NY Times Letters Respond to David Brooks on the Family in the Age of Possibility

Here is one:

David Brooks says the problem with society in this “age of possibility” is that people “go through adulthood perpetually trying to keep their options open.”

But certainly it is possible to view this as an improvement over centuries of more “traditional” values, like denying the humanity of homosexuals; the subjugation and oppression of women; and institutionalized discrimination against pretty much every non-Anglo-Saxon ethnic group.

The various values and commitments to choose from are no less valid or moral for not being “traditional” (whatever that means). The two-parent family and “commitments to family, God, craft and country” might be lifestyle choices that work for some people, who are still free to pursue some or all of those ideals.

The difference now is that others won’t be forced into a life they either don’t want or can’t have, and they won’t be made to feel ashamed about whatever life they choose to live. This is progress.

Read them all.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Globalization, History, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Sociology

5 comments on “NY Times Letters Respond to David Brooks on the Family in the Age of Possibility

  1. Mark Baddeley says:

    Simply stunning the perspective of the NYTimes’ readership. So far out of line of anything mainstream in Australia.

    There’s no doubt there’s people with such views in Australia, but I struggle to imagine that letters to the editor in a mainstream paper (let alone the *ahem* ‘paper of record’) would be so lopsided as to warrant all three letters selected for publication going down the pro-zero population and pro-DIY family structures route (and even managing to combine both ideas into the same letter, which was a bit of a tour de force – everything except raising children in the context of the biological parents being married to each other it seemed).

    NYTimes really is an echo-chamber of like minded people, when even David Brooks provokes such a unanimous response.

  2. Karen B. says:

    I read these letters and I wonder when and where and how so many in America were brainwashed or drank the KoolAid. I grew up in northern NJ and my family were NYT subscribers. I’m just under 50… It’s breathtaking to me how much American society and culture has changed in 30 years. Maybe being overseas for 20 years has something to do with my sense of amazement and just not understanding how such a hatred of “traditional” values has become so pervasive.

    These letters read like a parody of some kind. Sadly they’re not a joke.

  3. Hursley says:

    Well, Karen B., I share your your thoughts. I remember when I was very young my mother saying that the trend of both parents working outside the home when it was not absolutely necessary (she felt much of the push in this direction was just about having stuff, not valuing children) would eventually ruin our nation. She said that selfishness always leads to disaster. She was right, I think.

    My own opinion is that the US has been on a kind of “binge” since after WWII, with an increasing over-reliance on power and possessions, leading to delusion and finally a Babylonion moral order based on radical autonomy (which, in turn, is largely manipulated by political/ideological/economic forces).

    Anyone who values something beyond such autonomy will be increasingly at odds with this evolving society, and may find her or himself under forceful pressure to conform, be silent, or be pilloried for non-conformity. It is an aggressive culture of destruction to which we have given rise.

  4. Karen B. says:

    I didn’t have much time to comment earlier, but I’d like to add something to what I wrote above.

    In reading Brooks’ oped and the letters to the editor, I think my strongest emotion and reaction was one of profound sadness. All the people living alone. All the people without children, putting “professional development” first before children, marriage, relationships. Yikes.

    In one way, I fit the pattern of the change in our society. I’m 49, single (never been married) and have no children. But that singleness and childlessness is in the context of a vocation to serve overseas, and I do NOT live alone, but with a large local family including 9 children ages 1 – 14 (two related local families and I share a house). So my life is full of children and much love and laughter. PLUS, I’m in a team here in Africa that is deeply committed to our community life, with daily times of prayer together…

    It’s perhaps a bit of a cliche, but how many people on their death beds will say “oh I wish I’d invested more time in my professional development?” I fear for a generation that will be very lonely as they age, without spouses or children to care for them.

    Granted careers can be rewarding. I find the community development work and training programs I lead for our NGO here to be deeply rewarding, but that’s because we’re seeing people’s lives change, and break out of poverty. But the devotion to professional life mentioned in this article seems short-sighted in terms of thinking about a legacy to leave behind, and what matters for eternity.

    And I agree with Hursley in #3, the two-career workaholic lifestyle so we can have more stuff is truly tragic. All this pursuit of “stuff” is so deeply damaging to our souls.

  5. Sarah says:

    Interesting comments here. I’m also single and don’t have children [my Mother would kill me anyway!]. ; > )

    I do think, though, beyond or in addition to the pursuit of stuff, that there is a general loss of confidence in relationships, as opposed to vocation. If you’re thinking about “leaving a legacy” — and you focus on the relational end — the truth is that we’re surrounded by ghastly failures in regards to relational legacies these days.

    I think there’s anxiety today in focusing on relationships as legacy building, because families and marriages blow apart, and then you’re left with nothing — *and* you didn’t focus on work! So you *really* have nothing.

    I think a whole lot of people feel more confident that they can achieve something fairly significant more surely in the vocational/career world than with marriages, families, children, etc. A part of this is the “legacy” of the hideously dysfunctional families and shattered families that so many Americans now have. “Why would we want to repeat our childhoods?” is a pretty credible and valid question for some.