Crumbling institutions and other thoughts

I am a child of the '60s, so I pretty much believe there cannot be too much freedom - although there can be license, and that can be a bad thing. For example: guns for everyone, porn downloads for everyone, voting rights for everyone.

But license isn't my problem with this column.

No, it seems to me that the real difficulty with writing about whatever catches your eye, is that, since even columnists are human, our columnar little minds tend to run in grooves.

The real problem is that if I don't watch myself closely (or have editors do it for me), I tend sometimes to write about the same subjects over and over.

The recently proposed diminishment of the Social Security System is uppermost in my grooved little mind lately, probably because I am counting on SS to allow me to retire in the spartan comfort I've grown accustomed to.

As such a foolish, gullible, trusting American - after all, leader after leader has said SS wouldn't be touched - I can't help but notice that the system made money once again last year. But because our anti-thrift president and his Congressional henchmen plundered it once again this year for spending elsewhere, it is supposedly a problem in the making.

Where did the money earmarked for Social Security (collected from us) go?

Can you say Iraq? Tax cuts for the wealthy? Buying enough congressional and senatorial votes to finally drill for SUV-bound oil in the Arctic?

But I don't want to use up my entire space with any more than the brief ranting about current government corruption hiding behind alleged morals once again. The simple truth is that anyone earning less than $100,000 a year who supports the revamping of Social Security the way it is currently proposed - investments tied to the stock market - is the kind of person that believes in Santa Claus, UFOs over Alabama and Mike Holmgren.

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I'm more interested in some statistics about a beloved societal institution. These stats came to me indirectly out of Olympia via a recent Seattle Times column. According to the Times, there were 39,518 marriages performed in Washington state in 2002. During that same period, there were 27,205 divorces.

Like the birth rate falling steadily in this country and our state (except among the poor), the rise of divorce heralds social difficulties troubling enough to explain the stridency of its defense by those traditionalists who feel marriage is their right and theirs alone - no doggone gay ho-mo-sex-yuals need apply.

As more and more Americans fall through the gaping holes in our societal net - only sewn during the time of FDR, and not expanded since the glory days of Ronnie Reagan - the loudest voices raised (present company excepted) usually want to talk about the sanctity of marriage and our "freedom" in Iraq instead of the ongoing economic rape of the poor, poorer and poorest.

But I wonder if any good businessmen - our current societal gods along with overpaid professional athletes - would invest in a financial institution as obviously on the slide as marriage.

How long before the number of annual divorces catches up with the number of annual marriages?

If you read as variously in the magazines and tabloids of the day as I do, your answer won't be overly optimistic.

Sitting around my daughter's home the other week, I picked up a well-known women's magazine that featured (in addition to those old standards "How to Lose Weight While Eating Butter!" and "Make Your Man Love Your Weight Gain!") an article about "trial marriage," an alleged new trend amongst the well-off young.

Seems some of those fine folks in their mid-20s are now marrying just for the experience. Woman after woman (granted, mostly young, East Coast careerist types) talked glibly about learning how to be married during their "trial" marriage.

Not that they don't go to a church to get hitched - they do. And they spend tons of money, or their poor parents do, for the ceremony and the party afterward.

But, as the gals were quoted as saying in their own hip phrasing, basically marriage is an important event in a young woman's life, sort of like losing her virginity, and you can't avoid such events simply because you feel your initial choice of a hubby (or deflowerer) won't last. You need to practice it, just like ice skating or cheerleading.

The hottest new sitcom on television is called "Desperate Housewives." I watched it once so I could tell you all about it.

It's glib, it's ironical, it's absolutely nonsensical. The premise is that these unhappily (but hot, scantily clad) married, upper-middle-class girls just wanna have fun. Affairs, murders - hey, it's all comedy, kids. Except the people watching it are often the same "mainstream" types screaming about the sanctity of marriage.

Hypocrisy is the worst sin, in my book.

I don't profess a great moral base.

I won't watch "Desperate Housewives" again simply because it's stupid, it's overly cynical and it takes up time I could use reading a good book, drinking good wine, doing a little yoga or just contemplating the ruins of my own 13-year marriage.

I think the overwrought defense of marriage as an institution only suited to heterosexuals is as offbase and wannabe-tyrannical as the idea of turning poor people's only retirement plan, Social Security, into a sort of declining-days stock market cum lottery.

I'm willing to make a deal, though.

If the blatant crooks in suits running this great country into the ground will allow me to collect my SS  in a few years (I did earn it), they and their pampered offspring may marry whomever (or whatever) they wish, and divorce at their perilous leisure in preparation for another marital go.

"Live and let live" sure sounds better to me than "Kill (or marry) and kill (or marry) again"!

Freelance writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at editor@

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