Liberty without Wisdom

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published July 3, 2015

 Liberty without Wisdom

Writers commenting on the Supreme Court's recent discovery of a constitutional right to gay marriage have (quite logically) cast this as the latest chapter in the sexual revolution begun by the Baby Boomers. But it must also be seen in the context of the larger "gift" left for us by that same generation.

I am speaking specifically of the Boomers' rejection of their parents and the corresponding cultural abandonment of wisdom.

If you were around during the late 1960s and early 1970s, you'll remember that this was everywhere . UC Berkeley student Jack Weinberg coined the mantra of the era: "Don't trust anyone over 30." The "older generation" was "square" and had nothing to offer. College campuses became hotbeds of revolutionary fervor, sexual experimentation and social unrest. This was in part due to displeasure with the country's involvement in the Vietnam War. But it was also part of a much larger movement to cast off the oppressive shackles and social mores of the generation that had raised the Boomers with widespread material advantages unprecedented in the history of the country to that point: safety and security, two-parent families, middle-class incomes, freshly built homes in neat and clean suburban neighborhoods, well-run schools and college educations.

Oh, the horror.

Of course, as time rolled on, and the Boomers themselves approached (and passed) 30, some of their manifestly silly aversion to age quietly dissipated. No one wanted to admit that they had reached their own self-imposed sell-by date.

But even if the ageist slogans of the 1960s went by the wayside, the Boomers — and the multigenerational counterculture of academics, media and Hollywood celebrities they spawned — have clung fervently to their faith in the sexual revolution and the "liberation" it was supposed to produce, notwithstanding reams of evidence to the contrary.

This is a cult of adolescence. It is the abandonment of wisdom. And it is destroying our culture.

Age offers wisdom and the ability to transmit to youth the lessons often hard-learned by earlier generations. This is the way society progresses — a form of cultural evolution. And, as parents should understand, it is also born of love. When the invaluable knowledge of the elders is allowed to slip away, it is young people who suffer as they repeat avoidable mistakes with traumatic results.

So it is with sexuality in the United States.

Prior to the sexual revolution, fathers were important, divorce was infrequent, adultery was shameful, premarital sex was looked down upon and out-of-wedlock births were the exception, not the rule. Adulthood was viewed as a status that necessitated sacrifices made for the good of children.

There was multiple generations' worth of wisdom in those social mores. But purveyors of the sexual revolution assured us they had outlived their usefulness; that the new "rules" would be better for all. Detractors, skeptics and those who dared to merely question were then, as they are now, demonized, called hysterical, oppressive, alarmist and bigoted.

But were they?

When no-fault divorce arrived 50 years ago, we were told that this would free women and children trapped in alcoholic or abusive relationships. Did anyone foresee that half of U.S marriages would end in divorce, with huge numbers of women and children thrust into poverty without support?

When activists pressed for legalized abortion, we were promised that this would be reserved for extreme circumstances such as rape and incest. Did anyone predict that abortion would be used as birth control; that four decades later American women would have aborted nearly 60 million children; that the African-American population would be decimated by abortion?

When "experts" called for a new attitude toward sexual promiscuity and single parenthood, did they also promise that nearly 80 percent of African-American children would grow up without fathers? Did they warn us about the correlation between fatherlessness, poverty and crime? Did they caution that treating sex like a spectator sport would unleash an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases among 15- to 25-year-olds? Did they anticipate a climate of sexual assault among high school and college students?

Now five people in Washington, D.C., have decided that there is no difference between heterosexual marriage and homosexual partnerships. Thousands of years of human tradition, cross-cultural belief and civilized history are cast aside as dated, anachronistic, ill informed and bigoted. Orthodox Jews, evangelical Christians and many Catholics, among others, are told that they must change their beliefs. But why should they? If anything, the results of our country's experiments with divorce and easy sexuality have reinforced the wisdom of Judeo-Christian morality, rather than refuting it.

So it should be understandable when even those (and I count myself among them) who believe strongly in equal rights — including civil unions — for gay Americans question the wisdom of such a decision. If we dare ask what this might portend for society, for families and for children, we are told, "Shut up and stop worrying! It's just more love and more liberty! It will all be great!"

But if past is precedent, that is unlikely.

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Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.