America has a reality problem and it ain’t Snooki, J-Wow and Honey Boo. Americans are stuck in the dreams of yesterday and a place and time where life was a lot more black and white and not the shades of grey that have become the reality of modern day life in America. Our reality problem or rather refusal to look at reality as a collective whole is why we avoid looking at what we have become and working towards real solutions, instead we assess blame and look the other way.
Recent Census data shows that America, the land of dreams and prosperity has taken a terrible detour, we are lost. Yet instead of acknowledging that we are lost, it’s easier to nitpick hence a report I heard on NPR this morning ‘Can Marriage Save Single Mothers From Poverty’ of course folks on the conservative side think that marriage (but only marriage that involves one man and one woman) is the magic cure-all. Sure 40% of all births in the US are out of wedlock, but rather than look at the fact that wages have been stagnant and in the past decade the middle class has been hammered and the poor have been forgotten all while the rich have grown richer, it’s easy to say get married and the number of poor will decrease. Really?
In the NPR piece, Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College, makes a good point, sure women know that marrying a man who earns a good wage probably will be beneficial but the reality is these men with good wages are often not available. In lower income communities they simply don’t exist as wages have stagnated and even in so called good communities, many of these men have watched their own opportunities decrease as evidenced by this piece featured a few weeks ago in the New York Times. Where once solidly middle class men with wives are no longer the breadwinners, instead it’s the wives who are earning the bread. In many cases, globalization has changed the game and in this case, the game has changed for good.
To take a financial issue and turn it into a moral/social issue once again takes the pressure off the powers to be to create real change. It pits neighbor against neighbor and creates a false sense of security for the remaining haves while they cast dispersions at the have-nots. To even link single motherhood to poverty and use marriage as the cure, once again threatens the rights of all women and threatens to take us back to a time when women were less than.
Marriage under the right circumstances can be a beautiful thing, hell I have done it two times and so far seem to be pretty successful at it this second time around. Make no mistake though, more marriages crumble due to financial matters than anything else. If we look at the upper middle class and above and say they have higher rates of marriage and lowers rates of divorce, we can’t ignore the fact that financial stability allows a couple to have less pressures and more access to resources when there are problems. A financially solid couple can see a marriage therapist, afford the babysitters and time away that can keep a marriage on track, all things that are harder to do when you are just trying to keep the lights on.
Until we all have access to financially stable jobs with solid benefits, let’s just leave marriage out of the discussion.