I write this final column for 2011 during a momentary and much-needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
When your family is spread across the country like pinpoints on a map, during holidays, your vehicle and body seem to be in a competition with each other as to which one will wear out first.
Presently the score is tied: My vehicle is in dire need of cleaning and an oil change, and I'm in need of a shower and an attitude adjustment.
Family is a lot like praline candy extremely sweet with a few nuts. No matter how crazy some of them make us feel or how crazy we make them feel, when it is all said and done, our family remains the most basic source of strength for our country. Winston Churchill once said, "There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society are created, strengthened and maintained."
Churchill could well have been describing America, once upon a long time ago, when divorce and unwed pregnancies were not normal, and two-parent families helped children to establish a moral compass by teaching them right from wrong and self-reliance by way of hard work.
"Once upon a time" seems light-years removed when one takes into account Hollywood's interpretation of "family" plastered across prime time television time slots. Most telling are statistics found at the Childstats.gov web site, including a graph showing the percentage of births to unwed women from 1980 through 2009. The period experienced an increase in unwed births in every age category, and overall, the numbers doubled.
Another study, completed by the Pew Research Center in January 2010, exhibiting the "values, attitudes, behaviors and demographic characteristics" of young people, ages 18 to 29 of the "Millennium Generation," uncovered that only 60 percent of this age group were raised by both parents, and in the year 2006, this group far-exceeded earlier generations in unwed birth percentages.
Before you roll your eyes and succumb to your holiday break slumber, please humor me for a moment. Before you discount what I'm saying, think about the last time you poured yourself a much-too-hot bath. You suffered through what would otherwise be intolerable until your body adjusted, or the water cooled, whichever came first.
In the same way, this trend of not-so-normal families did not happen overnight; society has become so desensitized that shows like Leave it to Beaver are considered strange and dangerous, and Family Guy is classic.
The decrease in the traditional families Churchill alluded to has also led to a decline in values like self-reliance (versus government reliance) that once strengthened this nation.
The 2010 Index of Dependence on Government report, prepared by the Heritage Foundation, found that government dependence in America grew by 13.6 percent in 2009 and by a jaw-dropping 49 percent since 2001.
What has also increased, according to the Pew poll, is that young Americans are relatively supportive of letting the government fill the economic gap created by single-parent homes.
While it is true that a whole lot of great kids can come from single-parent homes and some downright crummy kids can come from a two-parent home, it is both reasonable and fair to conclude that America is paying the price, good and bad, for each generation's choices.
No matter their flavor, it cannot be denied that one of our most precious commodities is found seated around America's holiday tables, be it that Great Depression grandparent, who eats what's left on your plate or that disgusting at her age, braless peacenik aunt.
With that said, this nut is signing off for 2011 and hitting the road in my dirty SUV for another round of family.
Susan Stamper Brown is an opinion page columnist, motivational speaker and military advocate who writes about politics, the military, the economy and culture. Reach Susan at susan susanstamperbrown.com, her web site www.susanstamberbrown.com and Facebook. Her column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.