I'm thinking this morning how easy it is for things to be taken out of context; sometimes deliberately to break a person's strength; sometimes over time, slowly eroding the original conviction or message; sometimes simply to make a dramatic point, as in divide and conquer.
I would never make a good feminist.
Go ahead quote me, use me for taking pot shots, and have your way with that, whatever you please.
I looked up the lambasted thesis by Bob McDonnell from May of 1989, written for the College of Law and Government, The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue for the Decade. My only wish now is that he could pull a Jerry McGuire and place a copy of it in every body's in-box in Washington.
I have only taken a fair amount of time this morning skimming it's pages, and I'm not exactly sure what drew me to finding it in the first place, but I find myself awestruck by it's content, it's projections, and it's ability to be a thing of prophetic beauty.
Having been written in 1989, in the very first month after I got married, it intrigues me on a personal level. The eighties was a decade marked with society taking all kinds of liberties, marked with change in attitudes from our dating practices, to how we made our wealth first and foremost, to immediate gratification and yuppie-dom, to how we delayed the call to marriage -- raising a family and the responsibility thereof was just not part of the plan -- that is until we were ready -- it was our prerogative.
What fascinates me in this moment is how the media latched onto this one thing about his thesis -- this one thing that from all appearances was centerfold to the thesis itself -- the sentiment and belief that all of society's woes today ('89) was entirely due to women working outside the home. McDonnell, his argument, and his so-called backwards prognosis was blasted by the left, feminists, the democratic party all in a united effort to obliterate any chance of him succeeding in the race for the Virginia Governorship.
I wonder, in the spirit of current Health Care legislation, did anyone actually read it?
Interesting enough that the tactics of the left to vilify Bob -- turning him into the poster boy against every women's lib right known to man -- didn't work; but more important, how can something so ahead of it's time not be considered spot on and welcomed into the conversation to this day?
In his introduction, McDonnell quotes a sociologist from the University of North Carolina, Professor Peter Uhlenberg, "increasingly, Americans are pursuing a selfish individualism which is inconsistent with strong families and strong communities."
My conclusion is that those who criticized his work based upon this one element -- the working and fully liberated woman -- have no idea what they are talking about, and miss the point he was making entirely.
The piece is masterful setting up the real argument -- that being the deterioration of traditional family and the reasonable responsibility of government to defend and uphold the traditional family, and it's affects on society if we fail. Quickly turning to support from The White House Working Group on the Family, dating back to 1986, he states this observation from the council:
"Everywhere the equation holds true: Where there are strong families, the freedom of the individual expands and the reach of the state contracts. Where family life weakens and fails, government advances, intrudes and ultimately compels."While McDonnell adds this finding from the group as well,
"historical reality that every totalitarian movement of the twentieth century has tried to destroy the family. The modern American experience can be seen as an ideological battle between the forces of democratic capitalism and socialism, with the latter's attempt to 'substitute the power of the state for the rights, responsibilities, and authority of the family.' "No kidding.
Adding this, he states the condition
"goes beyond basic arguments of conservatism versus progressivism...Whereas faith and family had provided the roots of culture in the past, the rise of modernity and liberalism have given America a legacy of relativistic hollowness, homelessness, selfish heartlessness, and the death of God and heroes."As an example of only one factor -- besides the pervading issue of women working outside the home sabotaging McDonnell's well collaborated thesis -- he looks upon the Department of education for support, noting that despite increases from "5.2 billion to 25.3 billion from 1966 through 1981, scores on the benchmark Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) dropped about 6% in math and 10% in verbal during the period." Today, are D.O.E. budget is slated to spend 46.7 billion -- while just looking at dropout rates of 20 - 30%, and some neighborhoods as high as 50%, throwing more money at something isn't always the best answer.
Another factor is just pure uncensored tax growth. At the time this thesis was prepared, McDonnell sited findings that the average "two-parent family with four children saw its federal income tax liability increase 224% while the social security tax increased 600%, to 7.15% of gross income" and subsequently obligating many families to consider having both parents work outside the home.
The thing is, as a girl lucky enough to have been raised with a mom home after school, I know from first hand experience how important both parents are to the growth and welfare and stability of a family. When it came time to raise a daughter of my own, I was lucky enough again -- as running an upstart family business allowed for me to stay home when she was a baby until the age of three.
Then as luck should have it, a failed marriage and loss of business preempted the best laid plans.
I became one of those moms who had to work outside the home; leaving my daughter's after school care not to an aunt, or a grandmother, or neighbor, or friend, but to a system -- the institutions in place to care for our children when obligations to earn a living give you no other choice. I dragged my feet to the call of duty because I had to. I didn't want to, I had to.
You see, I really would never make a good feminist...there it is.. the big ugly truth.
I just wanted to give my girl the same opportunity I had -- to have her mama home baking cookies, helping with homework, taking her to lessons, leisurely making dinner...giving both of us the foundation to build a solid relationship, protecting her from unnecessary worries or fears or insecurities or doubts. It's what we are suppose to do as parents; to be sure, once we have children it's not about us anymore.
Oh and before you all jump all over me and tell me to grow up and stop complaining, I am not whining -- even if it sounds like it. I am just proclaiming my priorities for myself and my family. And to be even more clear, I have loved working outside the home too -- having the identity and independence away from just being a mom, making money, and having the liberty to come home at the end of the day with take-out or cooking dinner with my girl on the counter talking about our day...
The point is, it's always a condition of a trade-off, isn't it?
For the last forty years, America has been in this massive experiment with making trade-offs -- some have profited wildly, while other things have rapidly gone into decay. For some people pulling off meeting the requirements of the Jones' looks easy; while others get plastered over the newspapers and tabloids showing every dysfunctional nook and cranny; while still many perpetuate generations of issues that cry out to the community for help.
But it most certainly doesn't just come down to the one thing that we did wrong like women working outside the home; even McDonnell with all his good intentions and expertise and foresight understands this -- you would know that too if you would only take the time to read what he actually said.
Perhaps we might even recognize that money doesn't always replace just good old fashioned attention to detail.
Details like simply respecting our parents and authority, going to school and graduating, going to church and having moral courage, getting a job and doing our best, saving our money and living within our means, getting married and being committed, and raising our own children well -- raising them to be the conscientious, responsible, engaging and productive part of the community in which we live so that we have half a chance of continuing the greatest society the world has ever known.
No amount of money will really fix the issues we have going on right now. The only thing that has this kind of earth shattering power starts with a single detail -- a good family.
No matter how it looks, no matter how much money we make, no matter where we live -- a family should be the one and only thing that we do well and with our utmost attention and highest priority. Whether it be a family of one or Jon and Kate plus eight minus one. Whatever it is, we must do it right with due diligence to be our very best, and produce the very best, right from the start.
"Strong families are the foundation of society. Through them we pass on our traditions, rituals, and values. From them we receive the love, encouragement, and education needed to meet human challenges. Family life provides opportunities and time for the spiritual growth that fosters generosity of spirit and responsible citizenship.
Family experience shape our response to the larger community in which we live. The best American traditions echo family values that call on us to nurture and guide the young, to help enrich the lives of the handicapped, to assist less fortunate neighbors, and to cherish the elderly. Let us summon our individual and community resources to promote healthy families capable of carrying on those traditions and providing strength to our society."
Proclamation of Family Week, November 15, 1984
(Introduction of McDonnell's Thesis)
Having failed miserably in all areas of my life at one time or another -- most assuredly pointing to marriage and finances -- the one thing I must do well is about to come home from school and is counting on it.
The ability to be here to watch her come through the door, priceless.
The trade-off is worth every minute of it; while even the staunch feminist must recognize and appreciate that there are consequences and benefits to every choice we make. Working outside the home is not evil, but perhaps more existential; it's merely a product of society -- an innovation that which we might learn from and perhaps even be so bold to build a republican platform on -- so that the American family and it's culture lives on to see another day.
Don't hate...that's really all that Bob was trying to say, and as a matter of fact, says it all.
Make it a Good Day, G
And lucky for Virginia, Bob's in charge.