Superhero Bush Rescues Marriage

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George W. Bush isn’t so much a president as a superhero.

When he’s not saving Planet Earth from Evil Terrorists, he’s providing the Greatest Generation with free drugs. When he’s not colonizing Iraq and Afghanistan, he is planning to colonize the moon. When he’s not keeping every child from being Left Behind, he’s saving the holy institution of marriage from those who would destroy it.

Here’s a guy who doesn’t lack for self-esteem. If only he didn’t have so much access to police agencies and tax dollars, his world-saving delusions wouldn’t bother me so much.

The marriage-saving thing is what has really caught my attention. I’m no expert on the subject, although next week I will celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary. What astounds me, is that my wife and I have lasted so long without the help of any government program.

Maybe we’re just in denial.

Bush and his religious-right supporters utter all sorts of pabulum. You know the kinds of stupid things they say. People have to work at marriage. And they need advice on how to have a successful marriage. And they ought to have counseling, so they know what they are getting into. They need to learn about finances and personal responsibility.

Oh right, the same conservatives who understand that government has helped destroy families through welfare and other programs are eager to let it fix the situation. Are these people morons or are they just too eager to get a piece of the subsidies?

Some of their marital advice might be true, although most of it strikes me as trite and superficial. Whatever the merits of any particular marriage curriculum, it is none of the government’s business. Reduce marriage to a series of questions and counseling sessions, and the whole thing becomes so clinical. Government officials seem incapable of doing the most basic things, so how are they going to bolster a marriage?

Nothing done by force or subsidy will achieve anything worth achieving, anyway.

The problem with marriage is a religious one. People have abandoned the self-sacrificial model of life for a model that advances self-fulfillment. That doesn’t mean that marriage is a cross to bear, a burden that demands constant sacrifice and suffering.

In my experience it has been a joy. But unless one is willing to follow Christ’s example (whether one knows he is following that example or not), and love unconditionally, through sickness and health, in good times and in bad, one is unlikely to build the right foundation for a lifelong marriage.

It’s almost verboten to mention, but in the current world, where chastity is not exactly valued, young men have little incentive to get married. Without a change of heart in this area, the current situation won’t change. But this most certainly is a role for churches and families, not government. But the churches like to soft-sell this sort of thing.

Here in California, people switch marriages as frequently as I switch cars. This is in a state where the financial burden for getting divorced is immense, thanks to a flawed no-fault divorce system. I cannot believe the high divorce rate is because people don’t understand what they are getting into or what is technically required to be a good spouse. It’s not because they lack training, or courses or government help.

I’m sure there are many good reasons for divorce, but often the reason has more to do with the pursuit of pleasure and self-fulfillment than anything else. A government cannot fix this, and I cannot even envision the unforeseen consequences of trying.

Shouldn’t religious leaders get back to the basics of teaching traditional views of Christian marriage rather than turn to George Bush and the federal government to do the work for them? Perhaps if pastors and priests tried to follow Christ rather than mammon, their flocks might learn a lesson or two and apply it to their own lives.

Sure beats another government program.

I can’t wait to see the curriculum in this $1.5 billion boondoggle. I bet, if the do-gooders had their way, my parents’ marriage and my own marriage would never pass muster.

My mom and dad were married 48 years before Dad died. They loved each other dearly. They were young, broke, and dated two months before tying the knot.

My wife, Donna, and I got no counseling. We got no subsidies. I was 23 and she was 21. My mother cried at the wedding and whispered in my ear, "This is the worst day of my life." Most of my relatives boycotted the event, given that good Jewish boys from Philadelphia aren’t supposed to marry Polish Catholic girls from small coal-mining towns.

We didn’t care. I had no money, and a lousy low-paying job. I was married in a church, not a government building. The state of Virginia did give us a license, and we did have to provide a blood test to prove, I suppose, that we weren’t first cousins.

That was it.

I never even bought her an engagement ring, which is an omission I hope to rectify at our anniversary dinner on Tuesday (don’t tell her). Like all happily married couples I know, a good marriage can cover up a whole lot of mistakes and stupidity. It can overcome poverty and difficult situations, long illnesses and death itself.

There’s no program that can teach you to love your wife and kids the way Christ loved the church. And the government certainly isn’t going to teach the most important lesson in a successful marriage: Finding the right spouse. The government will only waste people’s time, waste everyone’s money, and make a lot of divorce lawyers rich.

I’m not sure if I’m angrier about this idiotic marriage plan, or at the idea that a president is so arrogant to think that he and his bureaucrats have the wisdom to fix this "problem."

Steven Greenhut (send him mail) is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register.

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