Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On the ideal family

Okay, so few things in life scare me more than almost agreeing with Rick Santorum.

The kindly junior senator from Pennsylvania was sporting enough to appear on the Daily Show last night (and yes, at this point I do get the vast majority of my news from Comedy Central, 'cause the real news makes me sad), and he made some good points with regard to the American family in general (vis a vis his new book, It Takes a Family, which is not getting an Amazon link from me, sorry Rick).

Senator Santorum said that society is based around the idea of a family with one man and one woman married for the purpose of having kids. I do kind of disagree with that; anthropologically speaking, the "traditional" nuclear family is kind of a new development, what with plenty of less-advanced and/or aboriginal societies living in all different kinds of arrangements and being just fine with it. Regardless, I will stipulate that the ideal family involves a kid having two parents (although I won't insist that they have one parent of each gender; see this post for my feelings on same-gender parenting). Once again, for the record, it is my person, unscientific opinion that any two-parent family, regardless of gender combo, is the ideal, and any discussion of the effect of gay parents on kids is just going to happen on another blog.

Here's where Rick and I significantly part ways, though: he feels that the government's job is to support that ideal situation. Well, okay, yeah, I actually do agree with that, too (isn't this scary?). But I don't agree that we need to support the ideal at the expense of reality. 'Cause reality isn't ideal. Reality is single mothers, sometimes single fathers, divorces, remarriages, stepfamilies, blended families. And while government certainly does need to support and even promote the ideal of two parents with a whole passel of kids, where at least one parent is available for those kids at all times, it's counterproductive to do anything that would prevent the other types of less-ideal families from thriving. Why would the sanctity of the traditional man-woman marriage be threatened by similarly loving marriages of same-gender individuals? While there's certainly nothing wrong with encouraging families to work through their difficulties, if a woman is in an abusive relationship, shouldn't the government also support her in her single motherhood when she makes the difficult decision to take the kids and get out? It's fine to place a special value on traditional families, but why does doing that mean that you also can't take a child out of an orphanage and place it with two men who love each other deeply and would make great fathers?

The problem isn't even that the Republicans are so far off in their thinking. When it all comes down to it, we want the same things. Democrats and Republicans both think that abortion is a bad and tragic thing. We both want every child to grown up in a supportive and loving family. We both want world peace (and tougher penalties for parole violators, Stan). But while so many (not even all) on the conservative side, particularly the Evangelical Christians, are unwilling to support anything outside of the Biblical ideal for society, those of us on the other side recognize that you have to work toward the ideal, but you also have to recognize that in the meantime, you have to abide in the society that you have, not the society that you want or would like to have.

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