Fragmentation in American Families

Essay by skybirdCollege, UndergraduateA, May 2007

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Much of the success of the right in the last election was attributed to its ability to capitalize on so-called family issues. Now partly out of the mistaken belief that the real issues are economic and that "quality of life" issues are secondary, progressives have pretty much ceded to conservatives this political terrain. "Au progressives need do, the thinking goes, is sit back and wait for the collapse of President Reagan's economic program. Many' progressives also suspect that pro-family programs are a Trojan horse for the revival of patriarch. These fears are particularly acute among people in their 20s and early 30s and among feminists, who know that charges of being antifamily have always been used as a rallying cry against their programs. These fears are legitimate. Yet there is a growing interest in family issues among both middle-income working people and many 1960s activists who are now confronting the problems of raising children-and it has nothing to do with a renewed commitment to the traditional patriarchal family.

Large numbers of single mothers who have no yearning to return to oppressive, male-dominated relationships also see themselves as pro-family. For them, as for many other Americans, the word "family" has a broad meaning: an institution dedicated to nurturing its members and rearing the next generation. These people see the family as a refuge from a dog-eat-dog society-a haven where love and commitment can take precedence over some petition and struggle. Because the right appears to be the only pro-family voice in American society, many of its economic and social programs that have nothing to do with family life have won widespread support. But even if Reaganomics fails to produce economic miracles, and even if stagflation and unemployment increase, the appeal to family values may continue to strike a responsive chord...