Monday, July 6, 2009

Taking back our language

Dick pointed out to me when we were leaving the "Winslow Family 4th of July Celebration" that we should have known we'd be subjected to something distasteful because the word "family" was in the name of the event. He's right, but I hadn't given it much thought for I only cared about seeing a large fireworks display. He reminded me that every year there's a nearby bluegrass festival with the word "family" in its name, and when one goes to the website, one discover it's a Christian event.

"Family" has become a codeword for Christian, and extension of the Christan right's idea of "family values", supposedly wholesome, anti-gay, and anti-choice.

Just calling oneself a Christian has become problematic. If you're an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian, a Catholic, well, saying you're Christian could give someone else the wrong idea. Christian has come to mean you're born again, nothing less, and certainly much more.

The word "values", too, has been taken hostage. During the election, I was polled on the phone and asked how important values were to my voting on a scale from 0-10. I answered 10 and the minute I hung up the phone knew that I'd be counted amongst the "values voters", assumed to be right-wing Christians, of which I am neither. These values do not include my values. They did not even ask what they might be.

I'd like to take back the words "family" and "values" from the far right. For me, family means just that, a family, but my idea of family is broad, including both families of friends, married gay people, and the family of all of humanity. My values cherish everyone, not just American fellow-Christians who believe in the same exact things as I. I value life, but I'm more concerned with those now living, and don't think the poor's lives are so cheap as to entice them so shamelessly into military service for the price of one year of community college or some such. My values include ensuring that all people have access to proper health care, and that that's much more important than ensuring our children are told that evolution is a theory. My values say all of us are equal, no matter what our sexual orientation is. My values include finding it disturbing that many of our children are brought up to practically worship guns and violence. If I was a Christian, I'd be concerned about the connotations that the name of my faith now hold, and even as a non-Christian I'm bothered. I am concerned with how the rest of the world perceives us still, as a young country filled with religious fanatics who know nothing of history and the rest of the world, and are obsessed with magical thinking about the rapture, ghosts, and guilt-driven sexuality (and atonement).

I don't have to point out that language is quite important. We call a soldier a "troop", which distances us from the death of an actual person. Torture became enhanced interrogation. . .the list is very long. We should start calling things what they really are and speaking out when our language is used as code or to shield us from reality.

Photo note: I needn't point out that indoctrination starts young. When I think back to my early schooling, I'm shocked at how some things have gone backward. We had sex ed every year, good science classes, and even an elective bible study class which caused no stir.


jmcleod76 said...

I am Jaime McLeod and I approve this message!

Any time someone goes on about so-called "family values," I ask them "What about my family? What about poor families? What about the countless good, happy, supportive families who don't share your values?"

And thank you for distinguishing between what you mean by "Christian" and the countless people who practice Christianity but don't fit the rigid, oppressive definition of the religious right. When I intend to refer to those Christians, I make a point to say "the American Evangelical movement" rather than Christians. That's also a bit too broad, since there are some progressive Evangelicals, but it cuts a lot closer than "Christians." Of course, "fundies" works too, and has the added bonus of being a double entendre. ;o)

Julie H. Rose said...

No, those "family values" are only for heterosexual couples with children, who presumably only have sex for procreation purposes. I used to get right to the point about that, even if it was crass, and ask people who would say that homosexuals should not have rights because their "lifestyle" was "unnatural" if they'd ever performed oral sex on their spouses. I was always surprised how the question would actually provoke an honest response in women. "Uh, well, of course. . . " they'd stumble and mumble. I don't believe that is a way of producing offspring, do you? One woman told me she'd ask her minister about this question. I wonder what he said.

And of course there's a distinction between Christians! But I don't get your double entendre - "Fundies" are those from New Brunswick, to me. I must be missing the obvious!

Julie H. Rose said...

Oh, I didn't notice the link, 'cause I read your comment in my feeder. HAH!

BitterGrace said...

I couldn't figure out why anybody would want "fundies" until I read the comments. Ingenious!

On a more serious note, I couldn't agree more with everything you both say. I fume every time I hear George Tiller referred to as an "abortion doctor." He was a doctor, an OB/GYN. He deserves the same title of respect as any other physician.

BTW, I was slightly amazed by your account of the July 4 event, Julie. Even here in Redneck Central, nobody much wants to celebrate the reign of the Shrub. Some defend him, of course, but they always look a little embarrassed to hear themselves doing it.

Julie H. Rose said...

Maine's public face is primarily the coast and its idyllic little villages.

This is a fiercely independent state, where 1/3rd of registered voters are independents. That sounds fine, but it is composed of many people who are proud rednecks who abhor government. Bush II's macho attitude was popular here. As was (and is) Palin, with her pandering to gun-toting, Carhart-and-cap wearing guys who liked her hot chick who shoots animals persona.

You betcha!

Aw - I've vowed not to make fun of Sarah Palin. It's a hard vow!

Yes, this is redneck-land, much of it. When one enters the state by car, there's a big sign that reads "Maine - the way life should be."

As one ambles up the coast in one's car, the lovely New England coast seems so pristine. Go inland and it's Appalachia, which makes sense. The trail ends (or starts) here.

Tania said...

So much word, Julie!

When I think of families, my first thought (after my own) at the moment is of my friends Trevor and Peter, who have been posting such beautiful photos of their new twin baby girls, born to a surrogate. It saddens me that the religious right would not consider them a family, but an abomination.

Well, f*ck their idea of family values, if it excludes people like my friends. I agree, let's take those words back!

jmcleod76 said...

I probably should have asked this a few days ago, but I've been pre-occupied with other things...

@BitterGrace - Which comments, exactly, wre ingenious?