Half Past the Month: Happy Alternatives?

July 9, 2014

For the use of the membership only (498 words)

AT A CERTAIN AGE, it becomes difficult to tell whether people are kidding you.

The other day I heard someone say that government troops were prepared to confront seemingly law-abiding American families — something about objecting to foreign nationals being forced into their communities. I mistook it for a joke.

In my embarrassment I was forced to remember making the same mistake back in the 1970s. They would come to our editorial board meetings to tell us about better ways, different ways, of doing things. I thought they were joking, too.

Particularly, they thought the nuclear family was passé. They presented alternative models — put them into action, actually, and in numbers that were impressive. They were excited about a model headed by a single mother, newly empowered in the workforce, in the divorce court and, most importantly, in the social-welfare system. Indeed, they spoke about giving aid to anyone down on their luck — able-bodied men even, regardless of citizenship, few questions asked.

For the first time, politicians argued successfully that only governments should have guns. And they had begun to think globally, our borders being only lines down the middle of cultures. Our industry, once such a cause for pride, began to be seen as contrary to good environmental management.

We of the stiff-necked Midwest didn’t know what to think. We wondered aloud whether changing the structure of our society might produce different results. No, they said, everything would work out fine, happier even. We couldn’t be sure, though; it didn’t sound good.

Today, keeping track of the alternative families and lifestyles is dizzying. It is truly hard to imagine a plan for life, however bizarre or irresponsible, that would not be defended as intrinsic to the American way. To suggest otherwise is to commit bigotry or worse — and, to an increasing degree, become subject to civil if not criminal penalty.

And yet, it was a reasonable question, wasn’t it? At least way back then? That different ways of doing things might produce different results? Unexpected ones? Odd or disagreeable ones? Dangerous ones?

Nobody likes to think about that now, much less talk about it. Nonetheless, intrepid researchers of some credibility (Charles Murray, Thomas Sowell) have piled up books describing the calamity of this social experimentation. Markers of a failed civilization identified by Arnold Toynbee and other historians seem to be falling into place. These grim thoughts are not seriously refuted even as they are carefully ignored.

The social experimenters, their theories now policy, have felt a need of late to back up their political gain with scientific data. The Washington Post and New York Times this week published glowing reports of an Australian research paper. The Post headline read: “Children of Same-Sex Couples Are Happier and Healthier than Peers.”

Really? Well maybe, but not really. The authors pretty much willed the desired results to print. And most fitting to the point here, their study was self-reported — that is, based on the subject’s own assessment of how he or she thought the child was doing.

No, they aren’t kidding. That’s what they call facts.

— Craig Ladwig

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