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Admirable Liberal Truth-Telling

Boy, a huge Evans-Manning Award for quality comments goes to Church Lady, the deeply liberal regular who is writing first-rate commentary on the Single Parenthood and Childhood Poverty thread. The basic thrust of her commentary is that liberals who think that all we need to reduce single parenthood is more sex ed classes are not facing reality any more than conservatives who claim that all we need is abstinence-only classes are. From the thread:

[Church Lady’s critic writes:] Another example of false equvialency. Find me a recognizable group of liberal parents that opposes marriage or favor sexual activity for those not mature enough to engage in it. Obviously there is no need to demonize single parents, and I would guess that most people raising children on their own long for a stable married status.

[Church Lady responds:] But don’t you see that you have exposed your own ingrown bias and hostility right there? You interpret the cultural message “Everyone should be married before having kids” as demonizing single parents. That’s precisely the attitude you and other liberals are going to have to let go of, if this problem is really going to be dealt with.

Of course educated liberals agree that one should be married before having kids, and be mature enough to responsibly use contraception before having sex. But they keep these messages private to their own social enclaves. They don’t make it a widespread cultural message for everyone, for feat that it will somehow make single parent families feel bad or “demonized”. As if that’s more important than reducing the number of single-parent families.

The truth is, single parents really did screw up somewhere along the way. That can’t be hidden. One doesn’t have to shame them, and one has to accept their situation as it is and help them as much as one can, but you still have to put out the message that this is a screwup to be avoided, and not part of the “new normal”. Liberal elites do give their kids the message that unwed motherhood really is wrong, stupid, and a mistake. That’s why their kids don’t have these problems generally speaking. They feel the pressure. So what’s wrong with making everyone feel that pressure, and adopting that social message universally? Sure, don’t shame people in the process. Emphasize the positive. But make sure the message really is pervasive and clear, and educate them in how to take responsibility for their sexual life, without fear for how it makes some people feel. Anti-smoking campaigns didn’t much care if cigarette smokers were made to feel ashamed or bad for their habits. So the same approach needs to be taken here.

And let me remind you, I am precisely one of those educated liberal elite parents, and we gave our kids precisely those values, as did most of our cohort. I see nothing wrong with extending that message to the whole of our culture, in the effort to curb an out of control situation that harms kids substantially. Frankly, I don’t much care if some single parents feel shamed or bad in the process. I don’t want to target them that way, but it’s a small price to pay for giving kids a far better life than they would have otherwise.


[A Church Lady critic writes:] I’m glad to see a bit of pushback against some of the weird misconceptions of mainstream liberal views here, like Church Lady at 9:29pm. There’s been a lot of discussion in the aftermath of the election about how conservatives are in an especially bad version of an epistemic bubble.

[Church Lady responds:] I would say that your post is a perfect example of the epistemic closure that many liberals live under. For example, you assume that I’m a conservative, but everyone on this blog who’s been around for any time knows I’m one of the most stalwart liberals here, often attacked for that. I guess your universe can’t image a liberal actually criticizing other liberals, so you assume I must be a conservative?

It’s also amazing that you and other liberals commenting here assume that my comments imply that liberals aren’t in favor of waiting until marriage to have kids, or having a responsible sexual life, when I said precisely the opposite. And yet, reading skills suddenly decline to zero, simply because I say that liberals have a problem preaching their own real values in the public sphere, for fear of offending single parents or making them feel bad. Or for fear of implying something is wrong with black culture when single-parenthood is becoming the norm. Hell yes there’s something wrong with that. Don’t you think?

There are some conservative criticism of liberals that are actually true, and that you are making clear are true. One is the assumption that liberals can’t criticize other liberals, and if they do, they are pawns of the right-wing propaganda machine. Another is that epistemic closure only exists on the right. You’ve proven that one wrong by a mile.

I highly recommend reading the original post, and the commentary.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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