Politics and the Family
A Diabolical Plan to Destroy the Family
by Richard Eyre
Column 1 Column 2 Column 3 Column 4
In our first four columns, we’ve tried to discuss how important it is to understand that the family should be the basic unit of society. Now let’s pull back and take a longer and more analytical look at the difficult and dangerous reality of the society that has grown up around us that undermines our hopes and our efforts as parents, and that threatens to make it virtually impossible to create and preserve the kind of families we wish to have.
It is as though the world, particularly during the last part of the twentieth century, evolved in a way designed to threaten and weaken families. In fact, it sometimes seems like some force took a look at the ideal of a happy, functional family and came up with a plan to make that kind of unit impossibly difficult to establish and maintain. That family-destructive three-part plan would have looked something like this:
1. Suck people into such busy, materialistic, work-oriented and competitive life styles that their priorities, commitments, and time for communication shift away from family.
2. Make the family, with its traditions, rules and motivations redundant and unnecessary by replacing it with other, larger institutions that perform the family’s functions and lure away people’s loyalties.
3. Promote false paradigms and anti-values to replace time-honored religious values, and basic moral principles and ethics — and to get people so selfishly wrapped up in themselves that they lose interest in the needs and perspective of their families.
If it ever was a plan, it is working. Families are slipping badly, and as families go down, they pull society with them. Too many kids today can rap but can’t read. Too many know everything about drugs but can’t pass chemistry. Too many have sex but have no love.
In America today, more teenage boys go to jail than join the Boy Scouts.
A generation ago a survey revealed that the seven biggest problems in one high school were: 1. talking out of turn; 2. chewing gum; 3. being disruptive, making noise; 4. cutting in line; 5. running in the halls; 6. dress code violations; 7. littering. A recent survey at the same school provides the stark contrast. Today the seven biggest problems are: 1. alcohol abuse; 2. drug abuse; 3. robbery; 4. teen pregnancy; 5. assault; 6. rape; 7. suicide.
Prophecy Being Fulfilled
We call these crises “social problems” but it is far too tame a name — too academic, too theoretical, and too political. What we need is a word that suggests how dramatic and deep the dangers are. And maybe we already have the right word. Perhaps the word was presented in scriptural prophecy as the final verse of the Old Testament, where we are told that unless the hearts of parents are turned to their children (and vice versa), the whole earth will be cursed.
Burgeoning social problems are cursing America, and the breakdown of the family is precipitating the curse. The vacuum created by disappearing families sucks in everything from gangs to excess government. The public and private sectors — which should be supporting, supplementing, and protecting families — instead seem to be trying either to substitute for them or to undermine them. Our newest, largest institutions from giant corporations to information and entertainment systems are creating misplaced loyalties and false paradigms that are destroying the oldest, smallest institution of family. And parents, hot in pursuit of professional and financial success, can find neither the time nor the inclination to put family first.
Social problems today threaten our future as much as economic problems threaten the former Soviet Union. So great are these curses, and so turned away are our hearts, that as we enter the new millennium there is serious doubt whether America as we know it will survive. Rebuilding, reprioritizing, and revaluing our families is the only alternative to this country’s demise.
“Survive”. “Demise”. These are extreme and desperate words — words we don’t use much when talking about America. Especially since bomb shelters and the cold war have slipped away. But de Tocqueville predicted our destruction from within. Illness rather than injury; not threats moving in, but rot spreading out. Subtle rather than sudden.
The sickness we benignly and academically call social problems is so malignant that fathers rape daughters, so violent that children kill children, so epidemic that no one escapes.
The shiny surface of America is pockmarked by poverty, riddled by racism, gouged by gangs and guns. The greatest, richest land paradoxically contains the most dangerous and terrifying places on the planet, places where life is cheaper and joy scarcer than in any third or fourth world.
And more subtle but just as sure, the sickness spreads through the suburbs; incredibly expensive, seemingly incurable, unfixable by courts or welfare – expanding, spreading. Preventable and curable only at the smallest stage in the smallest organization: the family.
Individual lives can teeter for quite a while on the edge, bereft of the ties of family and the anchor of faith and values. A whole society can do the same thing. We must revalue our families. “Re value” has a triple meaning: 1. once again recognizing the transcending societal value of families; 2. personal reprioritizing of our families; 3. putting values back into our families.
The Basic Issues
But before parents can be fully effective in working on the micro, we must try to better understand the macro we work within. There are three categories of problems:
Problem One: Overcommitted, materialistic lifestyles and wrong-turned hearts.
Problem Two: Large institutions that weaken and undermine the most basic institution.
Problem Three: Proliferating false paradigms and anti-values.
Building strong families today, in this environment, is a huge challenge. In a way, it is a private war with the society around us. Even with the Church to help us (can you imagine trying to be a successful parent without the support of the Church?) we have to work at it every day. Striving to better understand the world and its trends as they affect family is part of what is necessary in order to win the war.
Join me next week to take a more international look at the challenges facing families. And, when you can find the time, read the earlier four columns in this series to have continuity and to put the next column in perspective.
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.