November 27, 2008
Thankful for FamilyBy Larrey Anderson
There is much more going on the traditional nuclear monogamist heterosexual family than meets the eye. The family is the "laboratory" that creates self-aware and decent human beings.
Professor Ed Kaitz in his seminal piece on American Thinker has described the dangers of a society that loses its masculine perspective.[i] In this article I want to explore the positive human characteristics that the traditional family offers to a culture and to society.
First, there are important, and differing, biological and psychological attributes that the man and the woman bring to the family. The woman is physiologically connected to her offspring. The man is not.
Women "build the nest" partially from instinct and from biological necessity. Men do not. A man's biological role in procreation ends in the physical consummation of the sexual act. A woman's role starts there.
Unlike the woman, the man commits to and stays with his family through ideas -- not through biological necessity. Marriage is, and always has been, the social and religious concept that attempts to guarantee to the man that the children of the union are his own -- that he has a stake in his family.
And it has worked. Men have traditionally depended on marriage as the concept that has allowed, or in some cases has forced, men to provide for and care for the family's children.
A young unwed mother who has sex out of wedlock and then wonders why her boyfriend disappears into the cultural underbrush does not understand that her boyfriend has no incentive to provide for a child that may not be his own. A man has no biological inducement to stay with a woman in a purely sexual relationship.
The man must have a reason for providing for a woman's offspring. That reason usually is simply this: that the offspring is his as well as hers. This promise of fidelity is what the traditionally family has attempted to guarantee. An unwed father has no idea if he has been "cuckolded" by his girlfriend; and, in today's culture, he has very few social or legal avenues of protection if he has.[ii]
The beauty and wonder of the traditional family is that it balances the competing forces of instinct and thought. The "chemistry" of the traditional family takes place in a laboratory of different expressions of love.
A mother's love is immediate, physical, nurturing. A father's love is much more abstract.
The father's role in the family is mental not physical. (Of course the man can express physical love and devotion to his wife and children.) A man brings the abstract notion of love and support into this grand "chemical" mixture.
Mothers love their children because they must. Fathers love their children because they choose to do so. (I am simplifying for the sake of this argument. Obviously, women are not solely involved in marriage and procreation through instinct. Such a claim would be patently false. A woman's role in the family is a marvelous combination of intuition and intelligence. In fact the woman's role is much more complex than the man's. But space prevents me from going into such details.)
So there are two very different kinds of love in the traditional family. Children raised in a loving family learn that love is both instinctive and rational. Children brought up in a traditional family learn that love is more than passion. Love is not a merely a disposition. Love is also a choice. Love is recognition that is freely given.
Trust for, appreciation of, and reliance upon other human beings are all lessons that originate in the traditional family. This is the grand experiment that is the monogamous heterosexual family.
There are millions of children in America today who are "raised" in fatherless homes. They are shuffled off to day-care centers where none of the delicate (and sometimes explosive) chemical combinations of love that exist in the family are present.
If we are looking for an explanation of the "gang culture" that is taking over this country we need look no further than these day care centers. Children who are raised in a pack will behave like pack animals. The traditional family has been the bulwark that has always stood against these kinds of mob mentality.
The family is the laboratory that creates human love and humane recognition for others. If we destroy the traditional family ... we will destroy all that is good in human nature.
Larrey Anderson is a writer, a philosopher, and submissions editor for American Thinker. His latest award-winning novel is The Order of the Beloved. His memoir, Underground: Life and Survival in the Russian Black Market, has just been released.
[i] There is a good book that explores Professor Kaitz's point in detail: Manliness by Harvard professor Harvey C. Mansfield, Yale University Press, 2006.