The Myth of the American Family
The contemporary world is often claimed to be the time of lost moral values, ambiguous ethics and double standards. Given the assumption, it is not surprising that a lot of modern Americans consider the post-war time of 1950s to be the model of family welfare. To be more specific, the given period is associated with family-oriented and loyal individuals. In fact, it was the time of the people, who are strictly committed to their family duties, enjoy quality time in the bosom of their households and completely ignore personal needs for their relatives’ sake. Notably, it was the time of strict hierarchy, when the male was the only possible chief of the family, and the offspring were supposed to subordinate to their parents without other options to consider. Nevertheless, despite the drastic changes of the societal relations, the fact of personality’s suppression and gender equality, as a rule, was concealed in order to idealize the family order of 1950s. Undoubtedly, it was done in favor of creating a relevant myth about a perfect American family and implanting the given model into the subconsciousness of modern U.S. citizens. It is relevant to state that the basic belief of the present myth has the contradictory influence on human minds. On the one hand, without doubts, it encourages modern Americans to refer to the standards of the post-war decades and build their today’s relations in accordance with moral principles of those times. On the other hand, the myth about an ideal family conserves the remnants of the past, which are incompatible with the current realities.
For instance, with time the interfamily relationships have become more democratic and trustworthy. The notion of respect is crucial; however, the measurements of respect of the younger generations were revised. Similarly, typical today’s interaction between spouses is the model of a partnership rather than the relations between a commander and a subordinate. Consider the following case: in her literature work What We Really Miss about the 1950s, Stephanie Scoontz emphasizes that “freed from the rigid hierarchy from the past, parents and children could meet as near equals, joined by “filial love and fraternal affection” (19). Moreover, the communication inside the communities was changed simultaneously. In the modern world, the individuals are more tolerant towards the notion of feminism, homosexual relations or single parenting. Furthermore, the rights and freedoms of every person are better protected, and due to the relevant feelings of societal acceptance and safety, as a rule, contemporary individuals are more open to express their religious beliefs or, vice versa, atheistic views. Besides, people are free from numerous stereotypes, such as the idea that right-handed people are normal, whereas the left-handed ones have the anomaly that should be retrained.
The author states that “high divorce rates, the rise of the single-parent household, the national debate about same-sex marriage, and a growing frankness about domestic violence are transforming the way we see family life” (20). Even though the given idea is hard to deny, the vague standards, which Coontz refers to, may affect modern society in the positive way. To be more precise, the atmosphere of moral disorientation and confusion encourages people to search for the right path to follow. Notably, pretty often the best natural method to find one’s destination is to rethink the life values and become more tolerant, kind and diligent. Moreover, the intention to differentiate the good matters from bad ones, as well as the lack of oppression can help people discover their talents and abilities. In other words, before making a claim that 1950s were the exemplary time of perfect family relations, one should consider the rights and freedoms, which modern dwellers have obtained sometimes in the severe struggles. In addition, it is highly recommended to acknowledge that new human rights make the life of contemporaries much easier, safer and happier.
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Nonetheless, it is necessary to admit that the life in 1950s presented more opportunities to an average U. S. citizen. Most likely, it is the main reason why those times remain as the myth of the model family life. The 1950s are associated with “family-friendly economic and social environment”, which definitely meant an easier and more favorable climate for parenting (33). In other words, primarily the happiness and success of every individual depend on financial flourishing and healthy environment, including material quality and the emotional spirit of a certain society. It is a critical peculiarity that distinguishes the middle of the past century from the modern life. Consider the following case: according to Coontz, 1950s was a time when “the average 30-year-old man could buy a median-priced home on only 15-18 percent of his salary” (32). Besides, the post-war period created possibilities to occupy a perspective and well-paid job even for school graduates, who did not have any specific knowledge base (42). For comparison, the present time is associated with a prominent adversarial approach starting with the moment when a young child enters the community. In fact, the modern educational establishments develop individual’s competitiveness to prepare a child for the adulthood. Simultaneously, the ratio of anxiety and the lack confidence are evolved, which makes people search for the ideal existence.
To conclude the above-mentioned, it is relevant to state that the desire to be isolated from the harsh and painful reality encourages contemporaries to create the myths and believe in their reality. Meanwhile, the reason of family issues is often hidden in much more prosaic matters, such as government’s failure to provide its citizens with safe economic and social environment. That is why it is recommended to understand that the changes come when they are required by the community. Moreover, they bring the insights that people strive to find. Besides, the change is an essential tool of evolvement and, therefore, people should be ready to embrace the novelties when they appear.