Family Values, Really?

Election season is coming and one of the things we will begin to hear about is how some candidates support Traditional Family Values. I’d like to think there will be more focus on the debt and economy, and even though both sides will be mudslinging in that debate, it’s a more important, and more politically pertinent thing to debate. This term ‘Family Values’ has been denigrated by those who use it most. By using this term to define a political stance, they have negated any actual value to the term.

Politically when we hear the term “Family Values,” we think of people who believe in the monogamous heterosexual nuclear family image popular in the 1950’s sitcoms. We’re thinking the “Leave it to Beaver” family in most cases.

There’s nothing wrong with the Cleaver’s. They’re a fine example of an American Family. They are not by any means the average and by no means the mold that every family should strive to fit in. Okay, so for several years my household was nigh indistinguishable from the Cleavers. I was the husband, father and breadwinner in a household a few blocks from the country club with a housewife (we call her a stay-at-home mom these days) and two boys. The similarities are actually almost endless. My wife, like June, even attended boarding school, albeit briefly. We have a dove buried in the backyard, not a pigeon. We’d still be living life in the Cleaver mold if we hadn’t had our daughter.

Do I think to be an American Family, living with American Family Values, people need to clone my life? Certainly not.

Let’s break down the points which make up the political definition of Family Values:

1) Parents are married.

I’m all for marriage between two people that love each other. I don’t necessarily believe that a group of people cease being a family when one of the parents no longer lives in the same home. We want to teach our children that people should be loving and in situations where there is not love between the parents, remaining married only gives the children a bad example of what marriage should be. I’m still married because I still love my wife after 17-plus years. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be married. The whole point of a family is to raise children to be happy and productive members of society which may include raising their own family someday. That won’t happen if we start with a bad example.

2) I should mention that “Family Values” assumes children.

Without the presence of children there are no arguments to be had one side or the other pertaining to the values of the family. The whole point of the “Family Values” political stance is to define the morality we pass on to our children. People are particularly emotional about their children. Just mentioning them in debate will cause a drop in logic and raise in defensive, emotional, thought. That’s what the “Family Values” folks are banking on.

3) Parents are of heterogeneous gender.

To varying degrees, the Family Values political stance is decidedly anti-gay. Some places in the United States are still trying to keep homosexual people from being able to adopt children. People can always keep their own biological children, but since when is “Family” only about biology? Every family starts by adopting someone outside the family into our family – we call this beginning ‘marriage’.

I can’t, for the life of me, explain rationally the anti-gay movement. It’s purely a religious argument, and as we all know, you can’t debate religion. There is no reasonable argument against homosexual parents. The arguments are circular and backwards. They go something like: Gay people can’t marry so they can’t be stable parents. Gay people can’t have kids so there’s no reason for them to marry. Okay, so somewhere in that argument there’s the inevitable “God says marriage is between a man and a woman.” To be clear, what they are really saying is “Our religion believes our God is against homosexuality.” I have to note that these close-minded, outdated views are not held throughout the Christian community. Several Christian Churches are now preaching full equality. I guess all I can say on that is: Christianity is not inherently anti-gay, but there are a lot of people who think it is. Check out what one  Rev. Eric Elnes had to say on the matter earlier this year in Omaha, Nebraska.

4) Traditional Family Values

Frequently the Family Values political stance is prefixed with the word “Traditional.” This is supposed to further define the term. To be exact we’d have to actually say “Traditional Mid-20th Century” family values.

The Tradition they are citing goes something like: John and Mary get married, move into their own home and have kids.

Until WWII put the ability buy houses into every former G.I’s reach, the nuclear family was not necessarily the norm. The VA Loan program created millions of people with the ability to buy homes, this created the need for more houses and forced into existence the industry of real-estate development we are familiar with today. Prior to that time, the first residents of a house were the people holding the hammers that built it.

The actual tradition through most of history was more like this: John and Mary get married, live with John’s Parents while they save up for a house or apartment, move to that house and start popping out kids. When John’s parent’s retire and can no longer afford to live on their own or can no longer change their own bedpans, they come live with John and Mary until they die. Tradition, for most of history, is the Extended Family Model.

Of course, there are also the time honored tradition of criminalizing homosexuality so when people, forced to fit into molds, pop out at some point, they not only are punished for it, but they hurt many people around them. This pain and suffering does not happen if we don’t force people into molds they don’t fit in.

Some other Traditional Family Values: Sell your children to the workhouses to pay your taxes. If children are born with deformities, or born female when you wanted a male, or born when you’re strapped for cash, abandon them to the elements. Look at all the freedoms that women in “Traditional” Muslim countries do not have today; many (but thankfully not all) of the traditions that restrict their freedoms are the same traditions as Western Culture at one point in history or another.

Tradition is simply a word for the way we used to do it. It doesn’t automatically connote a better way.

To me the two main values of family are unconditional love and commitment. We should all love everyone we are related to – but that doesn’t have to mean we like them, just that we’re always willing to try to like them. Regardless of all other things, we have a commitment to our families. We will always be there for them, even if it means inconvenience or hardship. These are the Family Values I hope my children grow to know. I hope they remember, even when times were hard, we managed to get our whole family out to my brother’s wedding in Las Vegas.


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