The big D.

I guess the Wall Street Journal thinks of its Saturday Review section cover these days as the place for the essay-as-sharp-stick. First the Tiger Mom, now this: “The Divorce Generation,” a cri de coeur from Generation X:

For much of my generation—Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980—there is only one question: “When did your parents get divorced?” Our lives have been framed by the answer. Ask us. We remember everything.

OK, Susan Gregory Thomas, I’m in. Tell me about it. And she does, and it stings — it’s no fun when your parents split up, no matter what. She deals a few anecdotes off the deck, standard procedure for a personal essay, and then starts down her own story’s path. I had a feeling what was coming, thanks to the subhed (“Having survived their own family splits, Generation X parents are determined to keep their marriages together. It doesn’t always work.”), but I was willing to come along for the ride.

One aside here: I understand the existential pain of the Gen-Xer, really I do. People think of the baby boom as this monolith of demography, but it isn’t. When we talk about baby boomers, we’re really talking about the early boomers, those born, oh, 1946 to 1951, say. The ones who were old enough to actually experience the ’60s as we commonly think of them. The year of my birth, 1957, was technically the peak of the boom, but we were the little siblings of the leading edge. Sally Draper was an early(ish) boomer; I was Bobby Draper. They were psychedelia, we were disco. My older siblings worried about being drafted, we led the New Traditionalism, reviving everything from prom to Greek life on campus to blackout drinking. And so on.

So I get that Gen-X-ers feel neglected by the media, by history, etc. But I will also say that when it comes to pouting and resentment, man, some of these folks really peg the needle. And being a world-class pouter and resenter myself, I know what I’m talking about. But for now, let’s not go there; this is just in the interest of full disclosure.

“Whatever happens, we’re never going to get divorced.” Over the course of 16 years, I said that often to my husband, especially after our children were born. Apparently, much of my generation feels at least roughly the same way: Divorce rates, which peaked around 1980, are now at their lowest level since 1970. In fact, the often-cited statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce was true only in the 1970s—in other words, our parents’ marriages.

…No marital scenario, I told myself, could become so bleak or hopeless as to compel me to embed my children in the torture of a split family. And I wasn’t the only one with strong personal reasons to make this commitment. According to a 2004 marketing study about generational differences, my age cohort “went through its all-important, formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured generations in U.S. history.” Census data show that almost half of us come from split families; 40% were latch-key kids.

The boldface is where she started to lose me. Never mind quoting a marketing study; never mind the “one of the most” fudge words. Has this woman read American history? Un-parented and un-nurtured children were as common as ticks for most of it. Pioneer-era orphans wandered the woods like feral monkeys. The boom periods of modern cities in the early 20th century were marked by children roaming the streets while their parents worked or drank or otherwise suffered as infantry troops in the industrial revolution. It’s one reason the social-work movement was born. I’m sorry her father was neglectful and her mother preoccupied with her own misery, but presumably she had enough to eat.

And then we’re off down the path of her happy marriage, with the ominous clouds bulking on the horizon, and before too long, I see where she went wrong:

When I had my first child at 32, I went into therapy for a while to sort through, among other things, just why the world—as open and wonderful as it had become with my child’s presence—had also become more treacherous than I ever could have imagined. It wasn’t until my daughter was a few months old that it dawned on me that when the pediatricians and child-care books referred to “separation anxiety,” they were referring to the baby’s psyche, not to mine.

The thought of placing her in someone else’s care sent waves of pure, white fear whipping up my spine. It occurred to me that perhaps my own origins had something to do with what a freak show I was. After hearing about my background for some time, my distinguished therapist made an announcement: “You,” she said, “are a war orphan.”

I know this woman. I’ve met her many times. To some extent she’s like all of us with our tender newborns, terrified that if we let them out of our sight for even a moment, they will burst into flames. But the hormones ebb, and we get over that. We learn that other caregivers are not just convenient, but necessary for the long journey to begin — the child’s long journey, that is, to independence. Even as infants, they profit from interaction with others.

She reminds me of a friend’s sister-in-law, who actually endangered her daughter’s muscle development by refusing to not only let others care for her, but to even put her down, so she could crawl and toddle and explore the world. She was ordered by her pediatrician: Lighten up.

OK, let’s cut to the chase:

I had married the kindest, most stable person I’d ever known to ensure that our children would never know anything of the void of my own childhood. I nursed, loved, read to and lolled about with my babies—restructured and re-imagined my career—so that they would be secure, happy, attended to. My husband and I made the happiest, most comfy nest possible. We worked as a team; we loved our kids; we did everything right, better than right. And yet divorce came. In spite of everything.

In other words, she lived for her children, and stopped sleeping with her husband. In spite of everything.

John Rosemond, the parenting expert, gets on my last nerve these days. My newspaper ran his column for years, and I watched him evolve in that time from a reasonable moderate to a right-wing scold, but the core of his advice is still sound, and it boils down to this: Attend to your marriage. Do what you need to do to keep it appealing for both parties, and the kids will take care of themselves. In fact, they’ll do better than if you make them the center of your world. Be authoritative and confident, but most especially, love your spouse. Susan Gregory Thomas concentrated on her comfy nest and forgot about her husband. It happens. It’s maybe a natural reaction to being the children of Don and Betty Draper’s divorce. She overcorrected.

Which leads us to the second divorce story of the day, Bethany Patchin’s:

In August 1999, Bethany Patchin, an 18-year-old college sophomore from Wisconsin, wrote in an article for Boundless, an evangelical Web magazine, that Christians should not kiss before marriage. Sam Torode, a 23-year-old Chicagoan, replied in a letter to the editor that Ms. Patchin’s piece could not help but “drive young Christian men mad with desire.”

The two began corresponding by e-mail, met in January 2000 and were married that November. Nine months later, Ms. Torode (she took her husband’s name) gave birth to a son, Gideon. Over the next six years, the Torodes had four more progeny: another son, two daughters and a book, “Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception.”

You read that right: Four kids in six years, from the book of Duggar, Chapters 1-5. Full quivers, full households, full hearts. Until, oops, reality intruded:

In 2006, the Torodes wrote on the Web that they no longer believed natural family planning was the best method of birth control. They divorced in 2009. Both now attend liberal churches. Ms. Patchin — that is her name once again — now says she uses birth control, and she even voted for Barack Obama for president.

“I was 19 when we got married,” Ms. Patchin said by telephone from Nashville, where she and her former husband live and share custody of their four children. “And I was 20 when we had Gideon. My parents weren’t anti-birth-control; they were pretty middle-ground evangelicals. So I kind of rebelled by being more conservative. That was my identity.”

The Patchin-Torode co-prosperity sphere learned some hard lessons: That children are stressers, and that having four so close together — they came as two sets of Irish twins, and yes, she was nursing when the younger ones were conceived — is particularly so. Also, that having to postpone sex so often isn’t good for a young couple. As Torode put it:

“Wanting to make love to your spouse often is a good thing, but (natural family planning) often lays an unfair burden of guilt on men for feeling this,” the Torodes wrote. And it is “a theological attack on women to always require that abstinence during the time of the wife’s peak sexual desire (ovulation) for the entire duration of her fertile life, except for the handful of times when she conceives.”

In other words, viva modernity! Sometimes God’s plan involves birth control.

I feel bad for both of these couples. I feel bad for their kids. I wonder if it’s possible that we’ll ever find a happy medium that doesn’t involve swinging past it, clinging to a pendulum. But I think I like the Patchin-Torodes more. Or maybe I just haven’t read their first-person essay yet.

I’ve gone on too long, I fear. Any bloggage?

Nope, I think I’m tapioca on that front. Post some of your own if you like, but me, I’m off to work.

Posted at 10:02 am in Current events, Media |

70 responses to “The big D.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 12, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Re: Late-boomers, early-Xers (born Aug. ’61 like another fellow whose 50th birthday we’ll be celebrating with the help of Organizing for America the next few weeks) — we brought back the toga, thereby avoiding Greek life while evoking Grecian ideals of beauty. Plus streaking, kind of like the first Olympics.

    The vomiting was purely Roman. Ah, college in 1978, when tradition was vile, but we all kept trying to launch new ones. Is “new tradition” an oxymoron?

    There’s a big oxymoronic stream in conservative circles that way, where we want to come up with “new traditions” for family life, for our communities, in our churches, and in our national contemplations. It all has to be unique, creative, and our own, but it needs a kick of something old and enduring. It’s a hard circle to square, or maybe a square that’s circling the drain. Out on the edges of the right, some go strongly towards neo-orthodoxy and hardline traditionalism (“the ancient future church” is one phrase I’m tiring of, “crunchy cons” tend to lean this way), and others are looking to create an emergent mosaic made up of the smallest discreet bits of tradition they can scrape off the pavement of history, and make into a truly original design (see Brian McLaren & Ian Cron for examples).

    Sounds like Sam & Bethany ran up against the stuff that this stuff writes & reads better than it lives. This is a tough era to navigate without getting pulled into the main current, which is why so many are so (unrealisticially) drawn to Amish and/or off-the-grid lifestyles. Separation is one strategy that might work, but you actually have to separate yourself from the world and change. Lapsing dangerously into cliche, he says: but change always finds you.

    Tradition, big-T variety, can be marvelously adaptable, but you have to determine what your non-negotiables are and that’s where modernity pulls hard.

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  2. Hank Stuever said on July 12, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Nancy at her finest today!

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  3. Peter said on July 12, 2011 at 10:56 am

    “Both now attend liberal churches. Ms. Patchin — that is her name once again — now says she uses birth control, and she even voted for Barack Obama for president.”

    She EVEN voted for Barack Obama? Mercy! Talk about being out of control!

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  4. 4dbirds said on July 12, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Great post. I’ve been married 31 years and this is my second marriage. Our marriage isn’t perfect but we’ve survived army life, step-children (from both of us), a child’s cancer, unemployment, depression and having of our adult children move home due to this crappy economy. Our basic rule is that no matter how low we get, we know the roller coaster goes back up and we never, ever, ever say the divorce word out loud.

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  5. Deborah said on July 12, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I’m in Detroit again today. Another horrible day trip, up way before dawn and home way after sundown. It’s hot here already, but not much different than Chicago yesterday. I’m in the Detroit office of the company I work for and they’re in a building designed by Yamasaki, the guy who designed the twin towers in NY, he did this building before those. I can see many similarities.

    I’d be Sally Drapers older cousin, maybe 3 or 4 years older. Divorcing was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, no make that THE hardest. But when I saw my ex a month or so ago when I drove Little Bird over to his place to pick up some furniture he didn’t want anymore, I was soooo glad not to be in that life anymore.

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  6. Dave said on July 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    33 years. Do 1950 and 51 birth years put is in the leading middle of the boomers?

    Both of us children of parents who were married for life. Three children, two of them now married, may it go well for them.

    OTOH, my four siblings have all been divorced at least once, one of them twice. I sometimes wonder at that and what we did that they did differently, were we better matched, were we more tolerant, did we understand better that things weren’t always going to be storybook perfect? As the rest of you know, it isn’t always easy but that word, divorce, never came up, ever, we kept on going.

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  7. Laura Lippman said on July 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I’m another late-boomer, who was appalled by a recent This American Life episode in which a so-called “millennial” said something along the lines of: 9/11 didn’t happen to you. It happened to us. Ah, yes, all those 8-year-old bond traders and Pentagon workers.

    The same show featured another millennial who, having graduated from college, was moving back in with her parents. She wanted to work in publishing but, well, you know, she didn’t actually know how to apply for a job in publishing. So she didn’t even try. Didn’t send out a single letter! I’m not sure she even Googled “jobs in publishing.” It brought back my memories of sending out laboriously type-written letters and clip packages to editors whose names I gathered from that big red E&P. I’m not saying I walked five miles to school in the snow, but I have to think that looking for work is a little easier now, even though finding work is much harder.

    But I concede: in the great misery sweepstakes, I’m not even a contender. Parents stayed married. (Although I eventually became a poor widdle latchkey kid.) I never had to move back in my with my parents after college. Not yet. Could still happen, mom and dad, keep your powder dry. I’ve weathered a couple of harsh recessions, but managed to stay employed. So far. Blew up one marriage, but that’s entirely on me. Hope never to do that again. Also a world-class pouter and resenter. So why isn’t that an Olympic event? Life is so damn unfair.

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  8. Linda said on July 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Re:Susan Gregory Thomas. I read it and thought, “therapy did some of this.” Seriously. Instead of telling her that sorrow happens (it does) and how to cope, she was encouraged to dwell on her unhappiness and build a nest in it, obsess on it, etc. It brought to mind something from Thomas Lynch, the poet/undertaker (how’s that for a career twofer). Undertaking was the family business, and he had been in the company of dead bodies all his life. When an interviewer asked him if he had been afraid, he said, “No. Nobody told me I should be.” Being told you should be permanently scarred and scared will make you more likely to be. I’m not saying you should be in denial; I’m saying you need to act as if you aren’t scarred sometimes, so the scars don’t control your life.

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  9. prospero said on July 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Joe Arpaio’s favorite state senator points her pink Ruger at a reporter with a suspiciously hispanic sounding name.

    When are free marketeers not? When they’re Republican aholes talking about light bulbs. It’s just jobs, jobs, jobs with them GOPers.

    All of the no-brainer things President Obama has proposed to Boner and the Greedy Old Plutocrats, and they’ve acted like he put a flaming bag of dogshit on their front porch and doorbell-ditched.

    When did Murdoch buy WaPo? Rush will waddle all over this one.

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  10. coozledad said on July 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    This dovetails nicely with the Amway stuff from yesterday. You could start a pyramid scheme which results in an army of dupes selling marriage counselling books. I got a prospective title: Get off your ass and fix me something to eat, motherfucker!: the new sexual dimorphism and marriage salvation- with recipes.

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  11. brian stouder said on July 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Well, this subject makes me revert to the good ol’ Wizard of Oz. I love when, right in the middle of the emotional climax of the movie, the balloon leaves without Dorothy aboard.

    She yells for her indebted wizard to come back – as he complains that she’s fouled up his exit; and then, after he plainly confesses that he doesn’t know how to work the ballon – he doffs his hat and cheerily shouts “So long, folks!” – and flies away.

    I like the matter-of-fact aplomb in that scene. It captures much.

    And, I plainly confess that I have no earthly idea why a marriage works, although I suspect that (at least in Pam’s and my case) laughter is a big part of it. I bet some brain chemical or endorphan (or whatever the hell) is involved.

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  12. nancy said on July 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Laura, I just took a minute to watch the video interview on the web version of the divorce essay. Trust me: She hasn’t learned a thing. At one point she actually mentions putting a Baby Einstein video in the machine “while you take a shower,” so that “your baby doesn’t feel abandoned.” During a shower. I ask you.

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  13. Zannah said on July 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I’m a late Gen-Xer, and while I freely admit that whining and complaining come naturally to me (Lately, I’m unhappy at work. Boohoo. Most people are.), I also know that I don’t have anything real to complain about. My husband and I have been married for 10 years, no kids yet, both of us have still-married parents, we own our own home, and we have good jobs. We’re looking to downsize and move, but overall, we’re happy. I get that not everyone is, but the people who do the most public complaining seem so entitled. It’s not your parents’ fault. I think Linda may be right to blame it on the therapy.

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  14. Kevin said on July 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I don’t know from divorce, but I do know the dateline between the Baby Boomers and Gen X is usually placed way too late – usually around 1965. I was born in ’63 and have little in common with the boomers. Don’t remember Woodstock or student protests at all, and ‘hippie’ was an epithet among my high school crowd. I’d put the start of Generation X around 1962, if not 1961. Even kids born in ’61 were more likely to be watching “The Brady Bunch” in 1969 than paying any attention to Woodstock.

    “The Big Chill” sort of sums up the divide. When it came out, I had gone to see it with a group that included boomers and Gen Xers, and when it was over and we went out for drinks it was like we’d seen two different movies. The boomers identified STRONGLY with the main characters and had tremendous empathy for their compromises and choices, and found Meg Tilly’s character (the only young person) odd and vapid. The people my age saw Goldblum, Hurt, etc. as self-absorbed bourgie yuppies and thought Lawrence Kasdan was incredibly condescending toward Tilly’s character.

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  15. moe99 said on July 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    4 of the 5 sibs in my family (all Boomers) are divorced. My parents, strong Catholics, were married 51 years before my father’s death. Not a great predictor of marriage stability in my family. Lots of trenchant observations today, Nancy. Great work!

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  16. James Moehrke said on July 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Here, today, I learned about Irish twins, something my education had skipped, apparently, and I’m in that first wave of Boomers, born in 1951. Learn something new everyday – it’s still a good idea.

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  17. alex said on July 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I’m on the cusp between the Boomers and GenX and saw the Big Chill when it was first released. Thinking back on it, the cultural references were all trite and the characters all cardboard. I didn’t identify with any of them.

    As for what makes a good marriage, it sure beats the heck outta me because I’m not legally allowed to have one. (Although the last four years of lewd cohabitation have been the most blissful ever.) 🙂

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  18. Suzanne said on July 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    1958 for me, so the tail end of Boomers. Would win the whiner Olympics as I was once referred to as “the crabby aunt”. I was probably a bit overprotective and overindulgent with my kids when they were growing up, but I think some of that comes from my parent’s laissez-faire parenting that included a huge chunk of “After school activities? College visits? Funny joke…now go get a dang job!” Married 30 years, and although there have been days, I think bottom line is that with kids, a job, etc. divorce would take too much effort.

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  19. prospero said on July 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Another twist on divorce these days. My daughter’s mother and I got divorced when Emily was just five, but we remained close (she has gotten me through the death’s of both my parents, whom she loved). I’m willing to take all the blame though neither of us dwells on it. We care a great deal about each other, both for the reasons we got married in the first place, and for the wonderful child we cooperated to rear, who has suffered none of the trauma that would have come her way, undoubtedly, had her parents stuck it out. The kid’s got a tremendous education and a great job, a good husband and a beautiful child. Handwringing about effects on children of divorced parents is nonsense, so long as the parents don’t create a poisonous atmosphere around the situation. Still, this is all so uniquely personal, I’d bet no two families have had the same experience.

    Divorce rates have actually receded since the 70s, and it seems to me that economic stress beyond peoples’ control is the most frequent cause these days, rather than infidelity, which I’m sure used to be the prime mover. Much of this has to do with overwhelmingly hypocritical social standards and pure political bullshit. It’s like the “pro-lifers” that make it clear by legislative and social policy priorities that their concern actually spans all the way from conception to 20 weeks, and the “defense of marriage” types that vote for Gingrich and listen to Limbaugh every day.

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  20. prospero said on July 12, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    18 years of “lewd cohabitation” on this end. Really, I don’t see how it’s been any different from marriage, which would be legal, but I’d need to work it out with the Vatican. Yeah, right.

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  21. Julie Robinson said on July 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    The boomer divide was obvious to me when I hit IU in 1974 and searched in vain for a protest march to attend. Instead, Dunn Meadow boasted a Johnny Cougar concert. (And he hadn’t found his sea legs yet.)

    My parents’ marriage imploded at the same point mine is approaching, 32 years, so it’s something I’ve been contemplating lately. More than just commitment is needed, otherwise misery is okay as long as you stay together. Finding humor, maturity, mutual forgiveness, respect and empathy all come to mind.

    It strikes me that often evangelicals are so worried about virginity that they push their kids to marry young, before their personalities are formed. They aren’t given the college years to explore and mature, and having kids right away just adds to the obstacles.

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  22. brian stouder said on July 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    A non-sequitur, but my favorite little e-mail headline service forwarded this, and I thought I’d share the buzz:

    An excerpt:

    ISLAND PARK, Idaho (AP) — Cleanup crews in Idaho have finished clearing honey and an estimated 14 million bees that got loose after a delivery truck overturned on a highway. Fremont County Sheriff deputies say several workers were stung during the first few hours of the cleanup Sunday. And some observers told The Post-Register about seeing a strange black cloud and roaring noise above the spill area before realizing it was a massive swarm of bees.

    It’s all about the birds and the bees

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  23. Bob (not Greene) said on July 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I don’t know what you call the group of people I’m supposed to be lumped in with. All I know is that I don’t consider myself either a boomer or a Gen Xer. I was born in 1962, so the 1970s was really when I “grew up.” I do blame the boomers for making parenting the goddman crisis they always make it out to be with their parenting magazines and fostering the hyper-competitive atmosphere at schools (did anyone take some outside prep class for the SAT or ACT when they were in high school? I didn’t know they existed if they did) and just about everything else. Remember those goddamn “Baby on Board” stickers in car windows in the early 1980s? It screamed boomer. Things when I was growing up seemed so much looser, and I liked it. Of course, technology also has made things worse, tethering our kids to us way too closely, I’m sure, for their comfort. Parents are afraid to let their kids make any mistakes for fear it will screw them up for life.

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  24. Suzanne said on July 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Lord no, Bob (NG), no one that I knew took an SAT or ACT prep class and absolutely no one took it more than once or fretted about the score. One teacher encouraged my daughter to start taking it in middle school. Modern life confuses me completely.

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  25. Joe Kobiela said on July 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Bet that evil corprate jet would feel mighty good tonight on that trip home from Detroit.
    Pilot Joe

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  26. brian stouder said on July 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Joe – if the corporate jet folks get hit with increased fuel prices, they still go forward because it’s the price of doing business for all of their competitors, too.

    And, if they have to pay their taxes – so long as all of them do, then it’s STILL just the price of doing business.

    And, not for nothing, but if the United States government smacks its head into the debt ceiling, and air traffic controllers get furloughed, all of the corporate jets (and everything else) are liable to a ground-stop.

    Just sayin’…ol’ Jim Demint (et al) are selling you a bill of goods

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  27. Angela said on July 12, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    @Bob — The obnoxious “Baby on Board” accessory of (my) millennial generation is the stick-figure-family window decal. (We’re the personalized generation!)

    To me, they epitomize the vanity I see in parenthood today — “Look at the cool stuff we get, the cute ways we can dress them up, and post 1,000 pictures of them on Facebook so people can tell us how cute they are.”

    (I’m not a complete cynic. Most of my peers are great parents, and I think the parenthood-as-accessory type, a minority, still loves her child. I do like seeing my friends’ babies on Facebook; I just don’t need to know about every single diaper bag and pacifier and toy you’ve bought yoursel– er, him.)

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  28. mark said on July 12, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Sorry Brian, it’s Obama who is threatening the shut down- especially odd since he is the loudest voice in claiming that it will cause an economic collapse. For two years, with control of Congress, Obama did nothing to raise taxes, other than the many new taxes associated with paying for (sort of)health care reform. Eight months ago he crowed about EXTENDING the Bush tax cuts and claimed doing so was necessary given the fragile recovery.

    Now, with “fragile recovery” shown to be a great overstatement and the debt ceiling deadline looming, hre threatens the predicted economic calamity unless he gets the tax increases that he rejected eight months ago.

    The guy doesn’t know what he is doing. Plus, Iran moves forward to nukes, Syria orchestrates attacks on our embassy and our planes still drop bombs on “days not weeks” Libya.

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  29. MaryRC said on July 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    About the Patchin-Torodes: some conservative Catholic bloggers used to promote NFP (natural family planning). Maybe they still do, I don’t read them any more. NFP is basically the rhythm method … couples abstain during the weeks that the wife is ovulating. I never really understood the difference between this and using a contraceptive. The idea seemed to be that you were supposed to be “open to God’s will” every time you had sex, i.e. to welcome the possibility of procreation, so what’s the difference between not having sex when you’re fertile and using a contraceptive? Well, lots of difference, I guess, but you get what I mean.

    Anyway, some of these bloggers claimed that NFP led to a more satisfying sex life, since if you denied yourselves for a couple of weeks, sex was all the more emotionally and physically intense when you did get together. It struck me — and probably the Patchin-Torodes too — that this level of intensity could get kind of exhausting after a while.

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  30. Little Bird said on July 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I was born in’75, so I guess that makes me a total Gen Xer. I am also a child of divorced parents. I think I am better off for it. In the long run, at least. Yeah. It sucked at the time, very much so. But if it hadn’t happened, I would simply not have the opportunities that I have now.
    I think that my generation just likes to whine. Like every other generation.

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  31. prospero said on July 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Mark, you may be the sole person in the world that believes Obama is the stumbling block in the debt-ceiling deal, and you are absolutely wrong. As far as the tax cut extension eight months ago, the GOP held unemployment benefits at shotgun-point, and not paying those benefits would unquestionably have done severe damage. For the life of me, I cannot imagine what Presidential proposal you want to claim is causing an impasse on the debt cap discussion. At the time the Bush cuts were extended, NO Democratic politician favored extending the upper income cuts, until GOP threatened doing away with unemployment benefits extensions, which obviously would have been counter-productive in the current economy. There are currently no tax increases on the table, unless you buy the twisted logic that closing idiotic loopholes is raising taxes. Otherwise, you’re letting big oil and Big Farm off scot free with no exconomic benefit. Archer Daniel Midland and Exxon don’t need subsidies to boost their obscene profits.

    Trying to put this shit on Obama just ignores the tightrope Boehner is trying to walk between his business overlords and Teabaggers. It takes the talents of a contortionist. Do you really think it makes sense for hedge fund managers to be taxed on their “earnings” at 15%. Bump that to the 35% their chauffeurs pay, and you pick up $400bil in the next decade. Not as red meat as cutting prenatal care and WIC, but more beneficial to the USA.

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  32. brian stouder said on July 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    And – the US withdrew its strike aircraft from the Libya operation, although I’m with you flatly disagreeing with the president there. But on the debt ceiling thing, the R’s wanted to make a $4 trillion deal, right up until the president agreed with them. The leverage the Republican congress has (and is in grave danger of over-playing) amounts to their threat to simply not take care of this most basic function of government. Remember that they are toying with the full faith and credit of the United States; these are debts that cover spending that previous congresses duly authorized – most especially including Republican congresses and presidents of recent years.

    Or – maybe Pawlenty/Bachmann think what’s good enough for Minnesota (protracted shutdown) is good enough for the US government

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  33. Judybusy said on July 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I was very happy when my parents divorced when I was about 19. My mom deserved much better, and remarried a few years later to a truly nice guy. He came with five adult kids who loved my mom. I think the transition was a bit rough at times for my teenage sister and brother, but they came to really like him. I kinda feel bad for my step mom; I don’t think she knew what she was really getting into. However, she is also better equipped for dealing with my dad and doesn’t put up with his crappola!

    Like many things, divorce can be done well, and it can be done in a very ugly way, causing great harm to th kids, if present.

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  34. Jeff Borden said on July 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    The Republicans spent us all into the poor house with two unfunded wars, the unfunded Bush tax cuts and the unfunded expansion of Medicare. Nary a word of concern was spoken and the dark lord himself, Five Deferment Dick Cheney, loudly proclaimed that Ronald Reagan had proven deficits didn’t matter.

    Now, after eight years of mis, mal and nonfeasance, the very same Republicans quiver and moan over our debt problems. And they seek to use the dilemma to accomplish what they’ve dreamed about for 80 years — the destruction of all facets of the New Deal.

    Bill Maher is correct. If you are a working man or woman and you vote Republican, you’re stupid.

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  35. prospero said on July 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Not to be overly argumentative, Mark, but you’re completely unsubstantiated claims about what the President did or said eight months ago beg one, two-part question:

    a. What were all these Republicans thinking when they raised the debt ceiling every year for eight years while W ran the credit card invasions and occupations, and

    b. Why didn’t they openly criticize Cheney when Dickless said “Deficits don’t mean shit? (Like they’re all not scared shitless of the undead.)

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  36. coozledad said on July 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Obama called their bluff. Expect to hear similar versions of the Limbaugh flopsweat above for the next couple of days.
    I lived on a farm on the military flightpath between Bragg, Seymore Johnson AFB, and Newport News when Bush was shipping the material wealth out of the country for his Iraq adventure. It was pretty ominous, watching all that military hardware rumble across the sky for several nights running. I imagine a couple of those planes were stuffed to the bulkheads with the pallets of cash earmarked for disappearance by KBR employees.
    You had to be an idiot or a Republican to believe it was anything but a catastrophe in the making.

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  37. mark said on July 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm


    The answer to a and b: They were thinking politics, of course. Same thing Obama was thinking in 2006 whren he voted against extending the debt limit. So now Obama’s not allowed to have a point of view, right?

    How these guys vote, today or yesterday, doesn’t much change the economic realities. If we are speding too much, that concern can’t be defeated by pointing to the absence of objection to earlier excesses. That might defeat a given politician, but it doesn’t settle the issue.

    The “conservative side” of the issue is calculating that: 1. most people think our debt load is a problem, and 2. most people think the problem is more about excessive spending than insufficient taxing. Maybe that will be proven wrong, but I think it represents the stronger hand.

    Again, if Obama thinks not raising the debt limit blows up the economy, how can he not go along with Republican spending cuts, and stump for tax increases later?

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  38. prospero said on July 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    The spectacularly heinous thing about the Iraq invasion is that the AIPAC-neocon gang had the whole thing in the works for years. When somebody says something like “Who knew how badly W could FUBAR the country?” I say, quite honestly, “I knew what sort of shit he’d pull. Does the PNAC actually slip people’s minds, and how did Congress miss this? Did the garden gnome Kucinich remind anybody of this? These bastards tried to talk Clinton into this idiot adventurism in ’98. As for lying about the whole thing to actually put the invasion in motion, that’s a Bush family tradition.

    Know who April Glaspie is? A career diplomat sent by Poppy Shrub to tell Saddam the US didn’t give a fart if Iraq tried to take back the 12th Province and punish Kuwait for undercutting Iraq’s economy by exceeding agreed oil production quotas, as well as slant drilling from oil fields in southern Iraq. Ms. Glaspie was a Judas goat, a career diplomat sent to Saddam with the message that the US had no interest one way or another in Arab v. Arab conflicts. Between this unequivocal message and US aid and support of Iraq vs. Iran, Saddam obviously felt he could attack Kuwait directly. The double-cross worked perfectly and Poppy pounce. Then they produced the Congressional eyewitness to babies being torn from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and funding was assured. Of course, that young woman was the daughter of a Kuwaiti panjandrum and had been at school in the US all the while. So trumping stuff up, that’s how they do. Lord knows what ever happened to April Glaspie. Cheney heart donor?

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  39. brian stouder said on July 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Mark – the current-day Republican political strategy reminds me of what candidate-Lincoln referred to (in his Cooper Union speech? if I’m remembering correctly) when he was talking about southern political intransigence with regard to secession over slavery.

    He compared that sort of political thuggery* to a robber who sticks a gun into the ear of a fellow and says “Give me all your money, or else I’ll kill you, and then you’ll be guilty of murder”.

    And – truly – I do view this sort of political vandalism as flatly unAmerican, unpatriotic, and literally “rule or ruin”; and even if we don’t go over the abyss this year, the precedent is clearly set so that we will be here again, before long.

    *this word is used advisedly; as the flying monkeys of the rightwing airwaves seem to LOVE to use the word “thug” and all its cousins, with regard to anything related to President Obama. I’m not ready to call this a racist dog whistle… know, on second thought, I AM ready to call this a racist dog whistle.

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  40. coozledad said on July 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Conservatives should avoid calculating, if that’s what their calculations tell them. Reminds me of Paul Ryan’s estimate of the bill for his dinner, or McCain’s appraisal of the fundamentals of the economy.
    Basically, the current Republican argument is “Ignore all that shit we did to fuck up the country and give us another chance to go through your wallets. We promise to do a more thorough job of it this time”.

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  41. Mary o said on July 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I’m also a late boomer (April 1961) and no. 6 of 7 children. I wanted so much to be one of them. I always felt that people born in 1961 had nothing to boast about, we were boring and lazy and unimaginative. Then we elected a 1961 baby President, making me actually older than the president for the first time. That was weird. One interesting note: a major urban legend of the university I attended was that students staged a panty raid on the same day as the Kent State killings. Now if that didn’t give me an incredible inferiority complex, I don’t know what would.

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  42. Jakash said on July 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm


    “2. most people think the problem is more about excessive spending than insufficient taxing. Maybe that will be proven wrong…” How much lower can the taxes go and how much shittier can the economy and infrastructure in this country get before you’ll feel that the “trickle down” nonsense has been proven wrong?

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  43. prospero said on July 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    So now Obama’s not allowed to have a point of view, right?

    No, that seems to be your point. When Obama voted against raising the ceiling in ’06, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were being funded entirely on credita whole different story. Had the current administration continued that practice, nobody would be having this discussion, because the overall numbers wouldn’t look so frightening.. Show me nearly $2trillion in credit card spending to match that now.

    If the US is spending more than it can afford, it’s been firmly established that the overspending as a %age of GNP is largely spent on health care costs at bizarre levels compared to the rest of the world, driven by obscene profit-squeezing on the part of corporations which do not pay close to their share relative to the benefits they receive. Did Republicans propose a budgetary offset when they installed the Medicare Drug benefit written by Billy Tauzins buddies at Pharma. Republicans made this mess and now they want the fix paid for by starving families that depend on WIC and making the horrendous American Infant Death Rate even worse. And they expect to include Medicare and Social Security, probably illegally, in general budgetary calculations, when neither program has any tangible effect on whatever current budgetary concerns there may be. These are simply two programs that define the character of the US as it should be, particularly if these aholes want to invoke WWJD. If the GOPers screw with either, the party will soon be deader than John Cleese’s parrot.

    Meantime, claiming that white shoe law firms, plastic surgery practices and hedge fund managers are small businesses that would be hurt by being taxed at the rates of their employees is grotesque demagoguery, and anybody spouting that bovine diarrhea is far too mendacious for anybody competent to vote for.

    As to your question, Mark, why should anybody believe anything any Republican says. Cutting Medicare and SS, and the rest of the idiotic cuts suggested by GOP on purely ideological grounds, would obviously cause immediate economic damage, with little to show for it. Making Archer Daniel and Beatrice get buy without government welfare? Not very much.

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  44. mark said on July 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm


    And I should trust Obama to rebuild the infrastructure? Sorry, that $800 billon joke wasn’t funny the first time. Shovel-ready projects turned out to be handouts to political favorites and a couple years worth of susidizing more overspending by states. 275K per “job created”.

    Everybody got their Chevy Volt now? How about a “green job”? Take a look at Greece, Spain and Italy. It’s what happens when there is nothing left for the takers to take. California is right behind them.

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  45. brian stouder said on July 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Mark, Allen County, Indiana, still has a GM plant, producing pickup trucks, turning a profit, repaying the government loans, and keeping people employed.

    I call that a success – and clearly better than the teabag alternative

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  46. mark said on July 12, 2011 at 6:39 pm


    You have made that point many times. Here is reality: the GM truck plant in Allen County is one of the newest, most modern, most productive assembly plants in the world, producing heavy-duty, gas-guzzling, popular and very profitable trucks. If you think that a GM bankruptcy w/out government bailout would mean the plant ceases to exist, you are wrong. That was never the alternative.

    And is there no limit to how much tax money you will spend to “save a job” because the plant is geographically close to you? How much of your tax money is too much to save a job in Alabama? If government just puts money in at one end and creates jobs at the other, why not create really fabulous jobs, with huge pay and lots of personal satisfaction but requiring minimal skills?

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  47. prospero said on July 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    handouts to political favorites ? Seriously? Money went to the states and it was targeted. All of the Republican governors did kabuki about not taking the money, then took it, and either sat on it or doled it out for political advantage. Repub members of Congress fell all over themselves taking credit for stimulus success stories. Are you living in Bizarro World?

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  48. mark said on July 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    No, prspero, I said the money was doled out to political favorites. You just echoed my point. Plenty of Republicans influenced where the money went to reward their supporters. So did Democratic reps. I know that is impossible for you to accept- because you think everything on one side is completely wrong and everything on the other completely good.

    I never said all the money went to Obama’s cronies. I said it went to political favorites and not our crumbling infrastructure.

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  49. prospero said on July 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Mark, judging on the basis of everything else you said, it’s reasonable to have assumed that you meant that as a partisan comment. It’s also quite true that for months there was another Republican governor or congressman every day that had excoriated the stimulus taking a photo op with some stimulus success story. Had the money been doubled and gone into federally administered plans far more people would have been back to work. Now you’ll say the Dems controlled both houses, but you know that’s pure sophistry given the twisted Senate rules on filibusters. Even at the level at which the funding was approved, many many jobs would have resulted if governor’s hadn’t sat on their hands. The stimulus wasn’t a bad idea, it was too limited in scope.

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  50. coozledad said on July 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    “And I should trust Obama to rebuild the infrastructure? Sorry, that $800 billon joke wasn’t funny the first time. Shovel-ready projects turned out to be handouts to political favorites……..

    I never said all the money went to Obama’s cronies.”

    So Obama has political favorites among Republicans?
    This is classic goalpost shifting.
    I’m calling troll. Let him starve.

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  51. moe99 said on July 12, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Yeah, coozledad, I’ve been coming to the same conclusion, which is why I’ve held back as well.

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  52. Jolene said on July 12, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    More takes on marriage: Dan Savage is on Colbert this evening talking about the strains of monogamy and, less amusingly, PBS has a feature about child brides.

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  53. beb said on July 12, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Among teabaggers there is a pledge on Marriage which Michelle Bachman, among other Presidential candidate, has signed. There was word today that Newt Gingrich was considering signing it, but felt it needs revisions. I suppose that’s about among the bulletpoints is a reference to fidelity to one’s spouse. As a trice married man Gingrich would have trouble honoring that part.

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  54. coozledad said on July 12, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Moe: I never thought anything could suck the air out of a room like adolescent contrarianism, but the right wing variety of the posture is more like an egg fart. Its origins are painfully obvious.

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  55. brian stouder said on July 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Yes – Cooz and Moe are right about starving the troll; I’ll work on stopping with the willy-nilly feeding.

    Meanwhile, the comment Nance made that I wanted to respond to – and the thing that put Lincoln in my mind when I first read Nance’s excellent post, was this passage:

    Has this woman read American history? Un-parented and un-nurtured children were as common as ticks for most of it. Pioneer-era orphans wandered the woods like feral monkeys.

    This, of course, applies in spades to our greatest president. Biographers often comment about Abe’s ice cold relationship with his father, and often ascribe it to how Thomas hired the boy out to neighbors, and then keeping all the money for himself. But that overlooks the elephant in the room (or the bear in the cabin), which was that when Nancy Lincoln died, Thomas literally abandoned 7 year old Abe and his older sister Sarah in the southern Indiana woods – for more than a year – while he went back to Kentucky to collect a new wife.

    And when he returned, his new wife Sarah Bush Lincoln, commented that Abe and his sister had basically become wild animals themselves. Surely, one of the most under-rated women in American history is Sarah Bush Lincoln, because she saw something more in young Abraham, and she nurtured him and encouraged his voracious intelligence. She really saw what was there, despite what must have been lots of dirt and filth (and tics)….but we digress!

    Anyway – Nance reminded me of that very directly, with her spot-on comment, about all these people who haven’t read a lick of American history, and think the old days were so perfect and pure, and the modern days are some sort of apostasy

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  56. Larkspur said on July 12, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I’m a late first-wave boomer. Never married. Mother and father married to each other till death did them part. One brother, one sister. No grandbabies. Happy families are all alike, et cetera.

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  57. Suzanne said on July 12, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Ah, yes, the good old days! Reminds me of a conversation with an older man who lived down the road when we moved here 20+ years ago. He mentioned that things weren’t like in the old days when somebody went completely off his/her rocker on a regular basis; Most drank themselves to death, guy down the road hung himself in the barn. Another local history buff told me of the exorbitant amounts of whiskey that the locals used to make and consume during the winter. And of the man who was lived in a nursing home almost his entire life because the high fever he had for days as an infant basically fried his brain, but his parents felt doctors were a frivolous luxury and refused to contact one. I could go on…. Yeah, I want to return to that.

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  58. coozledad said on July 12, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Suzanne: The attractions of intoxicants multiply during the winter. They’re a crucial element of civilization, keeping the rural poor’s focus on their own shortcomings.

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  59. Deborah said on July 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Back home from Detroit and I have a couple of stories. First one, a little before noon I asked someone in my company’s Detroit office where would be a good place to grab a quick bite to eat before we headed out to our client meeting. I was told there was a pretty good place in the lobby of their building. it turned out to be a teeny tiny place that had middle eastern food and I have to say for about $4.50 I got one of the best lunches I have ever had. Second, our Later afternoon turned out to be a bit of a bust. Our client was supposed to be available for more meetings but they bailed on us. I asked the project manager from our Detroit office what we could do in the downtown area because we had about 3 hours to kill and he had no idea. Then I remembered the Mies van der Rohe complex where Jim from Sweet Juniper lives and asked if he could drop us off there so we could walk around. it turned out to be way too hot to walk around but he drove us around and once again I was astonished about how beautiful it was and how amazing it is that you can still buy a place there for a
    pretty good price. So if I ever find myself living in Detroit I know exactly where I would live and what kind of food I would seek out.

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  60. Crazycatlady said on July 12, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    My parents divorced in 1975. I was 20 and I was shocked. They never fought in front of us at all. It blindsided us. Beb and I have been married 31 years.And will stay that way.

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  61. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Re: Abe and his “older” sister Sarah — yeah, I’ve always wondered at how little comment that episode gets in all manner of contexts. Tom Lincoln left a 7 and I think an 11 year old to fend for themselves, literally. I think it was more like months than a year, but still . . . either it was so common, or . . .

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  62. Hattie said on July 13, 2011 at 12:50 am

    I’m tired of all the whining. I was born in 1939. Beat that, you whippersnappers! Filling up the world with your kids and your stuff! Grr! Get off my lawn!
    Seriously, the self regard of the average American twit is too much for me, sometimes.

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  63. Jolene said on July 13, 2011 at 3:07 am

    I’d forgotten that part of Lincoln’s history. It is amazing to think about the experiences of very young people in the past. I think I’ve mentioned before that my great grandfather entered the Civil War as a drummer boy when he was 13. I don’t know much about that experience, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have involved regular meals or sleeping in a warm bed. And, before that, he’d already been orphaned in NYC and taken to the Midwest to work on a farm for his room and board.

    Our own problems are so vivid and absorbing–so very much with us. It’s good to be reminded now and then how that things could be worse and, indeed, are worse for lots of people who don’t get to publish in the WSJ.

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  64. 4dbirds said on July 13, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I never knew about Lincoln and his sister fending for themselves. I find that shocking.

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  65. brian stouder said on July 13, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I think it was more like months than a year, but still

    Y’know, now that you say that, it has the ring of truth; possibly it was over winter (and into a new year) or some such…but in any case, NOW I have a perfectly good excuse to go grab a book and take a look!

    edit – 4dbirds – Yes, it is.

    That story pops up and gets glossed past in most of the biographies I’ve read (usually getting maybe a sentence or two), and honestly, it only began bothering me in recent years. It is endlessly interesting, really, how one’s perspective on history changes, as one lives and ages. Michael Burlingame’s otherwise wonderful 2 volume biography is relentlessly hard on Mary Lincoln, going so far as to accuse her of spousal abuse; the upside of this part of Burlingame’s opus was that it got me thinking about his other family relationships, many of which were strained. But he had exceptionally good relations with various females; his older sister died during childbirth, and this was a crushing (and largely unknown) loss to the teenaged Lincoln, who had already endured the loss of his mother. It struck me as interesting that Abe hits the age of 21, helps dad move from Indiana to Illinois no small job at all! (although really, I think he was helping Sarah Bush Lincoln), and then that’s it – he’s gone. I don’t think he ever saw his dad (Thomas) again, including when Thomas was on his death bed and his step-brother asks him to come. That struck me as remarkably cold; maybe even a bit of payback.

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  66. Lynda said on July 13, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I agree with Hank Stuever. Nancy at her finest. I’m late for work; got up to go. Kept reading, hunched over the kitchen table. Sat back down and finished. Whoops! And now I’m reading (and writing) comments!

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  67. Deborah said on July 13, 2011 at 10:23 am

    My grandfather’s family came over from Germany when he was 2 years old, they settled in Northwestern Missouri. A few years after the move my great grandmother died (his mother). He had 3 siblings at the time, that included an older sister of about 10 or 11, and a baby. My great grandfather left the oldest daughter in charge of her siblings while he went back to Germany to find a new wife. My grandfather was 4, the youngest was maybe a year old and I don’t know how old the other sister was, somewhere between 10 and 4, I guess. Can you imagine doing that? They had relatives that lived on farms about a mile or so away that looked in on them, but not full time. About 2 months went by before my great grandfather came back with a new wife and stepmother for his children.

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  68. 4dbirds said on July 13, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Hi Deborah, what part of Northwestern Missouri? My folks are from Chariton and Linn counties.

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  69. prospero said on July 13, 2011 at 10:48 am

    President Obama should call the Republicans out publicly and ask them if they’d agree to levels of taxation, particularly top rates, favored by St. Ronnie Raygun. Go back to 50%, national debt disappears, pronto, deficit wiped out, Republicans left with nothing to whip up a phony frenzy about, real jobs stimulus possible.

    An intelligent take on the politics of deficit and debt. And there is nothing that is done now that can’t be fixed when the obstructionist aholes are exposed and get run out of the House, and the Senate rules are changed.

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  70. Rob Daumeyer said on July 13, 2011 at 11:02 am

    “Pioneer-era orphans wandered the woods like feral monkeys.”

    That’s as good as it gets right there.

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