September 12, 1996
Family values, the all-encompassing and rallying slogan of the nineties, were prominently showcased in our two Presidential conventions. The times these two words, families and values, kept being pronounced must have easily competed with the number of red, white and blue balloons dropped at the Republican and Democratic made-for-television extravaganzas. No doubt, this had to make everybody feel good-at least the 19 percent of the viewers who stayed tuned. However, the fact is that no one candidate nor their foot soldiers blessed us with a definition of a family and to which values they referred.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a family as "a fundamental social group in society consisting especially of a man and woman and their offspring." Beside the redundancy of the "social" group in "society", the dictionary fails to mention the precondition of being granted the family label, that is, marriage.
Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has attempted to remedy this absence of formalization by voting overwhelmingly to reject same-sex marriages, and the President, always faithful to his convictions, has let it be known that he will sign the bill. Thus, out of a negative, it reinforces the strong and direct relation between family and marriage: A man, a woman, and a sacred covenant with God that is better summed up by one word, Procreate.
Hence, obviously, gay and lesbian couples need not apply to the festive table of federal benefits provided to married couples and they certainly cannot be considered as a family. Unmarried heterosexual couples cannot either, even though they may out of reprimandable lust have procreated. They simply are not married. Married couples without descendants are out of luck too (why then does Pat Buchanan talk so much about family, he who's childless - at least to the best of our knowledge? Who knows, the out-of-wedlock syndrome is pretty rampant!). And even if they adopt a child, they ain't procreators. What about divorced couples, then? Once married but no more. Sorry, they do not fit the bill either. Can't be and have been, can they? Poor Bobby Doley and Newty Gengwitch or Gengbitch (spelling approximate), they're both divorced. Oh, but they remarried, should be okay and bring them back into the fold, at least so long as they breed again, which is not the case for Bobby and his born-again, aspiring actress wife Liddy (sorry, no knowledge of Newt's bedroom activities. Only heard about his younger sister, and that's another story).
Yet, here is a dilemma: What about single parents? We do talk about single-parent families, don't we? Does this mean that a divorced parent conforms to the definition of a single-parent family? And what about a woman who has a child out of wedlock? Does this also conform to the definition of a single-parent family? Or are we only referring to a widow, whose spouse died in some fossil-fuel desertic land in the name of our other fundamental values, such as our Right to Happiness that conveniently justifies the pilferage of the world's resources for our hard-earned comfort? Well, our legendary ability to adapt provides us with a valuable answer. It largely depends on whether welfare and the inner cities are involved. To be poor in our newly or Newtly rediscovered Victorian era is a shame, unmeriting of the family label. On the other hand, if you are a fruitful entrepreneur, go to church and contribute to a few charities such as jails and orphanages, we'll look the other way, federal benefits included.
Gosh, it does seem rather benign, so simple in effect that one could legitimately wonder why our informed political elite does not bother educating us, the people. In short, the strict definition is that you only have to be married with progeny (cats and dogs not included, though they do look nice in the smiling family picture!). If you are no more married, it's still okay as long as you remarry and keep adding to the overpopulation issue. Even churches accept divorced people now, and those that still consider divorce an evil act liberally grant annulments anyway. After all, 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce and the coffers of the Church are depleted... And then the not-so-strict definition comes from acknowledging the evolution of our culture! And our values are decidedly inherent to our culture, aren't they? So they evolve too. A family exists when a couple, as long as it is not gay or lesbian or poor and on welfare, is married with offspring, or divorced and remarried with added descendants. A single-parent family is acceptable in view of a healthy wallet. Everything else is to be ignored or exiled until the next evolving chapter.
So, as always, with some flexibility due to our evolving values, and everything being equal in an unequal world, we are looking at a man, preferably a hard-working, God-fearing man, a joyous singing mother, albeit, in our modern times also hard-working woman, with their 2.3 children and a couple of pets. Add the two-car garage and the median income and we get a delightful picture of our 1950 made-in-Hollywood Middle Class Family.
Family values? Must be a matter of subjective character... Don't you think we have a government that we deserve?