Friday, November 4, 2016

Traditional Family Values

It's another election year and we are being bombarded with frickin'... wordswordswordswordswordswordswordswordswords.
UGH. It's exhausting isn't it? A few weeks ago I started ignoring as much of it as possible. 

Politicians on the campaign trail tend to all sound alike to me. Their words always sound blustery and full of crap. Maybe they are aware that people don't truly listen to the words as much as they look for key expressions and values to agree with. Maybe that is why politicians use code words. Words that have LOTS of meaning and NO meaning at the same time...that way the people listening to the speeches can attach their own meaning to them and can assume that they are in agreement with the speaker when, in fact, most politicians are adept at using unclear language in order to allow the listener to interpret them, to include themselves in the club.

You know the emotional words I mean. Family. Life. Babies. Independence. Liberty. Freedom. Jobs. Us. Heritage. Love. God. Family. Equality. Fairness. Enough. Future. Luxury. Value. Technology. Work. Progress. Tradition. Belonging.

Say each of those words to yourself and get a sense of their meaning. Now check with ten other people. I guarantee their meanings will differ from yours.

Each of us likes to think that we have chosen our own values, that we, independently, considered all of the options and have chosen our own set of family and personal values. But that is not so. We are all highly influenced by the culture around us. I think it is significant that we think we are all unique in this endeavor, that we take pride in our independent thought. I absolutely include myself in this. I love the belief that I think outside of the box, that I have cobbled my value system together. But in reality I'm quite sure I am still somewhere inside of that box...albeit on the fringes. We can't help it, none of us live in a cave and we are influenced by everything surrounding us.

So let's have a quick look at Traditional Family Values, the catchphrase of the Republicans. That phrase catches at the hearts of American voters. Traditional. Family Values. Not just because it elicits some romantic idea of what used to be (but never really was) but because it seems to give the weight of reality to the deepest, most hidden desire of so many adults. A beautiful set of loved ones sitting around the dinner table, a dining table covered with plenty. A table beautiful in its healthy, delicious foods. A set of people who are smiling, happy, connected, belonging. Blood-related people beaming at one another and at the spread before them. People at peace with one another and with themselves. It's a scene we all know in our minds eye. We long for it.

When you envision this lovely repast does it matter to you the gender of the people around the table? Does the race of the people matter to you, other than that they are themselves? What about the foods being served? Are you aware of the complex relationships of the people sitting together? The past and future plans of the members of this family? Seems to me that what really matters at a Family Dinner is that we are all together, connected, eating, laughing, loving...

When I think about my family sitting around the dinner table, we are all imperfect. We are struggling. We have our past and present dramas. We love one another. We are probably eating something I have created and that is generally edible. We are sitting at our regular spots. We do, on the outside, look a bit like that TV family. We have a father/mother parenting thing going, kids, food. Cool. But that is just us!

We have friends who are single-parent families, single-gender couples, poly-amorous couples with children, mixed race families, multi-generational families, and each of them IS A FAMILY.

I truly believe that any use of the idea of Traditional Family Values that requires the family to be all-white or all one race, male/female leads, generally meat and potatoes eaters is an idea that is not only WAY past its time but also way Way WAY WAY inaccurate in this country. Let's let go of the completely bullshit concept of an unrealistic and, frankly, an undesired idea of what a family is and let's love and support the families that each of us has cobbled together with the loving desires of our own hearts.

Let's make THAT a Traditional American Family.

 What do you think? 


  1. As usual a great read! We must be psychically linked Karen. I've recently been looking at secondary school (high school to Americans) brochures as I was trying to decide whether to send my daughter back to school at age 12. I kept seeing the same phrase repeated over and over: Traditional Values. This was supposed to appeal to parents, but instead it just freaked me out. What exactly do they mean? Is it by any chance all those impressive 'traditional' values that underpin homophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and every other form of othering fueled by hatred? At the very least, the touting of traditional values as something to aspire to shows a lack of deep thought (not a great thing to advertise as a school) or worse yet it is an underhand way of collating those who apply to the school to ensure they are only left with the children of the white christian patriarchal parents. Rant over! As always, I deeply enjoyed reading your post. Warmest wishes, Eugenia xx

    1. Rant on! I would be very cautious of any institution that uses "family values" as a almost always means CONSERVATIVE family values.

      I'm so happy to hear from you, Eugenia