Columnists like to pick on each other and respond to each other's words. That's not my style, but I couldn't pass up a chance to write about a statement I read in Friday's USA Today.

Syndicated columnist Julianne Malveaux, in writing about the Bush administration's effort to promote marriage as part of welfare reform, said: "Right-wing conservatives want to spend taxpayer money replicating their own lives. They want people to be married, whatever the dire consequences of ill-fated couplings."

Now, no one would describe me as a right-wing conservative, but I like the idea of promoting marriage. Should everyone be married? No way. Are children always better off with two parents? Of course not. I know many single mothers who did a great job with their children. My sister and my mother-in-law are among them.

But marriage has worked well to structure cultures and societies, especially on behalf of children, who need as much support as possible. They don't need to have Ward and June Cleaver as parents. Certainly two women or two men or an extended family can serve as parents.

However, marriage is a stronger commitment between two people, and thus usually holds together better than two people simply living together. Children see this dedication. They see how a relationship can survive the ups and downs. Children want stability. They want to rely on the same people being there everyday.

Malveaux is wrong to paint all conservatives the same way, although the right wing often does the same to the left wing.

Only a sadist would want to see parents stay together if a spouse or child is being abused. Thankfully most women feel they have more choices today, and the freedom to leave such relationships.

But there is nothing wrong with sticking together and trying to make a marriage work if you have children at home. When I was younger, I believed that was a hypocritical stance. Now, as a parent, I look at it as far more noble.

While I was growing up in the 1960s, children from what we called "broken homes" were rare. Now, employees of mine who were born in the 1970s say it's unusual to find any of their friends' parents who are not divorced.

I'm glad we've removed the scarlet letter from divorce, but we've gone to the other extreme. Perhaps, we'll settle somewhere in the middle.

Rep. Bob Irvin visited with the editorial board of The Valdosta Daily Times last week.

Irvin was campaigning in the area in his bid to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. His opponent is U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss from Moultrie.

South Georgians can expect to see more of Irvin between now and Aug. 20, the primary election date.

As part of Irvin's economic platform, he says he'll push for the federal and state governments to move more jobs out of metro Atlanta and into other parts of Georgia.

It's a great idea, and I hope other elected officials on the state and federal levels support it.

If you missed the jazz concert last Sunday by members of the Valdosta State University music faculty, you missed a great performance.

A variety of jazz genres and fine musicianship combined for an enjoyable evening. It wasn't long enough.

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