FAMILY VALUES?

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Now there’s a term that gets used and abused to an incredible degree—especially in election years. Many unthinkingly assume “family values” is a monolithic term (i.e., written in stone), one that has universal meaning like “a blue sky” or something. It conjures up images of motherhood and apple pie, Ozzie and Harriet (not Archie and Edith!), but I daresay there are as many variations of family realities as there are families. What’s more, individuals within a given family unit often have very unique views of their experiences.

I don’t know. Maybe it was inevitable that I would grow away from my family as I went off to college (the first and, so far as I know, only one of my generation to do so)and then took a job that would have me halfway around the world for the formative first half of my adult life. Certainly I have not—with most members of my family—achieved the degree of closeness I must have desired in moving back to the west coast. And I don’t think I am merely stubborn. I am not particularly happy about this state of affairs, but I am not unhappy either. It just is.

People evolve as human beings from their experiences, and my experiences have been very different from theirs. But does evolved suggest something superior? Or only different? When I was a kid I must have seen black people in that year that Mom and we three older kids lived in Portland, Oregon, to be nearer Dad who was then stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, but I don’t remember any making an impression on me. Certainly when we moved back to the southern Oregon coast, I never knew any. I do remember liberal use of the word nigger, especially from my father. And Myrtle Point at one time was rather proud of its “sundown rule” about black folks. There were very few black people on campus when I went off to college—just as the civil rights movement was heating up! As for gays, I never even knew what a homosexual truly was—just that “homo” was a pejorative term (though I did not know what the word pejorative meant either.)

Today I am embarrassed and ashamed of how ignorant I was. But I truly think I have grown from what I was. Grown. Evolved. Are those words of arrogance? I surely hope not.

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