There Goes Another Lovely American Ideal Shot To Hell

Whoops, another lovely, lacy piece of Americana has just been shredded: The idealized family dinner.

Forget your own lacy memories, because North Carolina State University has just researched this ideal; and you know what “research” means, don’t you? It means some serious folks with computers got together to test something. In this case, the University tested 130 families and concluded: “Family dinners in today’s working-mom society are just too unimaginative and hassled to match our Norman Rockwell memories…”

I am not here to question the researchers, the 130 families, or even the computers. But I am here to ask what happens in our culture each time we are advised like this that our best national memories have deceived us, that life back-then was simply not as decent and wholesome as we like to tell ourselves.

To answer my own question: With each dismissed memory we are left with one less
ideal by which to fix our gaze and to guide our way. In their place we now boast of
a grittier age of “no pulled punches,” “hard reality,” and “life as it really is.”

Translated: Books, movies, and news that grapple with the underbelly of our America; its criminal, violent, and seamier elements. In today’s literary culture, the “good guys” almost always finish last!

And yet.

We still have clergy intoning our virtues at weddings and funerals…Fourth of July orators singing our national praises, and valedictorians pointing us to new and higher heights. Maybe, just maybe, this contradiction suggests that we still want to be better than Hollywood and Cable likes to say we are. Corny…? Hell yes…!

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