Let me go out on a limb and suggest that you not run your life based on the experiences of, or advice given by, Bill Callahan, Paul Dolan or Ann Landers. Like some of you, the only one of the three whose name was familiar to me before today was advice columnist Ann Landers (actual name Eppie Lederer). She, along with her twin sister of Dear Abby fame, had an outsized influence on Americans in the second half of the twentieth century.
However, recently two reviews crossed my desk. The first was of musician Bill Callahan’s latest album where I was intrigued by the discussion of the evolution of his music. According to reviewer, Mark Richardson, Mr. Callahan’s earlier 15 albums share a theme of alienation. Mr. Richardson shares one of the musician’s quotes from an interview in 2009. “I’m not afraid to die lately. I don’t have any kids to look after. I don’t hold any great worth for humanity.”
While neither Mr. Callahan nor I believe that the only way to have worth to humanity is to have children, his current music is different. His latest work, produced after he bought a home, married and had a child, reveals his feelings on being needed.
The second review I saw was of a book by Professor Paul Dolan. He argues that studies show that women, in particular, are happier and better off without spouses and children. This seems to echo a much circulated Ann Landers’ column from 1975 where she asked readers if they would choose to have children again, if they had the opportunity to change their pasts. At the time, the results caused quite a stir when about 70% of respondents said they would not. While her poll was debunked as unscientific and follow-up surveys produced completely conflicting totals, Professor Dolan (whose book I have not read) suggests that intellectually rigorous studies would support Ann Landers’ conclusions. I register my skepticism.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Professor Dolan’s book becomes standard reading in Women’s Studies courses. It echoes the Left’s prejudice against marriage and family. I, too, am not objective, though my own biases suggest that both women and men are happier when devoted to a spouse and children. Singer Bill Callahan’s experience rings far more true to me.
In today’s fractured, false, and corrupt society, many social and political arguments are stated as “proven”. Yet, as our culture moves away from timeless truths and abandons the compass of morality, we become easy prey for ephemeral fads and passing whims. That portends much regret and disillusionment down the road for those who follow the crowd rather than seeking the truth. ‘Question authority’ may have been a rebellious slogan of liberals in the Sixties, but it should be the mantra of every independent-minded person today.