Thoughts on Family

Family is a very full word.  It carries most of our memories, aspirations, relationships and identity.  Defining family is the closest we can come to approaching but not reaching the act of defining self.

When I think of the division between conservatism and liberalism (as strange and twisted as both definitions have become in American politics), I cannot think of a starker difference in opinion than on the nature and significance of family.

On the one hand, you have organizations like the fundamentally ugly quiverfull, and the people their brand of thinking inspires (via inmate1972):

So I’m in this cafe with the Super Breeding Quiverfull Family of 14 and while some people giggled at the father trying to remember one his daughters’ first name, I focused instead on the incredibly sad look on the girl’s face and she corrected him no less than three times. But who is this kid to expect to feel special when she exists soley as a fullfillment of a mission?

That’s heartbreaking.  But I think its a mentality that plays out in many right wing positions.  In the war that grinds through a generation of soldiers, leaving some dead, and more deeply wounded in both mind and body.  In posititions on birth control that have led to preventable deaths.  The idea that a child is a punishment for having sex outside religiously acceptible terms is best viewed through the lens of people who have made the conscious decision to have children.  When you see the effort, love, and weird transformations (“I’m comfortable with picking another person’s nose now” – Rich) involved, you can’t help be see the child who is viewed as a weight as a victim of the cruelest loss.  And of course there is health care.  Any political idealogy that counts uninsured children as a necessity has embraced a cold and detached violence that replaces compassion with psychotic indifference.

On the other hand, there is the liberal view of family.  Blonder than You wrote this incredibly moving post on her accompanyment of a friend to the Emergency Room:

i kept playing it over in my head….you are not family…you are not family….

what the hell do these people know about family???? they dont know him they dont know me..they certainly dont know about our “family”….they dont know:

that his parents are assholes and kicked him out of the house when he told them he was gay

that i moved in with him for several months a few years ago when he first got cancer…to take him back and forth to chemo and to care for him after the treatments left him a mess…

that he gets realllly scared at hospitals… i mean you really only have to go through cancer treatments once for hospitals to leave a bad taste in your mouth…three times… and well…. you’ll pretty much freak out when they try to put an iv in your arm too…

that when i needed it..he offered to let me live with him…rent free… for as long as i needed (seriously… isnt THAT family)

Family is more than a social unit.  It is a level of connection that reaches compassionately into our deepest weaknesses to offer support.  Its knowing you can call and share your latest ideas, fears, passions and triumphs.  It leans over the line where the terms “close friend” and “best friend” sit as close as they can to each other.

Defining family is powerful:

but i swear … the whole thing…. made me agonizingly aware of the magnitude of not allowing gay partners to marry…i know that gay couples go through this kind of thing often… and … its awful… i cant really imagine it…two hours and i was near crazy…

step back folks…it isnt about having two dudes or two chicks on the top of a cake…. it isnt just about having a “wedding” … isnt about what “your god” preaches…..its about being legally defined as family….. not having to explain to a 17 year old receptionist who cant even tie her shoes..(she was born in the age of velcro) … what FAMILY is… cause reallly… its none of her business…

It is a way of defining who we are.  The battle for gay marriage is often viewed “merely” as a civil rights struggle of a particular group of people.  It goes far beyond that.  It is simply one front in the battle over a fundamental question.  Do we posses the liberty to determine our own relationships?

When you take your dear friend to the hospital, and you are the only one there, you are family.

When Obama wins office, one of the key points his platform advocated (as did Clinton, Edwards, and every other Democrat), was the idea of furthering patient’s rights.  The definition of “family” ought to be a part of that.  Hell, if the campaign was really smart, they’d make it a cornerstone.  Because nothing takes the hypocritical punch of “Family Values” out of right wing discourse like shoving real family values into the spotlight.

But on a more personal level, as I reflect back on the conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks, it reminds me how dearly I love the people in my life.  And how no matter how close a friend you are, it is never expected that you would take time to listen to my worries or my adventures, and always flooring to know that I could be the object of such caring.  And it always moves me that I am ever able to be the same sort of person for you.  So I owe some people a very big thank you.  And I am reminded how much is as stake, whether during an election cycle or not.

So I invite you, dear readers, to make politics personal.  Politics isn’t an abstract and filthy thing politicians do to keep the country running.  It is the energy that builds the world we live our lives in.  So it is by nature personal.  And what is more personal than how we are allowed to define family?


6 Responses

  1. As long as the myth of the Nuclear Family keeps getting passed down along the line as the “ideal” living arrangement, we’ll not see people stepping up to the plate and defending those of “non-traditional unions”.

    Forget that apparently now 50% of all children are born out of wedlock, this idea of Mommy+Daddy+Baby=Family continues to warp people into a sense of superiority (if you have that arrangement) and inferiority (if you don’t).

    I just don’t know what it is going to take break people out of this “My Way is the only Way” mentality. Maybe people thinking for themselves? Questioning the paradigm? Is that too much to ask?

  2. I am reading with interest (just happened here by following links, as this is a subject of interest to me), and then I get to inmate’s comment. WOW! I realize I don’t see eye-to-eye with y’all, however I in NO WAY feel superior to ANYONE! This is partly due to the very nature of my faith, which tells me to esteem others as better than myself.

    I love to objectively read the thoughts of others with differing viewpoints and hope that I’m not being judged with the standards by which people like me are accused of judging y’all! It just ain’t happenin’ on my end…. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  3. inmate1972,
    Thanks for stopping by!

    I think it is too much to ask. But it might not be too much to provoke. There must be a way to show people the heartache that inferiority causes. I think blonderthanyou’s story hits that note sharply.

    Where don’t you see eye to eye? On the power issues of a popular image of a “whole” family, or on what a family ought to be?

  4. I don’t agree that being QF is “fundamentally ugly”.
    There are many different types of people who are QF~every family is unique, and so therefore how each lives it out is unique as well. I don’t see eye to eye with a sweeping judgement of any group of people. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  5. It believe children are “arrows” for the lord. It involves having so many children one cannot possibly show the attention and love a growing child needs. Yeah, ugly. Its a striking judgment of anyone who adheres to the belief that their children are god’s weapons.

  6. That’s not entirely true. Being QF means trusting God to plan the size of your family~whether that means one child, three children, ten, or even none! It is an issue of absolute surrender, and children are viewed as His greatest GIFT and generous legacy!

    Now there are people that do try to manipulate the system, so to speak, by stopping nursing early so fertility can return sooner. This is still trying to control things, IMO. Some use NFP when realizing they don’t feel like they can handle more children, or maybe even decide QF is not for them. It is not my place to judge this! After all, we are all human.

    As a QFer who is thirty-six, it is not likely that I will have ten children. We have four and are so very blessed should we have more children or not! Living in absolute surrender means that there is peace in that area no matter what, and I so wish I could live in absolute surrender in every area as I can this one. I don’t know why there is peace in this part of life and less in other seemingly easier ones for me.

    I also cannot judge those who DON’T feel led to be QF. Again, we are all uniquely created and have different strengths and weaknesses. We all serve God in different ways, according to our gifts!

    I don’t expect to change your views, but I do hope I’ve at least shed some light on QF beliefs.

    (((((HUGS))))) sandi

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