The Village as Family

In an MSNBC promo spot in 2013  Melissa Harris-Perry, writer, television host, and former professor at Princeton said:

“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children.So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s we start making better investments.”

There is a lot that can be appreciated about this comment, but it is what can be extrapolated from it that is more of what is of concern to me.  Melissa Harri-Perry is widely considered by the mainstream to be a progressive, but I’m not so sure of that. Not long after we founded United Progressives in 2008, she came to me and raised questions about the project, and then did a piece on If you want to know what being a progressive is all about, you can find it framed over there in United Progressives.

It wasn’t a bad piece, but what struck me is that there was little in her tone that indicated she embraced our values.  It was like she was talking to blacks about “those people” — possibly those WHITE people and their notions.  Given the point of view that I’ve quoted, however, there is clearly a disease she has adopted that is rampant among progressives which is the devaluation of the family and a heightened value to a collectivist belief in community responsibility for family values.  The traditional family structure of a husband, wife and children is in conflict with the perceived need to emphasize the value of non-traditional family structures, particularly those developed by the LGBT community.

I certainly don’t believe that parents “own” their children as chattel, but there is little doubt that parents do have some proprietary interest as well as direct liability for the care or lack of it they give to their children.  You can’t abuse your children, and you can’t neglect them.  It is your job to make sure that they have a proper education, are properly clothed and fed, and are capable of living up to social expectations.  The state, as an intangible factor in anyone’s life, does not do that and cannot, and community means almost nothing in large cities where people don’t even talk to their neighbors.  So what is left in such a critique?

What is left when we diminish the value of parents?  Where is this community that is supposed to step in?  What we have instead is the State, struggling along in its bureaucratic stew, neither having the will nor desire to care, being asked to care, and being asked to make caring decisions for parents which parents once had.  The State, of course, is represented by individuals whose motives are quite different from those of parents.    The decisions made are inevitably budget decisions:  what money do we have, how do we get more, and what must we do to get it?  State agencies do not get money to strengthen families.  They get money only if they break them apart.  They get matching funds from the Federal government for every child they put in foster care.  They get nothing if they don’t take children from their parents.  So in what sense can the State really look after children when they have no incentive to maintain a family?  The philosophy adopted is the same as Melissa Harris-Perry’s.  One adopts a philosophy that comports with one’s behavior.  It is necessarily in the best interests of a child to rip it away from its mother, because then the State becomes the mother and the mother becomes a wannabe babysitter who must attend numerous classes in the belief that someday she will get her child back.  The parent-child relationship takes a back seat to the State-child relationship, which in fact never does exist, because the child is simply dumped on someone who needs some extra cash and uses the foster care system to get it.  What we have is government in our lives where it doesn’t belong fucking things up.

The excuses progressives use to fault the traditional family — patriarchy, sexism, and the like — are not excuses to get rid of the family.  They are valid reasons to correct imbalances and inequities in gender relations, but what is happening is that we are literally throwing out the baby with the bathwater.   No one seems ever to think of what babies really need.  They need real moms, their own moms, and heightened respect for the relationship between a mother and her child is greatly needed.   They also need dads, because children need a balanced perspective about the roles of men and women in society.  They need to know who fixes the car and takes out the trash.  They need to know that it wasn’t two women who went to bed together and had a baby.  And when they find out the truth, they will need that dad further along in their lives just much as they need the nurturing and care of a mom, a tender loving voice, and a dry rag whenever they dump the oatmeal.

I wouldn’t deny the opportunity for a gay couple to raise a child.  There are plenty of children who need to be adopted and not enough caring parents willing to take on the responsibility.  But it’s no substitute for the real thing.  A woman masquerading as a man won’t pass the dad test.  When you as a child grow older, you’re going to find out that there’s something different about your family, and its something that you are typically going to be ridiculed for and made to feel less than whole.  So when the State takes a child from its real mom and dad and gives it to an adoptive couple who are gay,  there’s something wrong.  A social aberration has occurred.  There’s something wrong with the culture, with society, and the kinds of families it supports, especially when a system is in place that favors taking children from their real mothers and fathers because it pays.  This is a corruption of a process in the child’s life that leaves permanent scars.

Let’s remember that the real source of children, the real fountain from which they all spring, is a mom and a dad pursuing some variation of a traditional couple who have shouldered that responsibility.   It is the path that will be taken by the vast majority of men and women, and it will not be destroyed by idealistic views that attempt to make equal what can never be equal.  However, the fabric of society can be destroyed, with a whole nation suffering from an identity crisis.  Yet, there is no community that will ever take responsibility for being a mom and dad to children caught in unfortunate circumstances.   The State will never serve as a substitute for what a child needs, nor will any other stand-in solution, however well-intended, that did not come with real parents doing what they are, by nature, designed to do.

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