I'm told that marriage is "evolving" to include same-sex unions. I'll grant you marriage is changing, but it isn't evolving. Evolution is a natural process. This is a deliberate, systematic alteration from a moral and legal state, instigated for the best possible rearing of children, to one meant for adult pleasure. It is devolving, not evolving.
Nothing new. Baby Boomers have been systematically destroying many things in their unrelenting march to narcissistic nirvana, while training the next generation to follow suit. If a rule, a social norm, a freedom, or an ideal causes anyone to feel bad (e.g. don't cheat, utilize self-reliance, allow free association, keep sex inside marriage), it must be ignored, attacked, ridiculed, demonized or marginalized. Any impact to the social fabric is sacrificed to feeling good about oneself.
This is only the latest undermining of traditional marriage. "No-fault" divorce laws were first. Sounds nice, kind, quick and painless, then on with your life.
Of course a husband can't demand an explanation. A wife can't dispute his decision. Instead of years of marital strife, which could end in mutually agreed to divorce, or in deeper understanding, or in a truce, we go straight to annihilation. We leave the arguments for the post-marital phase, when the kids can be used as pawns and when there is so little chance for resolution.
Simultaneously the institution itself was assaulted. Marriage was "just a piece of paper," so why bother? Truthfully, once it became a contract voidable by either party, without the consent of the other, who could argue.
Still, most women want the security, fidelity and structure of a marriage. Probably that damnable instinct to protect children and raise them in an environment likely to provide for them. (Some feminist organization needs to fund research into turning off these "primitive" urges, i.e. find and alter the "mom gene" and fully "liberate" women.)
But, what does marriage offer men? Sex used to be the enticement that led some to learn marriage also afforded them companionship, care and a means to build a successful life. But, honestly, do you want to enjoy that, only to have it snatched away whenever she likes? Today men are warned to watch out! -- she'll end up with the kids, the house and his support payments. Why marry, especially when sex is so readily available without marriage?
Unplanned pregnancy? Her concern! Women's rights advocates have told us that, demonstrating their devotion to this ideal by fighting for her "right" to terminate "the pregnancy," up to and beyond viability, despite the child dying in unmitigated agony. (Shhh, don't tell anyone. Someone might feel bad.)
If she "chooses" to have "it"? Well, those same stalwarts have arranged a maternity to grave governmental goody system she can join with her offspring. Men are redundant once their sperm has been collected.
Writers used to create scary sci-fi novels about this sort of society. Now we live in it.
So, why not allow marriage with whomever one chooses - male, female, or as NPR recently profiled, someone with a kinetic self-awareness which refuses to be tied down to one label or the other? We want people to feel good, don't we?
Alas, this attitude gives short shrift to what does good - for oneself, - for one's society. Doing good usually requires self-sacrifice and that is anathema to liberal Baby Boomers and their progeny.
We've distorted and undermined a societal institution that predates today's governments; that was the social bedrock that enabled the formation of these governments. We've told parents it's optional; short-term flings it's romantic; politicians it's a compassion opportunity. We've reduced it to a series of reality shows - find the dress; pick the chick.
We refuse to ask fundamental questions: Is marriage merely about adult satisfaction? What does it provide civilization? What happens when it is gone?
We won't pay the price for being trivial and evading tough questions. Succeeding generations will. They will look back and think how aptly named we Baby Boomers were - immature and destructive.
Joann Pantages is an occasional Compass contributor. She lives in Anchorage.