Monday, December 1, 2008

Re-Defining the American Family

Kathleen Parker probably gets a lot of hate mail.

Obama's example could have society-altering effects, especially in the African American community. By his example, he telegraphs the following messages: Being smart is good; education is good; being a good father is essential. Being an egghead is cool.

Conservatives insist, correctly, that culture matters. Many liberals think so, too, by the way. Why, some liberals even stay married their entire lives to the same person and raise children to do the same.

You want Ward Cleaver? Meet Barack Obama. Michelle is June Cleaver with a law degree. Family values don't get more traditional than those of the Obamas, who ooze marital bliss and whose adorable daughters make feminist cynics want to bake cookies and learn to smock.

Though we may perish of boredom, the Obamas may do more to elevate the American family than all the pro-marriage initiatives conceived by those who claim to speak for the deity.
Since the "culture wars" began, vocal factions of the conservative base have successfully defined - for all of us, even liberals - what the intangible concept of "family" means through oversimplification and painted a picture of absolute "virtue" through divisive rhetoric designed to instill fear. Family values. Traditional marriage. Pro-"life." All of it cast in a template of Dobson and Robertson's evangelical right wing money machine. And it worked. We all have a tendency now to defend alternate points of view against this litmus test of "purity" that has now become part of the American paradigm of thinking.

But the American Family is more complex and more substantial than simply crafting anti-choice legislation and amending state constitutions to define one kind of marriage.

To steal the words of Jon Stewart, speaking to the hysterically frightened Bill O'Reilly:
Being religious doesn't mean you're a good person, it just means you go to church.
I'm hesitant to announce that we're seeing reality set in permanently, or moving beyond catchy phrasing and simplistic understanding into a more pragmatic definition of what "American Family" means, but it definitely looks like the opportunity to do so is here.


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