The epiphany: the rise and fall of the American century

(epilogueFactor I, Factor II, Conclusion)

Would you get this tattoo?
You probably should not.
Recently, I had a revelation that my life and familial circumstances are an absolute reflection of the time and place in which I was born. Few things are more obvious, I know. But how often do we think about it?

For me, understanding how transformations on a personal level correspond with larger developments in culture and economy was a breakthrough in my understanding of our world situation and how deeply it can and will influence our personal lives.

Let me explain.

In the era my parents grew up in, there was a cultural consensus in America shaped by Christian family values; nine out of ten American adults identified as Christian and nearly eight out of ten American adults were married. Ideas such as family, marriage and Christianity were firmly rooted in the culture. Not surprisingly, my parents, their siblings, friends and neighbors all grew up in Christian households, married and had multiple children. But, at that time, a new culture was starting to transform the mainstream and influence American thought; the new culture embraced and empowered impulsive, emotionally-driven thrill-seekers who lacked the discipline for marriage and family. The next few decades seemed to bear the new culture's influence, as there were fewer marriages, families and children as well as more dysfunctional marriages, families and children. This was also true in my family.

At the same time, born into an era with a strong local economy, my parents knew the luxury of lifetime employment close to home. These circumstances helped keep large families together, including my own. But local industries have since closed down or moved overseas, forcing relocation for employment. In addition, real wages have fallen and housing prices have skyrocketed, even if these developments have been blunted by women entering the workforce and contributing to overall family wealth. Moreover, with women in the business world, children are increasingly left "raising" themselves or forgone completely. Competition for employment has also increased in result, pressuring job-seekers to accept longer working hours just to remain competitively employable over others. Each of these changes has torn apart the fabric of family. Point for point, this reality mirrors my own family's reality.

So when did the above happen? More importantly, why did we allow for it to happen? The following offers a no-holds-barred search for answers, linking these changes to two factors in the immediate aftermath of one of the most sacred events in American history (click here for Factor I).