Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Continuing the discussion of social changes since the 1960s

Changes since 1960—half full or half empty?



Freedom for—and of—distinctive
personal styles
Ten-fold increase in unmarried couples living together
Increased social disapproval of
active adultery
Soaring divorce rate; "broken families" virtually the norm

Since last time it's become obvious to me that virtually all of these items have their positive and their negative aspects. Some of the topics I've shown in both lights, but some I've chosen to show in one light only. Please read them carefully; don't miss the nuance in a little modifier like "have" when I say it's a negative that women generally feel they "have" to work outside the home now but didn't feel that way before the '60s. As explained in discussion in the list (but not here previously), that single word puts this trend into the negative column but it doesn't invalidate the positive side of women's gaining a greater sense of who they are and their purpose in life that is part of the revolution in this same period.

+ Freedom for—and of—distinctive personal styles. I think it's a positive that people feel less compulsion to "conform" in many ways now than they did in the 1950s. But despite saying that, I am impressed that there still seems to be large cross-sections of youths who feel they must conform with at least one of the large groupings open to them, and few strike me now as seeming to have risen above consideration of what their peers accept uncritically. Maybe it's as simple as...when we were in school there were "townies" and "farmers." (In intervening generations, maybe the breakdown was more between the "preppies" and "stoners" or more recently, the "rockers" versus "hip-hoppers.") Everyone had to be like the "townies" to be cool; now perhaps both townies and "farmers" or their modern equivalents can be cool. But neither seem willing to say "I'm neither; I refuse to aspire to acceptance in either group." But more older adults say something like that than used to and I consider that a good thing.

- Ten-fold increase in unmarried couples living together. Bill George probably expressed a question or sentiment many others would also second: Is this really a negative when so many marriages end in divorce? Might it be better if couples "experiment" before becoming legally entangled? But the social research finds that couples who live together before marriage not only don't have more stable marriages than those who practice celibacy or at least live separately before marriage, but have less success staying together. And looking as the birth announcements in the Tribune Democrat (or any other newspaper in the western world in this era) lends strong evidence that many of these unmarried couples are producing children, which is certain to be not in the best interest of those children or of the society that usually has to come to the aid of families without two responsible parents. Marriage exists, primarily, for the sake of fostering and enhancing, though legal contingencies, responsibility for the children marriages produce.

+ Increased social disapproval of active adultery. One of my favorite writers, Frederica Mathewes-Green, whose articles appear in National Review, Beliefnet, and other media, recently pointed out to my surprise that before the 1960s, many of the most popular movies indirectly promoted adultery by showing the "romance" and "excitement" of the extra-marital affair. Some of the most popular movies with that theme that I remember from that time, which my then-girlfriend loved but I hated for just this moral perversity, were Camelot, in which she (like Queen Guenevere) adored Lancelot while I sided with the cuckolded King Arthur, and Doctor Zhivago, which promoted the thesis that the grass is greener (or the snow is whiter) on the other (extra-marital) side of the fence. That's not to say the same theme doesn't ever make it to the screen in more modern times (Bridges of Madison County comes to mind), but as Mathewes-Green wrote, it is generally frowned upon not only outside the movies but by most of the characters within the movies. Whereas in the '50s everyone would deride "living together" as "living in sin" or at least "shacking up," today no one dares speak up against that widely practiced new more. And I use the word "active" with "adultery" because today most everyone has a negative attitude toward married people straying, but no one mentions that divorced people who remarry are clearly identified as adulterers in the teachings of Jesus and the traditional church.

- Soaring divorce rate; "broken families" virtually the norm is the negative flip side of the previous positive. The impact on this sociological fact of modern life on our children and the next gneration is yet to be assessed. But already the "living together" is, I'm convinced, one response on the part of the younger generation toward their parents' failures to stay together (I speak from bitter experience here). Will the third generation, born to parents who are older because they put off marriage longer than the previous generation, rebel back to a more conservative marriage ethic (sort of the way Michael J. Fox's character, Alex P. Keaton, was more conservative than his parents in Family Ties)? To some extent, I think this may come to pass, as these ethical and moral attitudes tend to cycle up and down. But we'll have to see to what extent and how soon the new sociological fad makes the covers of Time and Newsweek.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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Today's chuckle

Married Life

Married life is very frustrating. In the first year of marriage, the man speaks and the woman listens. In the second year, the woman speaks and the man listens. In the third year, they both speak and the neighbors listen.

—Sent by Dawn O'Day

Thought for today

Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.

— Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC).

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