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people cutting cakephoto of the presidentphoto of a happy couple Join the Discussion:What are your views on the pro marriage movement which aims to cut the American divorce rate and strengthen marriage?  Should government have a role in this?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched the report, "Let's Get Married" with great concern. I am an African-American woman that was raised in a single-parent home. My father provided no assistance in my upbringing; abandoning us when I was a small child. The saving grace of my life was self-awareness and a knowledge of my own self-worth that prevented me from repeating the self-destructive behavior of my mother.

As I viewed your program, I felt great despair for our society, particularly the African-American community which appears to be irrevocably broken. Is it too late to surmount the curse of generational poverty, lack of education and learned helplessness?

I strongly believe that if the family is to be repaired sexual behavior must change.Chastity and Purity

need to be encuraged and the skills to practice these virtues taught in our schools, churches, etc. Enough of the safe sex message which is deadly advice. Along with these must be an emphasis on education, hard work, selflessness, self-denial, and delayed gratification. In Atlanta, a movement has begun called "Pure Love". It is coordinated by young adults who study the writings Pope John Paul IILove & Responsibility and Theology of The Bodyas well as the encyclical against contraception,"Humane Vitae" by Pope Paul VI. It is a movement that is attended weekly by approximately 100 men and women committed to living lives of sexual purity for God, themselves, future spouses and children.

I want to invite Frontline to the Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King and observe this incredible phenomenon. I also challenge those that read this letter to read the books and encyclical mentioned. I guarantee that they will astound you with their wisdom!

Coretta Alexander
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear FRONTLINE,

No 60-minute program can adequately address every aspect of a phenomenon so complex as marriage and divorce.

I am concerned about discussion that suggests the government must choose between economic and relationship responses.

While Alex Kotlowitz effectively demonstrated that we cannot expect to find any one-size-fits-all solution, it also seems clear that any effective response to the challenges of our society must address economic components as well as develop strategies that help couples learn how to have healty marriages.

Joe Wilmoth
Stillwater, OK

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was riveted by, "Let's Get Married". The black community in America is in total crisis. The healthy family unit in this community is dying quickly. Unless, black fathers cease abandoning their families, for whatever reason, this crisis will worsen.

"Let's Get Married", did a superb job in presenting the complex nature of this problem, but America can not wait to figure who to blame before something is done to mend this situation. The vacuum of black leadership in America perpetuates this environment by never denouncing it. Excuses upon excuses pile up while no progress is made.

I hope for the sake of all American's that a healthy turn is forthcoming. The Black communities weakened family structure threatens everyone in this country. Teenage pregnancy, long-term welfare assistance, and crime committed by young black males is an anchor preventing the major inner cities from moving toward a better day.

David Carroll
Glen Burnie, MD

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched this on my local PBS station in Canada and was at times amazed and saddened by the documentary. But then, I grew angry.

I grew up in a middle class neighbourhood in Canada where it was expected everyone would go to college. Education was stressed and given that the models around us were working people with often interesting jobs, something like 95% of us did continue our education. There were no drop-outs in my grade of 275 students that I know of, nor any teen pregnancies. Two of the differences between growing up in this neighbourhood and those shown in the documentary: economics and education.

We had co-ed sex education in the classroom starting at age 14, where different forms of birth control were brought to classroom to show us what they looked like and explained how to use them. Given that most of us girls wanted to grow up to be journalists, doctors, lawyers, teachers-who even wanted to get pregnant?

And once we made it through highschool, there was inexpensive Jr.college and university education available for young adults to help us reach our goals, goals that were encouraged to pursue since we were children.

Education, healthy communities free of violence,and the opportunities to decent paying-work are the long term fixes for broken communities.

Yet in the US, the push seems to be on teaching sexual abstinence and/or NOT teaching sex education, as if these are realistic choices for the burgeoning sexuality of young people. I would like to see that $300 million dollars being spent-on breaking the cycle of poverty, combatting school drop-out rates in certain neighbourhoods, college scholarships, cleaning up neighbourhoods, and offering birth control access and education, not on encouraging poor rural or urban people to marry.

I wager that a good family life for children and adults has less to do with the wedding contract that is meaning less and less each year, than with creating communities around those families that give the parents and kids a chance to succeed.

Maureen Marovitch
Montreal, QC

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am puzzled. So many of the folks who have already posted messages suggest that it is difficult to expect people who are already poor to get married.

But isn't it cheaper for a married couple to live together than two individuals living alone? And given current statistics on divorce, I am not sure that having more money assures a couple will remain married. Are we simply avoiding real reasons why people choose not to marry?

Ned Badgett
Columbia, SC

Dear FRONTLINE,

No one would argue the point that a household with two loving and concerned parents would be best. While working as a server at a local Country Club for extra income [as a single parent not necessarily by choice] I would ponder the money and effort that went into many couples of various income brackets and ages plan their wedding celebration.

I was well aware of the 50% divorce rate and we servers would wager if the couple of the day would be in the 50% to stay married or get divorce.

Ive often thought if they had spent that much time and effort insuring that they were compatible and learning exactly what responsibilities and trials they would encounter as a married couple perhaps the stats would be better for the institution of marriage.

But to try to blame this on the Liberals is more of this ultra Conservative agenda. What scares me is thinking they wont be happy unless everyone is white and married and we are all living in some kind of quasi-middle class 1950s. There is something fundamentally wrong with shortsightedness of the fundamentalists idea.

Medina, Oh

Dear FRONTLINE,

The poor, low income families are not the only ones who have broken the vow of marriage. On a monthly basis, we see the rich and well -to-do getting divorced as quickly as they can change their minds. What is their excuse? Are their children exempt because they may live in the right neighborhoods?

As well meaning as the government is to fix the problem of divorce, if they do not understand the meaning and ministry of marriage, then they are simply spinning in mud. Marriage is indeed a contract between two individuals, but it so much more. We can say that it is the foundation of our society. It has been instituted by God between a man and his wife to love, cherish and honor one another until death do them part.

. Why the high divorce rates?

- Many do not believe in God so cannot respect the things of God

- People are more obsessed with the wedding that they are about the marriage.

- Many people enter into it with a plan to get out.

- Society has a new trend of first marriages are trial and the second marriage is the real thing.

- People get married without understanding the institution of marriage

- People get married not understanding the meaning of agape love.

- People no longer believe in fidelity and commitment

- Our acceptance of shacking up

- Our desire to honor same sex "marriages"

I will suggest that if we are to address the issue of divorce effectively, we must go back the original intent and meaning of marriage. It is not a short term fix. It is a life long commitment, where both individuals purpose in their minds that for better or worst, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Maybe that will prevent the numbers who simply jump into it without preparation or thought. But this is not going to be an easy battle, because we have to fight the opposing message that Hollywood sells us.

Celise Saunders
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear FRONTLINE,

In Washington DC the rate of HIV infection is so high that many children from low income inner city can't be raised by one biological parent, much less two. Perhaps Oklahoma doesn't suffer the same HIV crisis, maybe the problem there is domestic violence.

Regardless, a federal program to promote marriage may deal with improving "relationships", but does not address the regionally specific social problems that affect families. For this reason I believe the "relationship" issue needs to be confronted at the state level so as to specifically address the problems affecting each community in order to improve the home life of inner city children that's the point of all this, right??.

Liz Crow
Washington, DC

Dear FRONTLINE,

You know it is amazing to me that the Media, Public social and welfare system and Left leaning politicians would "drop the ball" on this issue as is stated in the story. Becuase thay are worried about alienating or stigmatizing people. That my friends is what is wrong with not only marriage but this country.

The fact that there is no longer any standard for anyone to be held to, no one is made to take responsibilty for irresponsibility! Politicians and yes, even presidents dodge reponsibility and say what "I do is my business etc."

Men no longer are being held accountable becuase people just don't push the issue. They are being let off the hook by political correctness. Look into the prisons better than 80% which is a conservative estimate of young men in the prison never knew there father and an even larger percentage barely knew them and they were incarcerated as well! what an effect a father can have!

Yes this institution is in trouble, Yes we need it to be important and sacred, Do the conxervatives have it right, maybe not entirely but they do have "accurate social antennae" to the culture and trends that will effect our political and social climate.

It is sad that in the name of political correctness we are afriad to tell someone the truth, like saying "don't give him your body to use, until he respects you enough to make a commitment", or to say "hey if your man enough to make a baby you need to man enough to commit to that woman and that baby!"

It is a scarey place to live when right and wrong only exists in the minds of individuals, and emotion overrides intellect.

Eric Cook
Bellefontaine, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

I believe that counseling and education is important and can be useful for strengthening relationships but it seems glaringly obvious that the problems are essentially economic. Why not educate in family planning? Why not birth control??? Less children, less forced marriages!

Tenafly, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

The breakdown of marriages in our society is only a symptom of a deeper problem that stems from our skewed economic system. Why do you think economists are taking on this issue? They realize the destructive nature that unchecked capitalism has had on the family structure.

Focusing on marriage is only a band-aid approach to the problem. Most of the defenders of the traditional family, including the marriage savers, are unwilling to criticize the economic system that has directly affected the family structure and are committed to preserving society according to the present economic system.

I believe that we have to gain control over our institutions and change them to reflect the better world that we talk so much about and envision for our children. Family life and family structure have too long been left to the capriciousness of the marketplace, and we are all suffering from its effects.

Janet Chavez
El Paso, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

Marriage statistics in America are alarming across the board although, unsurprisingly, trends among the poor and disenfranchised may be longer and steeper.

I understand Bush's program focuses on welfare recipients, however, I was disappointed the FRONTLINE piece did not spend even a few minutes talking about the middle and upper classes in America, which would have provided a relevant frame of reference for this discussion. Bush's social welfare policies take advantage of a dependent segment of the population -- this is what is most problematic as far as I'm concerned.

Government should not be involved in a matter as private as marriage -- not even for those citizens dependent upon government funds for survival. This administration's approach to reducing the welfare rolls is disappointingly simplistic, obtrusive and, utlimately, ineffective, and it avoids dealing with the real issues around economic poverty.

new york, new york

Dear FRONTLINE,

Excellent program, however the writer never bothered to ask these people why they never used birth control.

If the church thinks its a sin to use contraception, then the vatican should have to start paying child support to all the unwanted children who are a product of such a stupid decree. I guarantee the church would soon change its position. If you are not equipped to raise a child, then DO NOT HAVE THEM!

Jim Glynn
philadelphia, pa

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am very ashamed that a lot of our friends and neighbors who want more than anything to get married and raise a family cannot legally do so because of their gender. If this could be reconciled with a national priority for healthy, strong families then I think we could move forward.

Also I wanted to talk about the dream of the big wedding that many girls grow up with. Something I liket to call "Big Wedding Syndrome", in which couples spend a year planning and an obscene amount of money on their fairy tale day, then wake up the morning after wondering what the hell happened.

Marriage isn't easy. I think that what we're seeing now may be growing pains in a process of evolution in which men and women can truly be more equal partners.

Kansas City, MO

Dear FRONTLINE,

If the government was serious about addressing the well-being of children which was the real topic of your segmentwhy are the same resources not devoted to understanding the reasons why children are having children?

I'd prefer to have tax dollars developing programs that prevent teenage pregnancies and provide real economic opportunities for our youth.

Instead, the Bush adminstration hides behind the unquestionable facade of marriage to justify their desire control the intimate lives its citizens, especially the poor.

Craig Hoffman
Cleveland, OH

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