I’ve been giving a lot of thought about the definitions of family and family values lately. Most of my childhood was spent in a traditional family unit. I had a mom, a dad and six brothers. But compared to the popular television program at the time; Leave it to Beaver, ours was anything but traditional.
Untreated alcoholism and its ugly symptoms were our distant cousin often visiting unannounced. The threat of poverty was a constant. I remember neighborhood kids taunting me saying their parents were going to call “Welfare” on mine. At six years old I didn’t know what welfare was, but I sure had heard a lot about the poor house.
Children of the depression, my parents greatest fear was the “poor house.” Mom could stretch a pound of hamburger, a box of noodles and a can of tomatoes to keep us fed and she made sure we went to Sunday school clean and pressed, our hair slicked back with sugar-water.
With the occasional helping hand from extended family, and our community along with well placed mentors we survived and thrived.
I’ve spent a lifetime studying what makes a family. Most families are not the Cleavers. The definition of family reaches beyond that traditional family unit, genetics or living under the same roof.
The Republican Party would like us to believe otherwise. Inspired by Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly for decades it has proclaimed itself the keeper of family and family values; values we have allowed them to define and use to divide families, communities and our country. This is also the party that fights to reverse critical social policy and our healthcare reform in favor of rewarding the wealthy one percent.
After years of interviewing friends and neighbors and reporting on the issues that impact our community I can report the concept of family has evolved far beyond some mythical image embraced by those who would hold us captive in poverty and the fear that is left unfettered promoting a long list of isms. (sexism, Racism, Age-ism, Colonialism and more.)
Today’s family is extended, non-traditional, same sexed, heterosexual, singular, plural; all the above and much more. Defining family is more difficult that catching lightning in a bottle.
I’ve been blessed by the wonderful families that have come into my life. Among them, a mom working part-time, going to college full-time and raising four healthy and happy children. Another mom working toward sobriety and the return of her children. A family headed up by a grandmother and community leader willing to call out injustice as she sees it, while standing firm in her resolve to create a better life for her kids.
I also want to tell you about another young couple I know and love. Until recently they would not have been allowed to marry. But Minnesotans understood the ‘heart wants what the heart wants’— and voted to approve same-sex marriage. That young couple is now happily married, owns a home and is creating a life together under the full protection of law. I am proud to say Minnesota’s DFL party led the fight to establish laws and programs to ensure these amazing families have the opportunity to survive and thrive.
The members of my party have a strong work ethic, we respect every human. We stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. We are generous, honest and hold an open mind. We strive to live life well and do what we can to ensure others have the opportunity to live well. We are spiritual, fair and honest. That is the definition of family values in support of the evolving family.
With the 2018 midterm elections we have a unique opportunity to create the future we want for our children and grandchildren. To give hope to the generations that will inherit our legacy.
Our first step must be reclaiming the title as the party of family values; DFL, the Party of Family Values 2.0