News that the U.S. illegitimacy rate is 51 percent for births to women aged 20 to 30 stuns less by means of the trend's sheer novelty than through the implications -- none desirable -- for a whole lot of things.
When you're old enough to remember Bel-Air Chevys and the Lawrence Welk Show, you come to expect ridicule for the offense -- a misdemeanor at least -- of preferring the old days to the new. Go on, snicker. I can't think of anything else funny concerning a phenomenon sure to produce heartache and social disruption. There is nothing good about illegitimacy. It happens, always has. Some of history's luminaries have been, as we used to say, before newfound sensitivities intervened, bastards. Alexander Hamilton may be, in some sense, the most valuable bastard in U.S. history.
That the name used to be a common reproach shows how times have changed. In the 21st century, we pretty much affirm everybody's right to do as he or she wants -- no advice, no lectures or finger-pointing, just do it! It shows. An above 50 percent bastardy rate for under-30s is more than a scandal; it's a social crime.
What do I mean, "crime"? So you want (I hear the reproaches already) to ride these upstanding bastards out of town on a rail, do you? We know your kind -- meaning, of course, my kind: cruel and merciless, someone who would burn witches for fun, if allowed.
Well, not really. The point 21st century culture seems incapable of ingesting is that the old cultural, social and religious "rules," so to call them, worked and still work -- when followed -- infinitely better than the non-rules now in effect. Rules in general work. They create expectations, obligations, responsibilities and structures.
Let's talk about structures -- a hard concept possibly to grasp in the age of shackin' up, not to mention gay-whatever-it-is. The marriage structure -- one man, one woman, children of differing number -- is a society all its own. It binds and in binding, liberates by enabling.