While raising a family in the 1950s and '60s, my folks used to reinforce to us kids that all we really carried of value was our good name. It wasn't that our family was without failings, but I remember my mother cringing whenever something occurred in our extended family that might negatively reflect on either the Roybal or her Solano maiden name.

In those days, reputation, self-reliance, family and a person's word were everything.

A marriage vow was a big deal. You got married and, while some marriages did dissolve, the vast majority survived. Those seemingly few that didn't make it were only talked about in hushed tones and away from the kids. In addition to divorce, personal bankruptcy, human weaknesses and insensitive behavior, etc., were all big negatives.

I realize today some marriages simply don't work for various good reasons, and despite all the best of intentions. But folks just don't seem to work at marriage as hard as I think they used to, either.

I also see today public displays that trivialize the institution. In just the last year, there have been a couple of highly publicized cases of pop-culture figures getting married on impulse, only to dry out a scant few hours later, assemble the attorneys and file for annulments.

I realize such instances aren't indicative of overall behavior but they do serve to diminish the sanctity of the institution to where it's regarded in some circles as being little different than trading for a new pickup. Until Ronald Reagan was elected U.S. President in 1980, divorce used to be a political liability for elective office.

Is it any wonder popular sensibilities have eroded when one looks at some of today's role models? Folks like billionaire gasbag, Donald Trump, for instance. This supposedly brilliant business magnate has his own television show that purports to ferret out the best young business minds.

Yet, Trump declares bankruptcy, sticks his creditors with millions in losses, and then trumpets his “smart” business move to the media. Fifty years ago, he'd have been regarded as a cheap hustler.

Recently, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kenya's Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist and women's rights activist best known for her efforts in trying to reforest Africa. Apparently, environmentalism today passes for peace because it doesn't seem to matter that, not long ago, Maathai accused developed nations of concocting the AIDs virus as part of a plot to kill off the black race.

How screwed up is the value system, or maybe it's a testament to the brilliance of modern-day political spin, when the world's highest honor for peacemaking goes to an individual who seems to be trying to foment a race war?

Similarly, I can't understand how some R-CALF supporters continue to condemn BEEF magazine for its audacity in criticizing R-CALF for publicly demonstrating hand in hand with three “consumer” groups to criticize USDA for its handling of the BSE incident of a year ago. Woe be it for anyone to dare criticize an organization that purports to represent beef producers yet joins hands with the likes of Carol Tucker Foreman's Consumer Federation of America, Ralph Nader's Public Citizen and the Consumers Union to gang up in a public forum on USDA.

How anyone can support that sort of political naïveté by a producer trade group, when it chums around with groups historically opposed to its constituency, is beyond me.

I'm sure that, in my parents' view, R-CALF's action in crapping on the industry it purports to support would have been sufficient to tarnish the organization's good name. But, apparently for some folks, it passes for common sense and acceptable behavior in the 21st century.