Robert Whitcomb: Land of the all-too free

  The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling authorizing gay marriage across America has  helped to cement homosexual citizens’ sense of civic acceptance. However, in part because homosexuality usually involves behavior as well as orientation, they’ll continue to suffer some angry bias that will be impossible to prevent. There are limits to social engineering and even of litigation, however noble the intentions.

Meanwhile, the erosion of traditional, heterosexual marriage continues. That has helped lead to poverty, child abuse, addiction and other social pathologies as an increasing number of families are led by overwhelmed, low-income unwed mothers, and all too often fathers don’t help support the children they’ve helped create. Indeed, many fathers just disappear.

Thus, we have increasing social dysfunction, exacerbated by the continuing loss of jobs to globalization and technology. Still, some social legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act, may alleviate the effects, especially poverty, of traditional marriage’s decay.

None of this is to say that marriage is a panacea for anything or that no-fault divorce doesn’t have merits. Whatever, it’s good to know that all American gay adults can now experience, if they really want to, the joys, anxieties, sorrows, fun and boredom of marriage and the privilege of paying divorce lawyers to help them terminate their unions. (Since a much higher percentage of married gay couples will presumably be childless than of married straight couples, most of their divorces will usually be fairly easy. But who will look after them when they’re old?)

But I suspect that, as with many heterosexuals, many gay couples will assiduously avoid the duties of marriage. Why get tangled in the red tape of marriage – the smallest unit of government? Isn’t this “The Land of the Free’’?


Northerners should know that to many Southerners the Confederate battle flag is a symbol not of slavery per se but of regional pride, including in the friendliness, courtesy and sense of community more common in the South than in much of America.

That isn’t to say that the centrality of slavery in “The Lost Cause’’ doesn’t evoke enthusiasm among many of the region’s racists, who hate the melanin-rich President Obama. And I agree with the general sense of Ulysses S. Grant’s opinion that the Confederacy was “the worst cause for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

In any case, America is now more than ever a land of tolerance. Indeed, for all the rhetoric about bigotry here, by world standards America is a very welcoming place for virtually all minorities, rivaled only by a few northwestern European nations (that we militarily protect). Many Americans would be surprised to learn how lucky they are in this regard. Vicious bigotry reigns on much of the planet.

Dictatorships and discrimination are on the march, and America and the West in general must be ready for a renewal of what John F. Kennedy called the “long twilight battle’’ of the First Cold War. Computers may be the biggest weapons on this war; just ask the Chinese, who are winning it so far and who aren’t about to permit gay marriage.


“You go to my head

With a smile that makes my temperature rise Like a summer with a thousand Julys’’

-- From “You Go to My Head’’ (1938), music by J. Fred Coots,  lyrics by Haven Gillespie

July Fourth marks the start of high summer, which goes so fast in New England.

Perhaps oddly, considering that he was a World War II combat veteran, my father loved loud fireworks. In those days (the ‘50s) it was nearly impossible to buy them in New England so he’d purchase boxes of them at stores in the Carolinas and fill much of a station wagon with them, often with a lit cigarette in his mouth.

The blasts would happen every few minutes on the Fourth – mostly large firecrackers, such as M-80s, but we also fired a small cannon. The finale was around sunset at a beach, where whatever was left was exploded. This violated town laws, but few local ordinances were enforced on the Fourth.

Robert Whitcomb ( is a Providence-based writer and editor and the overseer of New England Diary. He's also a partner at Cambridge Management Group (, a healthcare-sector consultancy, and a Fellow of the Pell Center.