Past Puts Old Twist on New Idea
If there ever were a flag that needed furling and mothballing, it's
the blindingly pure banner of family values. Current political blather
toasting the good "good old days" and the bad "here and now" leads
befuddled voters a wearying chase over Fantasyland.
To hear the election-year version, up until recent times, every family
contained faultless father with proper, dutiful, stay-at-home wife,
and promising offspring, each one either spotless maiden or Eagle
Based on the rantings of Pat Robertson, et al., one might suppose that
godless misconduct-for the first time in human history-stalks the land
in the form of single parents, working mothers, unwanted children,
sexual peccadilloes, and Sunday-morning sleepers.
Dan Quayle and his cheerleaders punch up their glorified fiction by
shaming Murphy Brown while newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic
decry Princess Di's loveless alliance and Fergie's topless beachside
amours. And who knows what the Mia Farrow/Woody Allen hoo-ha will
bring? (Stay tuned. Pictures at 11.)
The evolving flapdoodle over American conduct issues from a single
false premise: that at one time escapees from tyranny sailed
fearlessly toward New World shores, founded one nation under God, and
thrived in sinless joy.
According to this quasi-history, Pilgrim paragons who blazed the first
trails through the wilderness worked harmoniously, devoted themselves
to their loved ones, and prayed incessantly, stopping only for
intermittent scripture readings and a resharpening of the ax.
Then, spawned by television, movies, gay rights, abortion, and women's
liberation, decay set in during the wicked, wanton 1990s. How we have
More than a wisp of doubt leads me to question this poorly researched
idyll. In history classes, I read of witch burnings, an Indian
massacre at Wounded Knee, stocks, pillories, branding, lynchings, and
the dissolution of families as owners sold slaves down the Big Muddy.
I can envision a few homefire scandals of the past as National
Jefferson Beds Slave Mistress
Franklin Feathers French Love Nest
Boone Raises Family While Dan'l Roams
Crockett Unsure of Future Since Davy's Rise to Fame
Nation Deserts Hubby to Swing Her Hatchet at Kansas Sin-Den
confronts FDR and His White House Honey
Doing More Than Driving Ike to the Front?
Were the perpetrators of these acts the same forefathers and
foremothers whom legends praise, statues honor, and politicians extol?
With these ancestors as models, we Americans have surely not slid down
the well-greased path to perdition overnight. Is it possible that
wife-beating, divorce, womanizing, illegitimacy, roving hsubands,
child neglect, and general slackness have always lined the pages of
our family album?
Perhaps we are onto a new tack. Maybe we have grown up enough as a
nation to accept the frailties of marriage and family and to take
stronger action than fundamentalist handwringing. Perhaps we have
fallen out of romance and into realism. This just might be a beginning
for family values.
"Catawba Valley Neighbors"
September 30, 1992