Do school children still learn about the “nuclear family”? I recall its being a significant topic of conversation in my schooling, but that was an era when the culture was still pushing back on the march of “no-fault divorce.” It was also an era of fear about nuclear war with the now-defunct U.S.S.R., so maybe it was the seeming pun that made the lessons stick.
Forgive me this short post if my thoughts aren’t fully formed, but it’s seeming to me that the two senses of “nuclear” most heard during the 1980s — one positive and constructive and the other terrifying — are connected in a profound way. A number of tangentially connected topics are spinning around, so I’ll pluck a few out of the mix:
- Ireland has approved same-sex marriage in its constitution by popular vote. The simplistic take-away will be the basic fact of the vote results, and the immediate consequences will be borne by people who maintain their traditionalist view and attempt to continue to live by it, particularly with respect to the Catholic Church. But there are two tidbits in the coverage that I think may prove more significant, in the long run, even if the general public never recognizes them:
- Arguments about the purpose of marriage in our society continue to be dismissed with the simple insistence that the biological differences between men and women are just being used as an excuse to belittle the relationships of gay couples.
- Around 40% of voters in Ireland have no political party to which to turn for support in their traditionalist views. That is, the political elite either genuinely differs from the population in a profound way or people in political life fear the consequences of acknowledging traditionalist beliefs.
- Libertarians (including the infamous Koch Brothers) tend to support same-sex marriage, although the march of the left-wing fascists through the doors Christian florists, bakeries, and pizza parlors is beginning to awaken some true libertarians to the voices they previously denied hearing within the Trojan Horse of same-sex marriage. (The latest episode, for your amusement, is the tale of the Christian jeweler who actually made engagement rings for a lesbian couple and was bullied into returning their money when the pair found out he supports traditional marriage.)
I’ve long held that “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” is ultimately an inhumane political philosophy, inasmuch as it is social conservatism that creates the foundation for opportunity that makes fiscal conservatism part of a complete approach to society without discarding bedrock principles like the Golden Rule and our mutual responsibility for each other. In other words, a civic environment of liberty maintains a level playing field and enables our society to bring forth its greatest talents, no matter the circumstances of their birth, but only if we maintain social expectations that foster personal responsibility and a healthy upbringing and sense of security.
Marriage, in this regard, is critical, as Lee Habeeb and Mike Leven explain on National Review Online:
In a report last year entitled “Saving Horatio Alger,” which focused on social mobility and class in America, Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution discovered that the likelihood of a child raised by parents born into the lowest income quintile moving to the top quintile by the age 40 was a disastrous 3 percent. Worse, 50 percent of those children stay stuck in the bottom quintile. And the outlook for the children of those marriage-less children is equally stark. …
But Reeves discovered a silver lining while crunching the data: Those children born in the lowest quintile to parents who were married and stayed married had only a 19 percent chance of remaining in the bottom income group.
Reeve’s study revealed that this social-mobility advantage applied not just to the lower class: The middle class was impacted, too. The study revealed that children born into the middle class have a mere 11 percent chance of ending up in the bottom economic quintile with married parents, but that number rises to 38 percent if their parents are never married.
According to the study, it’s not just the marriage of one’s own parents that makes the difference, but social expectations all around. With our national obsession with race flowing freely once again, this paragraph should not be lost in the mix:
… it turns out that once you control for the proportion of single parents in an area, the correlation between social mobility and race disappears.
What makes the nuclear family powerful is its utility as a building block for society. If the forces that cause families to form and stay together are strong, then grand structures of hope, freedom, and innovation can be built.
What makes the nuclear bomb terrifying is the force unleashed when the nucleus is broken apart. When the blast is finished, what remains between people on opposite sides of the crater is a barren, devastated land too radioactive to support life.
When it comes to the slow-motion explosion of our cultural nucleus, the terrain we’re destroying is precisely that which must be crossed to move from struggle to success. The economic elite may assume that the structure atop which they sit will remain, and the political elite may see opportunity in its role transferring some small sliver of wealth from the top to the bottom, but that arrangement won’t last.
As with electricity, the creative energy and spiritual stability of our civilization is in its motion.