Aug 8, 2006

Why We Are Fighting Culture Wars

In a 45-year period starting in 1955, a woman whose pen name was Ann Landers wrote tens of thousands of words of personal guidance for her readers in most of the major newspaper in the U.S. When she died in 2002, her press syndicate said:
When Eppie Lederer took over the Ann Landers column in 1955, no one, including her, realized the tremendous impact she would have on all of us. Ann Landers was someone people could confide in, when they had nowhere else to turn....And she changed newspapers forever, becoming an intrinsic part of the American culture: Everyone knows Ann Landers.
Yes, Eppie Lederer changed American culture and that's why we now have culture wars. I remember a time in the 60s and 70s when the first thing that everyone read when they opened the paper was the Ann Landers column. A 1978 World Almanac poll found that Lederer was "The Most Influential Woman in the United States." Her popularity continued through 1997 when 90 million readers of 1,200 newspapers were said to "take Lederer's counsel like a tonic."

Her day-to-day advice is what caused this nation to accept homosexuality, divorce, and abortion. Did 'Ann Landers' start out that way? Heavens, No! Most of her early columns could have been written by my Grandmother or a Catholic priest. But once she was accepted as the nation's godmother or councilor, her advice began to change.

In a 1997 interview, 'Ann Landers' said she once
accepted the early '60s definition of the American Psychiatric Association, that homosexuality was a deviant psychiatric disorder. She now believes authorities who say one is born with this orientation. Regardless of the cause, she is not judgmental and has always urged tolerance.
'Landers' also convinced her readers of the ten percent myth: "According to some studies, an estimated 10 percent of individuals worldwide are homosexual."

Same thing with divorce, according to the interview.
Forty years ago her position was this: "You made a deal, stay with it thick or thin." And if the woman was in an abusive marriage: "Go to your clergyman, go to your doctor, work it out, work it out, work it out." Since then, because of her own divorce, the changing times, and public opinion, Lederer has broadened her acceptance of divorce. While brutality, alcoholism or infidelity certainly warrant divorce, she now also includes marital unhappiness or dissatisfaction: "Some people just don't belong together and it's too bad if they think they have to spend the rest of their lives together when it's not working."
What did 'Ann Landers' teach about abortion? The Jewish Virtual Library notes
While in the 1950s she encouraged women to stay at home and to accept, if necessary, their husbands' infidelities, by the 1970s she was urging women to find worthwhile occupations and was a champion of liberalized abortion laws.
Did 'Ann Landers' intend to change the world? She once said "I select letters [for the column] that give me an opportunity to teach people something. This was my mission from the beginning."

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