Jewish World Review May 23, 2001/ 1 Sivan 5761
My strategy, familiar to all children, was to convince him that because everyone else was doing "it," whatever "it" was, I should be able to do it, too. In my intractable logic, the fact of everybody's-doing-it was sufficient to justify my urgent desire and, of course, to nullify his erroneous judgment.
I cringe to remember the particular whine that punctuated the "every" part of "everybody." It must have been hard for him not to laugh in my face. Instead, he would simply plant his feet in the cement of his convictions and gently nudge me toward maturity.
Or not so gently, as the case required.
Today I am older, and the refrain is all around me now. But it isn't children trying to convince adults; it's adults trying to convince themselves. Everybody's doing it - divorcing, having babies out of wedlock, consuming pornography - and so it must be OK.
The New York Times Sunday Magazine reported this week that pornography is a $4 billion industry. In other words, lots of people are renting, buying and downloading porn these days. It's not just the trench-coat/Pussycat Theater crowd any more. It's us. It's mainstream! And, therefore, what?
The fact that lots of people surrender to the curiosity-click - you click the mouse to see what comes up next because you can't quite believe what you're seeing and reading - or rent a movie in a hotel room for the same reason, doesn't mean that pornography is harmless. Or that we should accept it as the latest layer of Americana.
Writer Frank Rich tried to convey that the folks peddling porn these days are just regular folks, cunning capitalists who aren't any different than you or me. Maybe they walk upright and eat with a fork, but, otherwise, they're not precisely like you and I. For one thing, they bilk Americans of billions of dollars by exploiting their weaknesses, an occupational pursuit that once was considered dishonorable even by libertarian standards. Yes, the market provides what the consumer demands. But gratification-seeking rats will keep pushing the cocaine button until they drop dead. Remove the cocaine and they may still be rats, but they'll be healthier, happier rats.
Similarly, Newsweek's cover story this week is titled "Unmarried, with Children" and reports on the recent Census findings that fewer than 25 percent of American families are modeled on the Ward and June Cleaver nuclear family. Divorce rates combined with out-of-wedlock births mean that the model of a married man and woman living with their biological offspring is, today, the unlikeliest of family constructs.
Other Census findings were that one-third of babies born in the past decade were born to unmarried women, and 40 percent of women with children are living with men who may be the fathers of one or more of their children. Demographers, meanwhile, predict that half of all babies born in the 1990s will spend some part of their childhood living in a single-parent home.
In other words, everybody's doing it, and so what? So my kid won't be more messed up than your kid?
Heaven forbid someone should suggest that children need both a mother and a father; that divorce is monumentally destructive to children; that single parenthood is a crisis for children if not for the single parent who made a personal lifestyle choice; that finding out your father was an anonymous sperm donor is more than a little confusing; that growing up with two moms or two dads, no matter how perfectly wonderful they are as human beings, is not an optimum environment for children who come into the world wanting more than anything to be just as ordinary as possible: Mom, Dad, Me.
Yes, yes, I know, not everyone has a choice. This isn't about the parents who are scrapping along as best they can under circumstances beyond their control. But certain truths are self-evident - or at least they used to be - and one of those remains rock-solid among those who seek no excuses: Children do best in a two-parent family.
The fact that we fail much of the time; that many can't hold a nuclear family together for reasons of abuse, addiction or adultery; or that everybody's dysfunctional these days is cause for regret and re-evaluation, not a summons to justification.
Wrong may be mainstream these days, but that doesn't make it