Children are deeply relational beings–and depending on how that dimension is fulfilled for them by their parents they become competent human beings–or not. Nurturing relationships early on makes “being a human being” a happy experience for them. A mother, in the very close, comforting and warm nurturance of breast feeding, the foundational experience on entering a world that it is a good and nice place to be in. This anchors a child in reality. If a child is cursed with this early experience being a harsh one that child will retreat into life-long psychosis or milder forms of damaging self-defense from a harsh world.
Plenty of belonging leads to plenty of thriving. A good culture, and a good nation devotes massive energy to ensuring plenty of belonging for its children: it is the sine qua non of its continued thriving as a culture and as a nation.
The core of such a culture is the marriage vow “till death us do part”, that vow by which fathers and mothers have bound themselves in perpetual belonging so that the children who will come have total reassurance as to whom and to where they belong. That vow gives everyone a norm and a structure around which to build a highly functional society. It absence indicates a body without a spine.
The other end of the spectrum which has belonging on one end is rejection. The norm and the “structure” around which rejection is built is sex outside of, or before, the marriage vow. Its results are a national and cultural wilting instead of a thriving. Rejection comes in many forms but for the building or, in this case, the deconstruction of society, rejection deep within the family is the natural and most common consequence of sex outside of marriage: out of wedlock births where most parents eventually end up rejecting each other; cohabitation with similar results for a large portion; and of course infidelity within marriage. Abortion also is most frequently the product of out of wedlock sex (roughly 80%).
No matter which way society goes on matters sexual there are high costs for the two different pathways.
The costs of the pathway of traditional intact marriage are high for the individual requiring chastity (see last week blog); requiring that one pushes through the difficulties of marriage, no matter the burden; requiring fidelity (and in the process, requiring continued personal struggle and growth towards an even greater maturity lasting all the way their sixties and beyond – to the end). The demands on the individual are high — but the benefits for them, their children and society are enormous. The price of their struggle is more than well repaid.
The pathway of rejection does not make these demands on the individual; it is premised on avoiding them, on personal autonomy and “free choice”. But it does demand a price: the aborting of children (and America has, in the last 75 years, aborted the equivalent of one sixth of its present population); divorce and all its attendant consequences on adults and on children; out of wedlock births and all of its consequences , which for our inner cities, are now compounding through the fourth and even fifth generation. For society at large the price is high in more school failure and drop out; more crime and addictions, more ill health and disease; shorter lifespan; much higher health costs; much higher education costs; much higher policing and criminal justice system costs; more poverty and less income; less savings; harsher old-age; more loneliness and suicide. Even though the individuals who choose this pathway pay their own heavy price in the longer term, the premise of this culture is “I will make my choice – others can pay for the consequences.” At its core this sexual pathway is anti-community, anti-child, anti-marriage and ultimately anti-cultural and, ironically, destructive of the individual who chooses that route.
A macro cost/benefit comparison between the two pathways leads quickly to a “slam dunk” winner.
Because these two different pathways demand very different cultures and, ultimately, very different political orders, we pay another price: civil strife and a growing gap between those who hold to the first pathway and those to the second.
Trying to make these two pathways work together causes one to daydream about solutions such as political geographies that permit one culture to work and pay for its way and the other to work and pay for its way.
But in such solutions one pathway would have to give up its foundational premise “I make my choice, the state (meaning everyone else, all the taxpayers) can pay for it.” If the rejection pathway had its own political order and geographic community structures they would have to shoulder their own costs, and five minutes reflection by anyone, liberal or conservative, shows that is not possible for they would be bankrupt within a generation – in twenty five years or less.
But within that dilemma lies the seed of reform: achieve more and more ways of making folk of the second pathway aware of the cost to themselves and their children. I bet that most single parent grandmothers in the inner city wish their grandchildren could take the “belonging till death us do part” pathway, the pathway of faithful marriage, even if they cannot see the way for that to happen.
It is from such grandmothers that the seeds of a “belonging America” can sprout. On these issues no one has more authority, for they have the authority of suffering and pain, the authority of the victimhood of their grandchildren – should they learn how to harness it. Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan of Belfast started the healing in Northern Ireland by harnessing similar suffering among mothers. Is there a Betty Williams in one of our inner cities who could say for marriage in America what Williams, in her Nobel Laureate speech, said for peace in Northern Ireland:
“A deep sense of frustration at the mindless stupidity of the continuing violence was already evident before the tragic events of that sunny afternoon of August 10, 1976. But the deaths of those four young people in one terrible moment of violence caused that frustration to explode, and create the possibility of a real peace movement. As far as we are concerned, every single death in the last eight years, and every death in every war that was ever fought represents life needlessly wasted, a mother’s labor spurned.”
Can the price that our American children are paying, particularly our inner-city poor children are paying, draw forth that brilliant Black grandmother hidden somewhere in one of our cities? That grandmother has a moral authority no one else can aspire to … and hundreds of thousands will follow should she give proper voice and they can begin the end to our American stupidity.