Is Ignorance a By-product of Traditional Family Values

Traditional family values are political and social beliefs that are typically Christian-based and hold that the nuclear family to be the essential ethical and moral unit of society.  In the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, the term has been frequently used in political debate, to claim that the world has seen a decline in family values, and therefore a decline in social morality, since the end of WWII.  I have absolutely no problem with traditional family values as a concept, I just don’t think that they ever really existed.

The problem I have with the concept of traditional family values is that they are used as a weapon to strip others of their rights and frequently backed up by some idiot who begins his argument with the words, “Well the bible says. . . .”  Let me say this now and get it out of the way.  Almost no one interprets the bible correctly.  People know their end game so they find data they can construe to support it.  As soon as someone unqualified starts to quote scripture I mentally shut down.  Let’s face it, some of the biggest proponents of Christian family values are later caught with young male baggage handlers they found on rentboy.com or are having extra marital affairs, or are closeted politicians with nude photographs on Grindr.  I’m really nervous about what will eventually be revealed about Senator Michele Bachmann and her husband. The people who yell the loudest seem to be doing so out of fear to distance themselves from the “sin.”  To me this mirrors the frequency in which men who now self identify as being gay admitted to gay bashing when they were younger as a way to deny their sexual orientation.  It’s all fear based.

I believe the illusion of traditional family values exist, but in most cases the concept never reached application.  TFVs were famously depicted on television with Ozzie & Harriet. Harriet was always dressed impeccably and adorning an apron.  When Ozzie came home she met him with a drink and a pair of slippers.  Dinner was always 10 minutes away from being served, the optimal time to finish a drink.  She knew her place was second in the household.  Ozzie was the man, and therefore the boss, just as it was meant to be.  My first comment on this is to let everyone know that Ozzie and Harriet was a television show.  It wasn’t real.  Please google “Fiction.”  Viewers watched it because it was the unreachable ideal.  It’s the equivalent of age defying makeup.  We know you want it to be true so we’ll keep selling it to you.  Is this what the conservative movement is fighting to regain?  If so, would Michele Bachmann be a senator?  If she wants traditional family values then shouldn’t she remain in the kitchen?  Do we want this moral core or do we just want to ensure that others who are “not like us” do not have equal rights?  Let’s explore that a little.

In November 15, 1960, The New York Times wrote: “Some 150 white, mostly housewives and teenage youths, clustered along the sidewalks across from the William Franz School when pupils marched in at 8:40 am. One youth chanted ‘Two, Four, Six, Eight, we don’t want to segregate; eight, six, four, two, we don’t want a chigeroo.’  Forty minutes later, four deputy marshals arrived with a little Negro girl and her mother. They walked hurriedly up the steps and into the yellow brick building while onlookers jeered and shouted taunts. The girl, dressed in a stiffly starched white dress with a ribbon in her hair, was gripping her mother’s hand tightly and glancing apprehensively toward the crowd.”  This was or dare I say is traditional, white family values.  Maybe this is what conservative groups are trying to bring back.

In 1963, Normal Rockwell shocked his followers when he released his illustration in Look Magazine, titled, “The Problem We All Live With.”  It depicted the same civil rights story just told but in a way that resonated with the masses. It showed tomatoes being thrown at the little girl.  It showed the requirement of a US Marshall escort just so a little girl could go to school safely.  It wasn’t just a column filled with words, but rather an image that gave meaning to the words.  In 1963 Rockwell was not allowed to depict a black person as the primary character or in anything but a subservient role.  This is still considered Rockwell’s most controversial piece. The image is exactly what it is, regardless of how one feels about it politically.  It is in the title, “The Problem We All Live With,” where words may be misleading.  Is the “problem” stated in the title racism or is the “problem” in the title about desegregation?  Regardless, the image stands on its own.  Christian family values were the core of this and other similar demonstrations.

Film, another art form, has also taken on the subject of racism and traditional family values. The most current example of this is the film, The Help.  Oppression, fear and ignorance were spread like mayonnaise on white bread with the dagger of traditional family values.  A value system that taught segregation, that taught hierarchy, that taught passing judgement. Seriously, what would we have become without these traditional values?

The loudest civil rights movement happening today is probably gay rights.  When searching for art work depicting this fight I discovered a painting that regardless of how one feels politically, should ellicit a reaction. The painting was completed in 1993 by Artist Steve Walker.  I wish that the painting did not have a title, because I believe it makes a stronger statement without it. The title, “Some Family’s Values,” in my opinion does a disservice to a brilliant painting.  My concern is that people will interpret the title rather than take in the image and decide for themselves. With that being said, I have worked in the art industry for years and I know how much collectors love titles. Regardless, the depiction of a traditional family looking at a painting that appears to depict a same-sex couple caught in a serious moment is profound, regardless of whether one is offended or hopeful. I can further interpret this painting but it becomes a more powerful piece if each viewer decides what it means to him or her.  If this nuclear family can look upon this painting and see a loving couple what is society’s harm?

Similar to what some racial minority groups in this country have experienced, and continue to experience, gay people also experience prejudice in nearly all aspects of their lives. ”Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was a hot bed issue for years.  Gay men and women could serve in the military and die for their country as long as they didn’t tell anyone who they really were. Countless research revealed that soldiers who reported that they did not know a gay soldier were against the DADT repeal.  Soldiers who reported that they were aware of gay soldiers were for the DADT repeal.  What this should tell anyone is that the replacement of ignorance with personal experience and information is powerful tool at eradicating prejudice.  A now famous quote reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” — the tombstone epitaph of decorated Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich.

One of the newest art forms is the independent film.  A Google search of gay-themed films was somewhat disturbing as most appeared to be sophomoric sex romps with very questionable scripts. There were several that appeared to cover the topic with respect. One notable film was Save Me starring Chad Allen where a man was sent to a religious camp to “pray the gay away” and of course the multiple tellings of the Matthew Shepard story, The Laramie Project.  If you haven’t seen this play I highly recommend it if nothing more than a statement on the human condition.

Coincidentally, the morning I was putting this story together I received an email from Gustavo Marcolla about an independent film he is trying to finance titled, Pink & Green. The initial trailer pitch (www.vimeo.com/28369377) opens with the first card reading, “In 19 countries throughout the world, same-sex foreign partners of legal citizens can be granted citizenship upon marriage, essentially the same rights afforded to heterosexual binational couples.” This legal standing is not offered in the United States. The USA is behind at least 19 other countries when it comes to civil rights.  Why does this not anger more people?  This film is telling a story that reflects the conflict occurring between traditional family values and same-sex couples, two groups that quite honestly do not have vastly differing values.  The difference being that the latter believes everyone should share the same rights, while the former does not.  As marriage for same-sex couples remains a controversial topic in this country, immigration status changes will likely take a generation or more until same-sex marriage is acknowledged by the nation and not state by state.  To learn more about Pink & Green and how you might help its production visit the official website at www.pinkandgreenthemovie.com.

I know my ancestors owned slaves.  I know that now it is not something talked about as it feels like a blemish in our ancestry.  History tells us that art reflects what was happening at the time it was created.  Major social change occurs through conflict and perseverance. When change is proposed those fearing change bury their heels in the dirt and preach the joys of tradition.  Tradition can be a wonderful thing, but not when it steps all over the rights of others.  We are a changing country.  If we insist on remaining the same we are doomed to fail.  Some say we are already failing.  Are you still proud that your family owned slaves? Will your great grandchildren be proud of how you handled civil rights?  When did “progressive” become a bad thing?

Traditional family values no longer have a clear definition.  Those preaching it do not want to live by them or they want to customize them to support their existing life style.  So I ask, is ignorance a by product of traditional family values or are traditional family values a product of ignorance?

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