When the Troth Could Set You Free

 

Pennsylvania is on the verge of banning all “child” (under 18) marriages, even with the consent of parent or guardian of the minor.  Last year Delaware, bolstering its creds as a member of the Union rather than the erstwhile Confederacy, became the first state in the  US  to enact such a ban.

That reminded me that, when I first started practicing,  New Castle, Delaware was  the Gretna Green of the tri-state area.   AS it had been  long ago in Pennsylvania, 16 was the age of consent there.  Does any Ratty reading remember that as a thing?  A  quick online search reveals that New Castle still has a large number of “elopement chapels”.

But what struck me, O Ratty, was that back then (vicinity of 1980), getting married was regarded as a marker of freedom and independence.

I had a pro bono client, 16 and pregnant, in foster care, whose sole identifiable  parent was…..well, I never met the biological grandmom but I’m not sure she was even compos mentis….for whatever reason, her consent to my client’s eminently reasonable desire to marry the baby-daddy was not forthcoming. ( I told my young client I would do everything I could to get the emancipation decree in time for her baby could be born in wedlock; she replied, “Where’s that?” )

Here’s where we are now:  if a girl ( underage or just..still youngish) gets pregnant, marriage is the last thing on her, or anybody’s mind.  The rationale  for the absolute ban on any marriages by a party under 18 is that such “infants” are being sold or trapped into bondage without the mental capacity to comprehend the awful sentence of imprisonment to which they’re agreeing.

Here in our mountain fastness, I’ve often found myself congratulating a young friend who has conceived, and asking so, when’s the wedding?

The answer is very often: oh, not until after the baby is born; we’ve got no money, no sense in getting married when you don’t have money! ( Really? Cue Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe…) 

Okay then—-who does have the money?  Y’know, for prenatal care, infant accoutrements?  Usually, the young mom’s own birth family.  That’s the new American family unit: an unwed mom, her child, and the unwed mom’s mother or possibly both parents.  Casey Anthony is the new face of American motherhood.

Getting married used to be thought of by American kids as a bold gesture of independence, as emancipation from the chafing strictures of childhood. An act of defiance, of self-determination. The troth could set you free!

Elopement was daring, romantic, defiant: “…and even if we hafta run away/ I’m marryin’ that boy some day!”

Now—well, God only knows what the boys are thinking.  They’re liable for child support whether they marry the mom or not, so maybe they just don’t care.   And the girls, even if pregnant, don’t even seem to seriously contemplate such radical  change as marriage in their lifestyle or status.

In the course of my pro bono  representation of minors, I dealt with many kids whose main problem in life was their parents or guardians.  They couldn’t do much on their own because of the legal incapacities of infancy, and their elders, spitefully or just stupidly,  sought to obstruct any course of action to which they aspired.    They just had to wait it out.  They longed to establish their own households.

It’s just…a big change in attitudes toward marriage, the enormity of which dawned on me with sudden clarity today.  Any thoughts, O Ratty?

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37 thoughts on “When the Troth Could Set You Free”

  1. No, “flawed” means the product or entity  doesn’t always work as intended, to some degree or other.  Parents might, and often do, kill or rape their offspring, and such actions  are “wrong” not  in, or not only in, the moral sense, but because they contravene the biological imperative to perpetuate the species.  For that reason they are dissonant, inconsonant, inappropriate, perverse. Other parents  just make their kids, oh, I don’t know…prone to certain neuroses and delusions and obsessions, but that’s ok as long as they can still fulfill their destinies as seed and integument.

    Of course that’s not their only destiny.  But it is a BIGGIE.

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  2. Haakon Dahl:
    MJB, you might also wish to infer immortality from my use of the term mortal.

    Yes, language kinda obscures our points in these discussions.

    MJB won’t believe this, but I am not hostile to the idea that there is a Creator-God.  

    It’s  just:  the way things are,  as I described in comment #26, is the way He set ‘em up.

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  3. Haakon Dahl:
    I view putting a child up for adoption as a reasonable alternative to abortion, but not to raising your own child — unless you are truly wasted.

    This is what worries me. Teenagers don’t appear to be capable of providing a stable family unit (through no fault of their own save their youth). I have two adopted cousins who know of their biological parents- they were high school kids when the pregnancies occurred- and they thank God they were adopted by my aunt and uncle. Both of my cousins have successful careers, good educations and are terrific parents themselves. They give credit for their lives to their adoptive parents who were in their late twenties, settled and able to provide a secure environment.

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  4. Since I am familiar with your religious proclivities, MJB, I thought you’d get a kick out of these fun facts:

    1. Adopted cousin #1 is a devoted Baptist and runs the church choir in her hometown of Charleston, SC.

    2. Adopted cousin #2 left a successful career in architecture and both he and his wife run their own churches as pastors. I won’t lie- I was a bit taken aback since they both graduated summa from Chapel Hill and she was an investment banker!

    Their two sons scored so high on their SATs they are both working in Seattle for Microsoft. Interestingly enough, they had to be talked into this because their classmates taunted them as “nerds.” I credit my father who was visiting before they accepted jobs and encouraged them by quoting Gates as saying “Nerds will rule the world. End of story.”

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  5. It bugs me that the Left wants to give rights and responsibilities to 16 years old in some areas but not in others. They are old enough to have sex but not seemingly old enough to take the responsibilities of sex. It is not like history is not around to help. People were young in the past and been able to handle things so why can’t the lessons of the past teach future generations.

    I saw a graph that illegitimacy was around 2% in 1940. There is no reason why it needs to be so high today. But I believe it will stay high as long as the mixed message of have sex but don’t get pregnant is out there. This is not a perfect analogy but it is like speed and go through red lights but don’t get into an accident. If you don’t want to have unwanted pregnancy there is only one thing to cut out.

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  6. EThompson:
    both he and his wife run their own churches as pastors.

    The husband pastors one church and his wife pastors some other church ?   Are they different denominations?

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  7. MJBubba:
    The husband pastors one church and his wife pastors some other church ?   Are they different denominations?

    Not at all (both Presbyterians) but after they graduated from divinity school they received separate offers in the same general vicinity and were thrilled. My cousin-in-law M is one of the most capable and intelligent people I know and I can’t quite imagine her in the role of “pastor’s wife.”

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  8. 10 Cents:
    People were young in the past and been able to handle things so why can’t the lessons of the past teach future generations.

    But they truly didn’t. Adoption of an American born child was a lot easier a generation ago because kids were still having unprotected sex but realized adoption was the best choice. Abortion was illegal and single motherhood/shotgun marriages were considered shameful. Not only do I have two adopted cousins, but I have two close family friends who are adoptees as well.

    That is unusual today but I think it’s a very positive solution to a societal problem.

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  9. EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    People were young in the past and been able to handle things so why can’t the lessons of the past teach future generations.

    But they truly didn’t. Adoption of an American born child was a lot easier a generation ago because kids were still having unprotected sex but realized adoption was the best choice. Abortion was illegal and single motherhood/shotgun marriages were considered shameful. Not only do I have two adopted cousins, but I have two close family friends who are adoptees as well.

    That is unusual today but I think it’s a very positive solution to a societal problem.

    I am talking about the percentages were a lot better. It was still happening but not at the numbers. What was rare has become common place and in some cases subsidized.

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  10. 10 Cents:

    EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    People were young in the past and been able to handle things so why can’t the lessons of the past teach future generations.

    But they truly didn’t. Adoption of an American born child was a lot easier a generation ago because kids were still having unprotected sex but realized adoption was the best choice. Abortion was illegal and single motherhood/shotgun marriages were considered shameful. Not only do I have two adopted cousins, but I have two close family friends who are adoptees as well.

    That is unusual today but I think it’s a very positive solution to a societal problem.

    I am talking about the percentages were a lot better. It was still happening but not at the numbers. What was rare has become common place and in some cases subsidized.

    The illegitimacy rate overall in the U.S. (inclusive of all ethnic groups) averages out to about 40%. Basically one out of every two American children are born out of wedlock. If you look at the breakdown by ethnicity, the numbers are truly shocking.

    What is even more disturbing is that there are popular reality shows on TV: “16 and Pregnant” or “Teen Moms” that celebrate this behavior and have made illegitimacy a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.

    I’m quoting my guru Thomas Sowell here: “The word shame simply no longer exists and the government is right there to validate this.”

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  11. EThompson:

    10 Cents:

    EThompson:

    10 Cents:
    People were young in the past and been able to handle things so why can’t the lessons of the past teach future generations.

    But they truly didn’t. Adoption of an American born child was a lot easier a generation ago because kids were still having unprotected sex but realized adoption was the best choice. Abortion was illegal and single motherhood/shotgun marriages were considered shameful. Not only do I have two adopted cousins, but I have two close family friends who are adoptees as well.

    That is unusual today but I think it’s a very positive solution to a societal problem.

    I am talking about the percentages were a lot better. It was still happening but not at the numbers. What was rare has become common place and in some cases subsidized.

    The illegitimacy rate overall in the U.S. (inclusive of all ethnic groups) averages out to about 40%. Basically one out of every two American children are born out of wedlock. If you look at the breakdown by ethnicity, the numbers are truly shocking.

    What is even more disturbing is that there are popular reality shows on TV: “16 and Pregnant” or “Teen Moms” that celebrate this behavior and have made illegitimacy a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.

    I’m quoting my guru Thomas Sowell here: “The word shame simply no longer exists and the government is right there to validate this.”

    I live in a culture that is heavy into shame and honor. The  rates are still low here.

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