One Nation Undecided – Clear Thinking about Five Hard Issues That Divide Us
By Peter H. Schuck
Princeton University Press – £24. 95
”As the family is the essential core of any society, the steady decline of two-parent family households in the United States is probably the single most important social trend of the last half-century. In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously predicted that this decline would be most precipitous in black families, but even he under-estimated the trend: 72 percent of black babies are now born out of wedlock, triple the 1965 rate. Regardless of race, children with no father at home are now four to five times more likely to be poor than children of married parents. (Many of their unmarried mothers do have live-in partners for certain periods.) Children in female-headed households account for well over half of all poor children. Indeed, Harvard’s Equality of Opportunity Project finds that the single best predictor of low upward mobility in an area is the fraction of children with single parents.”
(Family and Community Breakdown – Poverty)
As stated on the front, dust-cover of this most thought provoking of books: ”One Nation Undecided takes on some of today’s thorniest issues and walks you through each one step-by-step, explaining what makes it so difficult to grapple with and enabling you to think smartly about it.”
Naturally, what one deciphers as ‘thinking smartly,’ depends on which side of the socio-economic/political fence one invariably finds oneself. Especially in the United States, where disparity reigns supreme amid numerous controversies of idiosyncratic ignorance; a facet of societal behaviour, more oft than not financially, if not profit driven.
The NRA (National Rifle Association) being the most perfect and pristine of examples. But what accounts for One Nation Undecided – Clear Thinking about Five Hard Issues That Divide Us being the sort of hard hitting book that it (perhaps controversially) is, is the overt, simple fact that it smokes-screens nothing.
And tells it as it really does need to be told.
The opening quote of which underlines such thinking. Yet, were one to espouse such rhetoric in an everyday publication of say safe, mediocre reportage, certain quarters would no doubt holler from that of a most pronounced premise of racial discrimination. There again, these 372 pages (excluding Acknowledgements, Notes and Index) do go in for much clarification and substantiation; which, given the fraught and occasionally bleak subject matter, is just as well (if not absolutely vital).
For instance, to get the mind thinking both honestly and academically, it should come as no surprise that Family and Community Breakdown is preceded by a piece entitled Bad Luck; which again, finds the author, Peter H. Schuck (whose previous books include Why Government Fails So Often, Meditations of a Militant Moderate, Diversity in America and Agent Orange on Trial) placing all the political cards on the table.
A table from which one can either ravenously feast. Or ignore it is entirety: ”Some people are much luckier than others. It is not simply that some of us are born with better parents, greater intelligence, happier dispositions, stronger constitutions, and in a favourable birth order. It is also what happens to us later on may have little or nothing to do with those initial endowments or with the kinds of bad choices […]. Impoverishing misfortunes can come in many forms – debilitating illness, depression, job loss, uninsured disaster – and can overtake anyone at almost any moment, rendering them poor for a considerable period of time. Divorce often impoverishes women. A 1996 study of such women found that in the first year after divorce, the average wife’s standard of living decreased by 27 percent; the husband’s improved by 10 percent! Even if these differences have narrowed since then, poverty can still be just a bad divorce (or divorce lawyer) away, especially for women.”
Hmm, makes you think…
From poverty to immigration, religiosity to affirmative action, gay marriage to transgender rights, One Nation Undecided pinpoints all the angularity of today’s increasingly complex and ever convoluted society.
As such, you’d be hard pressed to find a better book on such a wide gambit of politically controversial dissertation.