Let me start by saying that I am just as shocked as you are by the title of this post, as is my mother and probably every other family member, friend and political ally -- I have ever had. But every now and then the truth is worth the risk of a little embarrassment.
I can tell you that over the years I have found Ann Coulter's statements about Martin Luther King, Jr., the Confederate flag, the 9/11 widows and just about everything else under the sun as offensive as most of you have. (And unlike a lot of you I have had to endure the gross misfortune of actually being forced to read one of her books for a job). It is for this very reason -- the fact that there is so much to despise in this woman and her writing, that I am having a hard time understanding why high profile members of the media seem to have chosen to harp on one of the few legitimate claims she has ever made: namely that single motherhood has had some well-documented negative consequences in our society -- and our culture's increasingly laissez faire (liberal if you will) attitude has something to do with this.
Now let me be clear. Yes I know that there are some wonderful single mothers (and single fathers) out there. I also know that one awesome mother is better than two, three, or even four inadequate parents. But as they say, "It takes a village to raise a child," and if the village in your own home is bigger and sturdier then so is the foundation for that kid. Before the critics start inundating me with irate e-mails, comments or pelting me with tomatoes, let me just say off the bat that no I am not speaking as a parent myself, (I am not one), nor as a social worker (I am not one of those either). But I am speaking as someone who has watched the breakdown of the nuclear family decimate a significant portion of my community.
I have written at length on this site about some of the jarring statistics regarding both incarceration and AIDS rates in the black community. While there are clear historical differences between black Americans and other Americans (namely slavery and segregation) there is also one significant cultural difference that has emerged in the last three decades. Though out of wedlock births have increased across the board, among black Americans they have skyrocketed to nearly 70%. If anything, Coulter's assertion that single motherhood, not race is the real indicator when it comes to socio-political issues, like crime, may be one of the least racist things she has ever said.
So why does her assertion seem to have people in such a tizzy? For one, the truth hurts.
While Madonna, Angelina Jolie and others made single motherhood look easy and glamorous (before each settled down with their equally glamorous husband and male partner respectively) they had a support team of nannies and assistants -- their very own self-financed village if you will -- that most of us don't and never will. (And to Angelina Jolie's credit she opened her single-parent home to an adopted child, an act that is an important caveat to the "selfish" argument Coulter makes about single motherhood by choice; an argument that has some merit.) But even with an army of help we all know there are no guarantees.
Just as there are no guarantees even when a child is born and raised in a two-parent household.
As I have written before, I do believe that families come in all shapes and sizes, but as someone who is both pro-choice AND pro-family I dream of a day when every child born is a wanted child, a loved child and a child raised with every single educational and socio-economic opportunity that our country promises them.
The sad reality is that the chance of a child realizing his or her full potential is not impossible when raised in a single-parent household, but it is tougher.
As a promotional video for Amachi, the nonprofit mentoring organization founded for the children of incarcerated parents notes, "You've got to see a man to be a man." That may be slight hyperbole, but there is no doubt that it can help.
Critics of Coulter might be surprised to learn that her logic (who ever thought logic and Coulter would be used in the same sentence) puts her in some unlikely ideological company. In 1965 future Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan evoked criticism with his report titled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." Often referred to as the Moynihan Report, in it he speculates that poverty combined with an increasing dependence on a matriarchal family structure would have dire consequences on the future of inner city African-Americans. Today, with some of his predictions proved true, Moynihan now seems less controversial than clairvoyant.
And even Chris Rock once joked in his stand-up special that he was sick of hearing women say, "You don't need a man to raise kids... yes you can have a kid without a man. That doesn't mean it is to be done. You could drive a car with your feet. That doesn't make it a good idea."
Even my mom -- once a single mother herself -- has lamented the differences between single motherhood in "her day" compared to the cultural acceptance that has made it seem like no big deal for mother and child today. In addition to Jamie Lynn Spears, and Bristol Palin today, during my teen years she was horrified to discover the increasing number of adults who had begun to throw festive baby showers for expectant teen mothers and their girlfriends -- as if this were really an achievement to celebrate.
My point is that there is plenty to criticize Ann Coulter for, (including her ridiculous insistence on referring to the president-elect by his middle name). So if we must be forced to endure her presence in the media (that is if she is not going to be officially banned) then why not actually attack her for her ample crazy talk instead of making her look halfway sane by condemning her for those arguments which actually make sense, even when they make some of us uncomfortable.
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