FOR those who may have missed it, here is a societal note...

Salmagundi

October 11, 1994

FOR those who may have missed it, here is a societal note, of sorts, from the editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times:

" 'The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,' the popular old television show, portrayed the ideal family of the 1950s. The [recent] death of the highly respected Harriet Nelson provides a sad reminder of the fading of the traditional two-parent family. Of course the show, as its late co-star herself often emphasized, was intended as entertainment, not as a documentary on American family life. But her death reminds us anew that the two-parent family is close to becoming the exception rather than the rule.

"Barely a majority of American children, only 50.8 percent, now live in a nuclear family -- and that figure is expected to fall further unless some dramatic and fundamental change can be achieved.

"Unwed mothers get much of the blame in political rhetoric and bear most of the stigma. Divorce, however, is also a major contributor.

"William J. Bennett, a writer, a conservative and a former federal drug czar, recently pointed out the lack of stigma attached to wealthy, older men leaving their first wives and children for a younger wife.

"Bennett, speaking last month to a convention of the religious right, argued that the damage of divorce is worse than the damage that some Christian fundamentalists have attributed to homosexuality.

"Marital breakups (the majority of U.S. marriages don't last) sometimes are benign; some are actually in the best interest of the children. However, many divorces push families into poverty. And though children raised by single parents often excel, statistically they are more likely to drop out of school, have trouble finding work and to become single parents themselves.

"In real life, Harriet Nelson's parents separated. The 'good old days' weren't good for everyone. But 40 years ago most children lived with both parents, like in 'Ozzie and Harriet.'

"Times, alas, are changing."

* * *

WERE you disgusted with the 103rd Congress, which has finally packed up and gone home? So were lots of other people. The folks at the Washington Post, who watch Congress up close every day, summed up their reaction this way in an editorial Friday: "This will go into the record books as perhaps the worst Congress -- least effective, most destructive, nastiest -- in 50 years."

* * *

GOV. Pete Wilson of California, now running for re-election, had some tough explaining to do recently when nine bills he intended to veto were left on a copying machine and became law. "This is the government equivalent of 'My dog ate my homework,' " said an adviser to his opponent, Kathleen Brown.

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