America, Barry Levinson, Turkey discussed on On Point with Tom Ashbrook | Podcasts


Blood or your your talk Jay. That's it that's the last time to cover tanks Jimmy scene from a movie about What was it big extended family? I have to confess and one side of my family. There were two great uncles whose whose clans did not talk to each other at family. They would come but they wouldn't talk to each other. Tell me now what was so great about those extended families what was good about that. The families were messy of course but they were close and infuriatingly close sometimes in that movie. It's really about Barry Levinson's own family. He had five brothers come over from Eastern Europe and they formed a wallpaper business together and in the beginning They all more or less live together and support each other. These big sprawling tables and the thing Levinson emphasizes in those families. The grandparents were the storyteller so their stere- family lore which everybody was reunited by and then over the decades America starts to happen so some people move away in pursuit of opportunity. In this case they break the code of the family. The the guy who's saying you cut the Turkey without me. He was the senior male. He was the head of family and the idea of cutting the Turkey without him. To basically break up the family system and so F- family becomes less important speed and efficiency become more important and at the end of the toward the end of the movie. It's no longer big table with extended family. It's a couple with their kids watching. Tv on Thanksgiving on TV trays and then the very end of the movie. The hero is left alone in a nursing home wondering what happened and so basically the story of that is America moving from big extended families to have small families and then to know family. And that's happened to a lot of people I've got basically the story that I think has happened over the last century which has been fine for some people but disastrous for those a more vulnerable. We should point at one. Reason is that People had smaller families wise. I what they could The advent of birth control Another reason was that Women of became more empowered and having eight children of just made it pretty difficult to do any kind of work outside. The house Economically children long ago ceased to be a assets to the family mean. We Love our children but they don't bring money in when they're ten years old with it they didn't in Agrarian Day so so that family that that old extended family It if a died EDYTA pretty natural death. Well it sort of did But it died because farming ended as you say we couldn't make money off of Ah for children. In the roles of women changed and so with industrialization you see people moving to the big cities and basically starting nuclear families. Which is mom dad and one or two kids of start out with four or five? Now it's one or two And that is because extended families have a great strength which is their resilience if one relationship between a mother and father or between a parent and a child breaks or somebody dies. There's somebody around to pick up the slack in a nuclear family. The end of a relationship is basically the end of the family as we know it so they allow for greater openness but they allow for their much more fragile family structures and so when we switched to the nuclear family Because of a lot of reasons you cited for a little while at work in the nineteen fifties and sixties sort of worked. We had stable nuclear families. Mom Dad living in a suburban home surrounded by grass. And we had high fertility low divorce rates. But that's because every condition society favored that you had men making four hundred percent more than their fathers had at the same age so you could have a stable family on one income. You had Thai social capital high religious observance. You had everything to support. The family and the families were living in close proximity to another so they were basically forming extended families Anyway and basically. That was a brief window of time in the nineteen fifty s to nineteen sixty five when we formed our ideal of what a family should be but then in nineteen sixty five society went back to normal and the the security of those brief freakish ears vanished and since then the family has been falling progressively weaker and weaker. One one one change was that to maintain the extended family means Generations remaining in the same place. And we're a mobile society I think of in my lifetime To to professional decisions that were absolutely decisive. We're moving away from New York to Washington closing off to London to live for years You you can't do the same you can't have the same kind of Weaken work out relations with your with your family if you're living hundreds or thousands of miles away. Yeah that's certainly part of it America at least used to be a mobile society now much less mobile than we used to be but I think people left the nuclear family in part because they wanted privacy. They just want all. These people didn't choose in their lives and be. They wanted a little more flexibility And the market wants you to be a small family where you don't spend a Lotta time on relationships where you can spend a lotta time on work emails. So nuclear families make you richer and societies with smaller families are richer families. They happen to be less connected families and the story I tell about the last fifty years really is a story of these families. Falling apart it used to be like seventy percent of Americans were living in a nuclear family. Now it's like a third fertility rates are way down you have twenty seven percent of young men having no contact with their dads. You have forty percent of of Americans growing up in a single parent home. And so what you have wound up with is a lot more fragile relationships. And you've wound up with say single MOMS. I've a friend. Who's a mom who's decided to stay home with their kids in a suburb of Virginia and she describes the life that is brutally hard and lonely? A lot of the time because there's nobody around to help You've got older people who are dying alone. My My newspaper wrote a piece in about a decade ago about a guy who lived in queens and he just died alone and nobody noticed because he had no social context so we are Y We live with more. Annemie in modern society where we are individuals And yet that choice as you say the allure of all of that was again to draw upon my own family. My mother is the eighth of Eight Surviving there was an earlier baby. Who died in infancy of those eight siblings? Four of them had one child and four of them had two children. Nobody to replicate the life in a brood of siblings and cousins although is very happy family but it just that was not being American. It wasn't assimilating. It wasn't Being modern for them and my family's pretty much the same and I would say just looking around the society That's basically fine if your upper middle class That people frankly in my social class we can afford to buy extended family and when we need labor in the form of Nannies or coaches or somebody to cut the grass. We can afford to hire that. And so the nuclear family has worked out pretty well for those of us in the educated class for people who don't have the means to basically by extended families it has not worked at all. And so you go to neighborhood after neighborhood where you see stress families and then you see people trying to cope and the story ends on. I should say on a hopeful note that Americans are adjusting and re attaching to to extended family so the number of Americans who live in extended families now twenty percent of the population sixty four million people. That's a modern high. And that's because a lot of parents want their children and a lot of adult. Children basically have no choice but to live at home and a lot of middle aged people want. There's their parents to live with them. And so you're seeing a return to a new kind of family form so we did go through that period which your family. My family probably did about the same time to smaller and smaller families but I think out of the wreckage of that for a lot of people in a lot of social classes. You're seeing new family. Forums actually raising a challenge of what kind of housing there is in America. And how can an extended family live nowadays if all the housing that's being built is is is for nuclear families homebuilders ask consumers. Do you want us to build an in-law sweet where either what they call a millennial sweet where the adult child can live or senior can live and forty two percent of Americans now say they want that and so I I do think there's a return to that and the second thing which is even more to me is what I call forged families or somebody close forge families and that's chosen families and chosen families emerged in the nineteen eighties in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis? A lot of gay men lesbians hadn't were cut off from their families going through this trauma and they really created this chosen family structure where they bonded together to really create kin like forms and a lot of people have been sort of cast off in the among some of the failures of the nuclear family. And they're forming new family forms. These chosen families and I see that was All around the country emerging people bond together and create family out of even though they're not biologically related in a few minutes. I want to return to that subject in hear more about the the forged family led me. I tell folks that we're hearing from New York Times columnist and Atlantic writer. David Brooks We're talking about his latest.

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