One truth that has pride of place in the progressive pantheon
is that the traditional family is a source of oppression for women and children.
Women and children, however, are less likely than ever to have to endure the
strictures of family. According to author Danielle Crittenden, women today are
more likely to be divorced, never married, or to bear children out of wedlock.
Unencumbered by the
oppressive effects of marriage, women are also more likely to be poor and to
suffer from addictions and sexually transmitted diseases. And their children, a
third of whom are being "raised in households headed only by a mother," are
paying the price for this emancipation. These children have higher dropout,
addiction and crime rates and are more likely to live in poverty. Having
survived the perils of slavery, the black family, in particular, was still going
strong until the 1930s. Then the Welfare State took over and the rest is
history. The black American family as a social unit has, to all intents and
purposes, been decimated.
What remains of the
unit that was once the transmitter of values in society cannot possibly pose a
threat to its enemies. Depicted so delightfully in the film A Christmas Story,
the traditional family has metamorphosed into what Charles Sykes calls the
"Therapeutic Family." Having "adjusted itself to the new demands of the social
contract with the Self," explains Sykes in A Nation of Victims, the modern
family has ceased to inculcate values. Instead, it exists exclusively for the
ostensible unleashing of "self-expression and creativity" in its members.
Broadcasting Corp., always a diligent underwriter of all forms of cohabitation
that deviate from the traditional family, must have slipped up when it screened
A Christmas Story. The film, set in the 1950s, depicts a series of family
vignettes through the eyes of nine-year-old Ralphie, who, for the Christmas,
yearns for that gift of all gifts, the BB gun.
Mother is a
homemaker, father is a regular working stiff, and between them they have no
repertoire of psychobabble to rub together. No one implores Ralphie to express
his feelings, or engage in any form of abreaction. In fact, he is urged to show
restraint and is disciplined when naughty. But he sure is not put on Ritalin for
day dreaming in class, nor is he diverted into life skills and anger management
curricula when he gets into a fistfight. Despite the dearth of therapeutic
comfort-speak in his life, Ralphie is a happy little boy.
Maybe the first to
have helped conflate the values of the middle class bourgeois family with
pathological authoritarianism was psychologist Theodor Adorno. Certainly, the
literal punishment Ralphie receives for uttering the "F" word, and the
ubiquitous reminders he gets of starving children when he refuses his food, fail
every New Age psychological commandment. By today's parenting standards, Ralphie
would be doomed to an emotional abyss.
rest assured: This bete noire of a family, with its oppressed mother,
therapeutically-challenged father and firm discipline, is being reined in. The
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has trounced the Bill of Rights
on issues of human rights, has deleted reference to the family. Coupled with the
omission of any mention of the family, the Charter includes "age as a prohibited
ground for discrimination." With this, writes lawyer Cindy Silver of the Center
for Renewal in Public Policy, the Charter "effectively changed the
constitutional status of children to one of prima facie equality with
The legacy of the
Adorno construct has been carried over into the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child. Here the consensus among rights advocates is that, due to
its authoritarian structure, the traditional family is oppressive to women and
children. "The solution," explains Silver, "has been for the State to shift the
balance in the parent-child relationship through policies that would define and
limit the power of the parent while increasing the power of the child."