October 11, 2009
Dear Rev. Know it all;
Why are you so intolerant? I was infuriated by your last article. You make these blanket statements that just aren’t universally true. There are a lot of fine people who live together for a while before marriage and have very successful marriages. I lived with my husband before marriage and we have been married for almost thirty years. We have a son who lives in Seattle and is involved in environmental causes and we have a daughter who is employed at the UN, also in environmental issues. We are quite proud of them. Your insistence on traditional Catholic teaching regarding marriage and birth control certainly don’t resonate in my life. I’m glad my children are doing something to undo the damage that spiraling population has caused the world’s environment, no thanks to Catholic “Tradition.”
Why do you think that children cause pollution? Machines cause pollution. There are quite a few countries that have successfully limited their population, the United States, China, Russia, for instance. These are also the countries that have caused the most ecological damage. As machines replace people, carbon emissions replace air. Children are biological beings who are part of the planet’s life cycle. Human beings are, in effect, biodegradable, if they live simple lives. We are born and live and die. Dust we are and to dust we shall return. It is the fast paced, do-it- now disposable consumerist society that is trashing the world. I am sure that your little gems return to see you at least twice a year. How much pollution do they cause as they jet back to the old home stead? Do they drive SUV’s to the airport and, on the way, pick up a designer coffee in a large Styrofoam cup? I imagine they are important people in a hurry. If they lived upstairs they could visit the old folks without all the pollution. No, babies aren’t ruining the earth. We consumerists are.
How nice that your rejection of tradition has worked out so well for you. I wonder how well it’s worked out for the world you inhabit. Wasn’t one of the first questions, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Excuse me. I should have said “sibling” instead of “brother.”) Our generation defied moral restrictions without concern for how it affected the world we live in. We had our rights, after all. Our concern about the pollution of the physical environment was laudable, but we have caused a kind of moral pollution which our narcissism makes us unable to perceive. I, too, am an aging ex-hippie. I remember when we said groovy and meant it, but I have changed because I am old enough now to see the harm we have done. We have filled the world with loneliness. There is a saying, “Home is where you’re safe.”
You and I created an atmosphere in which no commitment was necessarily forever and then we had our 2.5 children. I feel so sorry for kids in their early twenties. So many of them seem so rootless. They don’t seem to feel very safe. They struggle trying to make a living that meets their expectations, the consumerist expectation with which we raised them. They struggle to establish some kind of meaningful existence. From us they learned to expect a life of absolute freedom and now they seem incapable of the limitations committed relationships require.
I know so many young people who have to have a place of their own, though they can’t afford it. They have to go away to school, though they haven’t the resources. They would never consider living at home while they establish themselves financially. They need their space, their privacy, their freedom. They get married and then they find they still need their space, their privacy, their freedom. They divorce and then they have to move back home because they are buried under a mountain of debt, because space, privacy and freedom are expensive. Meanwhile mom and dad would like some space, privacy and freedom in their declining years. We are not meant to live in space, privacy and freedom, at least as it is currently defined.
Another early statement about human nature reads, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We have taught our children that they have a right to leave any commitment, any relationship they please. Have you noticed that the first relationship they leave is usually us? By being lawless and calling it freedom we have created a climate that does not really value relationship. It may have worked out for you, just like that SUV and the Styrofoam cup of pricey coffee, but it isn’t working out so well for those who have to breathe your moral pollution. You see, we are all in this together. Just as I have to live with your mess in the physical world, I have to breathe the moral and spiritual pollution that baby boomer narcissism has created.
I had an Uncle Sylvester. No really, Sylvester. We were city people for centuries, but Sylvester married a girl who’d grown up on the farm. When the depression hit, they went back to the farm and pretty much made sure the rest of family could eat during the worst of it. Old Uncle Sylvester didn’t refuse to live in crowded conditions with his in-laws and they didn’t refuse to share their meager resources. After all, they were family. I ask you, where will you go to flee from the wrath to come? Home, as the poet says, is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.
The sexual revolution has made a world that is magnificently housed, but homeless none the less.