I vividly remember the first time I was introduced to the phrase "Family Values." It was the early 1990's and I was driving in my car. I looked out of the window and saw the strange verbiage promoting a new subdivision on a towering billboard above the highway.
The sign didn't perturb me, but I was puzzled by the slogan. Having grown up in a series of subdivisions, it went without saying that the existing cul-de-sacs were always brimming with families.
So, what made this development so different? Did they forbid singles from living behind the gates? What if a divorce occurred, did the broken family have to move? Did offspring have to eventually leave if they had not married by a certain age? Were gay people forbidden from living there?
What I found most bewildering was the idea of promoting family, as if it were a prefab product that could be marketed, packaged and came with 2 ½ bathrooms. That seemed as forced and unnatural as the wax fruit placed on the coffee tables of model homes in such developments.
At that time, my parents had been together for more than 20 years (They celebrate their 40 year anniversary in August). Their lifetime together was just an organic experience that didn't need to be trumpeted. They never had to say, "look at us, aren't we just the healthiest, happiest family you've ever seen? Check out our wonderful morals and values. Aren't we special? And, by the way, vote for a specific political party to keep us together."
Aside from politicians kissing babies and posing with their brood, I always imagined the value of family to be a private affair. It was an intimate bond between two people and their children. The ostentatious commercial worship of this unit seemed jarring and exploitative. Indeed, it seemed anathema to actual healthy families. If one's family were so wonderful, after all, why would it need a special subdivision?
Shortly after I saw this billboard, President George Bush and his vacuous Vice President, Dan Quayle, brought the "family values" mantra into the political arena. Religious scolds, who worked to transform marriage from a private institution to a very public one, championed this moral marketing campaign. The GOP soon recast itself as the great defender of family and assiduously catered to this crowd, who eventually took over the party.
In reality, of course, strong families don't need to be defended. If a husband and wife are busy cuddling, they don't need candidate crusaders. If parents are taking their children to soccer practice, they don't need James Dobson socking imagined enemies.
Come to think of it, the perceived family foes were always of straw. The main villains were dreaded liberals -- such as my parents and the Obamas. You know, the ones who actually kept their families together without a media campaign promoting their virtues. Even the Clintons, the bane of the right, have managed to keep their family together.
Twenty years later, the inconvenience of life has run the family values fraud off the rails. This racket is now the realm of fakes and flakes, phonies and freaks. The Republican Party is now dominated by news of preachy pols and their sordid affairs, with soap opera lives of tabloid fare. (Like a line-up of bad reality TV, we've got Sarah and Sanford and Ensign and Rush -- and let's not forget Vitter and Newt.)
At this point, the astonishment has worn off. Let's just be honest and admit that the modern GOP is a pathological party of head cases and closet cases.
The bombastic base consists of many people who lack self-control. They can't keep their hands out of the cookie jar, so they work the political system to ban the container, so no one can enjoy a treat. What must eat these hypocrites alive is the fact that many "immoral liberals" are actually more likely to take one cookie and walk away from sweet temptation.
In retrospect, Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings oddly cast the president in the role of Jesus Christ. He was pilloried by the self-righteous and they thirsted for his blood to atone for their own seismic sins. It is no coincidence that those who most stridently nailed Clinton, were the most likely to be nailing someone who wasn't his or her spouse. (Who can forget Sen. Larry Craig calling Clinton a "bad naughty" boy)
The family values ad I saw in my youth makes no more sense today than it did two decades ago. Perhaps, families never belonged on billboards to be politicized and commercialized in the first place. Seriously, if you need a congressman to save your family, maybe your marriage isn't worth saving.
The last sentence alone was worth the trip to your blog.
As a bi woman married to another woman, I see quite easily where the "family values" crowd insults my little chosen family and others like it. However, I see so many kinds of families led by straight people that also don't conform to their "family values." Wiccan families, atheist families, liberal hippie families, blended families, single-mother families like the one I grew up in after my father died....
I don't understand why most any modern American wouldn't just laugh at them outright for acting like they own the patent on the word "family". I think more are, thankfully, but too many still take them seriously.
Politicians who preach "family values" often have something to hide. It reminds me of a similar sentiment that is expressed in this wise saying by H.L. Mencken: "In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell."
posted by Chris L., at
7/14/2009 10:29 PM
A family consisting of a father, mother and children is still the foundation of society. Though some politicians who extoll family values have acted like jerks, the mother-father (woman - man) relationship trumps all other relationships set forth by homosexuals.
posted by For the Truth, at
7/15/2009 8:02 AM
Oh, lovely! ANOTHER right wingnut troll! I kind of figured that you were from your post saying that Obama has done so much for GLBTQ people, but I thought I would give you the benefit of the doubt. Guess I was right the first time.
Grow the hell up, FtT! The mommy-daddy-child(ren) family does not trump anything! And before you come out with a dumb comments such as marriage equality is a threat to "traditional marriage", it is the straights who are dragging through the mud.Same-sex marriage has NOTHING to do with it.
If the mommy-daddy-child(ren) is such a cornerstone of society, how could marriage equality destroy it?
posted by Merlyn, at
7/15/2009 10:27 AM
Only a shoddy, deeply misguided individual would darkly assert the superiority of one relationship over another. When two adults love each other and dedicate their lives to each other, that is a wonderful thing. In such an imperfect world, it's disgraceful to desecrate the love that exists between two adult human beings, merely because one of them, in the mind of the bigot, is the "wrong gender." This is prejudice, plain and simple. It is something that is the result of a darkened heart and mind. Love should never be devalued, whether that love is between a heterosexual or gay couple.
posted by Chris L., at
7/15/2009 12:58 PM
I've been in relationships with both genders which makes me an expert on which relationship trumps which - its neither. Only the ignorant would make such a foolish statement.
posted by Priya Lynn, at
7/15/2009 2:16 PM
For the Truth.... so how would you view straight married couples who choose not to or can't procreate? Their marriages are less valid than those who breed or have bred? You're an idiot....civil marriage, NOT religious marriage, does NOT mandate procreation nor does a "state" issued marriage license. If anyone should be banned from marriage, its breeders like you. Government should not be issuing marriage licenses for religious hocus pocus "marriages" either, nor should it get involved by conferring the more than one thousand federal rights and privileges to any religious cultist's marriage either, among other things.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
7/16/2009 1:29 PM
Chris, its because religion is in the mix. These right wingers think that religioun own's marriage, it does NOT. It never has and it never will. Various forms of marriage existed long before the judeo/christian cultists came along and co-opted it to suit their own agenda, it was about control, power and money and subjugating women and still does to some extent. The reason these cultists post on gay sites is that they have no audience. They are basically, irrational, desperate, often sick people with a mental disorder who know that deep down, they're losing the cultural war, they're a dying breed fortunately. Many of them have a lot of skeletons in their closets and many are closeted gays themselves, the "ex-gays" probably.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
7/16/2009 1:35 PM