“Dad, could you answer a question for me?”
“Sure, son, fire away.”
"What are Family Values”?"
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"Well, the Presidential candidates and a lot of other politicians are saying that we need to return to a time of 'traditional Family Values' and that they support Family Values and their opponents don’t. I don't know what that means."
"Well, son, I think what they want is a different America, a time when everyone has a job, we’re not at war and the future looks bright.”
“What does it have to do with gay marriage, the movies and video games?”
“Sure, they always seem to link Family Values with adult movies and gay’s getting married.”
“I see what you mean. Let’s take them one at a time. A lot of politicians think that the movie industry is destroying the Family Values in this country. They swear that if a kid sees an “R” rated movie the Republic and the American family are both going to collapse.”
“I thought that the rating system was just a guide to help parents pick movies. I didn’t know it was a commandment.”
“It is just a guide. A lot of people drop off their kids, the kids buy a ticket to see “Bambi” and then sneak into Bambi in Chains.
“Bambi in Chains”?
“Never mind, son. The point is that candidates want someone to blame for their claim that America is rotting, and Hollywood is a good target. With all of the movies you can get on the computer and On Demand, kids don’t even have to sit in a movie theater to see Bambi in Chains."
“Why is it Hollywood’s fault if a kid sees a movie rated “R”? Why isn’t it the kid and his parents’ problem?”
“Good question, son. You’ll never make a good Republican or a good Conservative, and for that you may be truly thankful. Anyway, it’s not the movies. They’re just a symptom and a target. Family Values relates to a time when all was good in America. A time when people felt safe in their homes, medical care was affordable for all and life was generally better than it is today."
"When was health care affordable for all?"
“Actually, it never was, but today healthcare costs are rising at a rate faster than the Secret Service can find a Colombian hooker."
"Medical care is breaking the country and everyone is scrambling for a solution and Family Values gets pulled into that mess."
"The Government is going to tell you what doctor to see, what medicine you can take and then set up Death Panels."
"Who said they were going to do all that?"
"No one, but if you tell the lie often enough, you scare people and people are tired of being scared. They want to return to a better time."
“Very interesting, dad, but when was this time of great Family Values?”
"You mean an exact point in time when all of those ‘feel good’ things came together? I'm not sure that there ever was such a time."
"There has to be. All of the candidates wouldn't lie to us would they?"
"I don't want to get into that, son. Maybe they can remember such a time. Let's see, I think the President and Romney were both born in the 1940s or 1950s. In the '40s we had World War Two, the holocaust, the destruction of Europe and Asia, the beginnings of the Iron Curtain, 120,000 Japanese Americans were locked up by our government just for looking different. We dropped the bomb and started an arms race. Flu and other diseases killed and crippled millions. Our society was entrenched in racial segregation. No, son, I don't think that we would want to go back to the 40s."
"How about the 50s?"
"Let’s see, we had the Cold War, Berlin blockade, polio, Korea, Thalidomide, the McCarthy hearings, the H-bomb, backyard bomb shelters, ‘Whites Only’ water fountains and schools, and the beginnings of Civil Rights protests."
"The Civil Rights movement was good."
"Sure it was, but it pointed out sores and wounds in our society that are still an embarrassment to us all. Plus, it was a painful and uncomfortable time. You asked if we would go back to that time and I, for one, wouldn't want to."
"What about the 60's and 70's?"
"They had some good things, but they had a lot more problems than solutions. We had the Cuban missile crisis, the rise of the drug culture, Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, the Nixon resignation, LBJ, LSD, KKK, The Chicago 7, the deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the worst thing of all: Disco.”
"The 80's sure didn't seem all that great."
"The government’s economic policy fueled the collapse of the Savings and Loan industry. There was property foreclosure on a scale exceeding the Great Depression. We had crack, cocaine, HIV-AIDS, the failure of the health care system to care for the poor, the rise in the homeless population. No son, the 80's aren't the answer."
“What about the 90’s”
“Son, we’re effectively still there. You don’t move past problems that quickly. For example, racial profiling and the anger over undocumented Mexican workers is a holdover from Jim Crow and the segregation battles of the 50s. It might take a few years to figure out the good and bad parts. ”
“And gay marriage?”
“That’s the new ‘colored water fountain’ issue of this decade.”
“Why should anyone care who you love, marry and live with?”
“They shouldn’t, but gay marriage is not ‘traditional.’ Angry and frightened people need an issue and this one is easy to identify and easy to grab to divide the people into us and them. People grab on to it in part because you can claim to care for gays, but care for the tradition of marriage more. You don’t sound like a true bigot.”
"Well if none of the candidates’ lifetimes provided a time of 'family values' then what does it mean?"
"Nothing. Politicians have no answers. There is a growing anger in the American people. To head off that anger, politicians try to bring to mind a better time that never really existed and then promise that they will take you back if you will only elect them. Everybody pictures 'family values' differently. Most people just want peace, food, shelter, and health care. If that is Family Values then we all want the same thing. The problem comes in because people want some pandering, bubble-headed politician to give them Family Values at no cost."
“It has to cost somebody, Dad. Nothing is free.”
“True, but most people don’t want it to cost them or their family. They don’t care if it costs some other guy.”
"It sounds like the people are as much to blame as the politicians for the lies and promises."
“You’ll still never be a politician, son, but you might just end-up being a thinking American and that’s rare enough.”