relationship. Government entitlements are now bestowed based upon the number of children, and welfare provides a level of subsistence equal to that which can be provided by many in the uneducated and unskilled labor force. Accordingly, procreation entirely independent of marriage brings financial benefits to unwed mothers, and welfare makes marriage appear unnecessary because it bears no relationship to financial well-being. American welfare ensures reliance upon government by America's poor and supplants the traditional role of the family unit as the provider. Family has always been the fulcrum of self-reliance; welfare not only destroys that model for America's poor, but keeps the poor in an ever-repeating and expanding cycle of poverty and dependency.
All of this is not to say that we should return to a bygone era where women had few opportunities outside of the household and spousal abuse and neglect by men were not recognized as societal wrongs, or where bad, misogynist male behavior was tolerated. However, divorce rates have been alarmingly high since the mid-20th century with between 40 and 50 percent of all marriages ending in divorce; the number of children born to out-of wedlock parents has increased to 40 percent of all babies; and most tellingly, poverty (as we define it in America) has exploded to 46.2 million people living below the poverty line and an all-time high number of people receiving food stamps.
Statistics show that disproportionately children born to single parents or in broken families live in poverty, are exposed to some form of abuse or neglect and become adults who abuse drugs, commit crimes and generally replicate the pattern for their children.
Divorce destroys wealth and shatters the fundamental sense of well-being all children deserve, and creates deep self-inflicted wounds for often needlessly estranged former spouses. The diminishment of family in American society also directly relates to the vast increase in federal entitlement spending and the overall destruction of the once (and still, but rapidly declining) mighty American economy.
America has the highest divorce rate in the industrialized world, but it also has the highest rate of marriage. Moreover, statistics show that Americans hold more traditional views of marriage and are more philosophically opposed to divorce than citizens of other industrialized nations. This disconnect reveals a traditional and organically conservative nation with an inchoate longing for familial stability.
Perhaps it is time for us to recognize that family is the bedrock of society. If enough Americans make the realization that the status quo does not have to be accepted, and use our collective determination and political will to change things for the better, and place family first, perhaps we will succeed.
Don't our children and future generations deserve that?
Dean Malik is a former criminal prosecutor and current practicing attorney who lives with his wife and four children in Bucks County, Pa. A major in the Marine Corps Reserves, Dean is a veteran of the war in Iraq, and most recently served as the staff judge advocate and liaison officer for a Marine unit executing Theater Security Cooperation missions in the Trans-Sahara and on the Horn of Africa in support of the Global War on Terror.