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.