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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 13, 1993)
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Nuclear family sprouts mutation
They say the family is in dan
ger, but I say, brother, it’s
The American family—you know,
as in “Traditional Family Values”—
has come under a lot of scrutiny in
recent years, culminating in a bizarre
media frenzy surrounding the Dan
Quaylc sound-bite awhile back.
Whenever white guys in suits start
talking about “tradition,” you just
know they’re harking all the way back
to the 1950s when white guys in suits
ruled the earth.
But the so-called “nuclear” family
is itself the breakdown of a much
older, larger, more complicated fam
ily form—something that could only
be called the molecular family.
The molecular family is a big
sprawl ing mass of irregular shape and
It includes uncles, grandparents,
aged patriarchs, cousins and in-laws.
It extends to dogs and cats.
The family that evolved along with
human beings is this kind of family.
Mom, dad and the kids is a recent
interpolation, a kind of social exper
iment performed on a large scale by
upwardly mobile white guys in suits.
Of course it’s passing away, and it
shouldn’t be mourned. It was a neces
sary, though doomed, stop-gap in the
rift between two powerful forces: the
clan and modern life.
We are clannish creatures. By na
ture we group ourselves into tribes—
much like wolves in packs or geese in
It’s in our nature. We arc suited to
the tribe and it to us.
Where the clan has broken down,
for political or economic reasons,
human beings have created new clans,
clubs, fraternities and secret societ
Even where the clan structure is
strongest, in what we call “primitive”
societies, there are strong subgroups
— idcotribes with their own rules and
interconnections — that exclude the
many and include the chosen few.
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Chris Columbus no anti-Christ
Columbus Day has come and
gone, and the truly sensitive
can rest easy now after using
the moment of silence at Broyhill
Plaza to vent their rage against centu
ries of oppression.
The image of Indians in American
before ^olumbus that is currently
being peddled is one of pastoral bliss,
of a native people living simply and in
harmony with nature and each other.
Only with the coming of now-dead
white guys did the hapless natives
become enslaved and oppressed. .
Well, not quite. Before we get all
dewy-eyed over this, let’s look a little
more objectively at history. First off,
they’ re not real ly “Native Americans.”
Indians crossed the land bridge from
Asia and are as much immigrants as
Germans or Irish settlers. They just
got here a few thousand years earlier.
Slavery, it seems, was nothing new
to Indians. Even the five civilized
tribes practiced enslaving members
of other tribes; the Pawnee Indians in
Nebraska, because they were villag
ers, were often targets of slaving raids.
It was more akin to the European
device of indentured servitude with
some Pueblo Indian tribes.
As for living in harmony with na
ture, this is another myth that de
serves to be punctured. Indians sought
to control tneir environment just as
much as white settlers later did. It’s
human nature. The Indians were lim
ited only by the relatively low level of
technology available. Mayan civili
zations in Central America over-irri
gated to the point where their water
table became saline and unfit for con
Plains Indians used prairie fires to
clear out old undergrowth, allowing
better grops of grass with which to
feed animals. The fires could cover
the area of several modem counties
and led to another not-so-modem phe
nomenon—dust storms. Buffalo hunts
were not always scenes out of “Danc
es With Wolves “Tribes would drive
As for living in harmony with
nature, this is another myth that
deserves to be punctured. Indians
sought to control their environment
just as much as white settlers later
did. It’s human nature.
the beasts over a cliff, killing hun
dreds, but only using a few, leaving
the rest to rot.
Those who revile Columbus as the
anti-Christ seem to live in a fantasy
universe, thinking that if only whites
hadn’t showed up, all would be well.
True, there wouldn’t be any reserva
tions, or alcohol, but there wouldn’t
be any horses either, or metal tools
with which to sow and reap their
And, let’s face it, the discovery of
America was inevitable. You can’t
have the growth in technology that
was occurring in Renaissance Eu
rope, plus the outward search for new
lands and new sources of wealth, and
then expect a huge land mass like
North America to go undiscovered
Would it have been any better if
Leif Ericson had done a better job of
exploiting his discovery of America?
What about the Chinese? Or the Ro
mans? What about any other Europe
an power in the late 15th century?
It was inevitable, and unavoid
able, just as were the plagues that
swept the continent and decimated
Indian populations. For the most part,
the diseases were a simple biological
process, germs borne by vectors find
ing an unprotected host.
There were other low points, to be
sure. Alcohol remains the most de
structive legacy of that ora, but even
it was not universal. Certain tribes,
such as the Pawnee, had little or no
use for alcohol, and the stereotype of
the drunken Indian was rarely found
Such facts contradict the current
trendv view of white vs. “oppressed
people.” This stereotype casts both
groups as faceless, monolithic blocs,
seeing each other as enemies. But, as
professor Patricia Nelson Limerick
argued in her reinterpretation ofWest
em history, “The Legacy of Con
quest,” such an impression overlooks
the fact that among both races, there
were varying tribes and different re
sponses to the process of conquering
Among Indians, there were those
who actively resisted, just as there
were those who gladly helped the
whites. Indian scouts for the U.S.
Army were sometimes motivated by a
desire for revenge on an opposing
tribe, something the commanders
played on. Were they traitors to their
race? Hardly. They were doing the
best they could to adapt in a changing
It is high time to stop this ridicu
lous notion that Columbus Day is a
glorificat ion of oppression. Those who
chant “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Western
Civ’s got to go” at a university that
would not be standing but for those
dead white males that they protest,
should pipe down and study both cul
tures, white and Indian, see the good
as well as the bad in both. Above all,
stop feeling guilty because you’re
while, or victimized because you’re
Kepflcld ii a graduate itudeat la blitory
aad a Dally Nebraakaa cohiaialit.
We cannot escape the compelling
urge to form families, and yet the
nuclear family, with which we’re
most familiar, is unfulfilling of our
deepest human needs.
With the emergence of nations a
few centuries ago, there was a con
certed effort to get members of a
country to identify the clan with the
“motherland.” Patriotism became a
But where there are clans, there is
no need for patriotism — only cour
age and patience.
Courage, because it’s assumed one
will go to war when the clan goes to
war and die to protect the clan. That’s
natural, we’re talking about family.
Patience, because the clan can be
more than a little trying when you’re
trapped inside it.
That’s part of the reason the family
has deteriorated so in the face of
The modem world is inclement to
The clan is based on staying to
gether, generally in one place. The
modem world makes it compellingly
easy to travel — to get away from the
oppressive comfort of community.
The modem world tears families
apart and is not too fond of old age and
To many people, the modem prac
ticeofrelegatingouroldand infirm to
a kind of perpetual limbo — a cold
and impersonal medical hell — is
We cannot escape the compelling
urge to form families, and yet the
nuclear family, with which we’re most
familiar, is unfulfilling of our deepest
We can never go back, either. Be
cause the clan is always a burden. It is
heavy, not light. Community means,
to some extent, being tied together
with battleship chain.
Not everyone wants that, and mod
ern life has made it escapable.
But the alternative is isolation —
to be one in a world of strangers, to be
eternally “outside.” Not many can
stand that. And from isolation there is
So for a while now we’ve limped
along on the bad legs of the nuclear
family. But we can’t do that much
longer. The de-stigmatization of di
vorce, along with later marriage and
fewer children per marriage, has left
too many of us to live too much of our
lives alone, seeking something we’re
frightened of finding.
What we need — and are in the
process of developing, I believe —
are new forms of community.
Families are opening themselves
to networks of pseudo-relatives —
friends of the family, basically, but
with more say and influence on how
the family is run.
Networks of all kinds, in real time
and in cyber space, are what will save
us from the death of the family.
Networks, shifting and yet ever
present, are the new family, with an
new set of family issues and family
But we must have something.
The death of the clan, otherwise,
would mean the death of Homo sapi
ens. It’s part of what makes us human.
Baldridge Is a sea lor EagUsh major aad a
Dally Nebraskaa col urn el. t
Wednesday and Friday from 8-llpm
All You Care To Eat
Original Sauce Spaghetti & Two
Slices Garlic Cheese Bread
Ofim good for Lunch or
Din nor - Mon.. Tuo., and
Wad. only. Must prwont
coupon when ordering.
Expire* Oct. 30. 1903
228 N. 12th St.
Faculty Lecture Series
by Dr. Sam Brunk
Wednesday, Oct. 13
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