Set in the 1940s, the film “A Christmas Story” depicts a series of family vignettes through the eyes of 9-year-old Ralphie, who yearns for that gift of all gifts: the Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. This was boyhood before “bang-bang you’re dead” was banned; family life prior to “One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads” and Christmas without the ACLU.
Ralphie’s mother is a homemaker; father a regular working stiff. Between them they have no repertoire of psychobabble to rub together. Nobody implores Ralphie to express his feelings or abreact, as kids do today. In fact, he is taught restraint and disciplined when naughty. But he sure is not put on Ritalin for daydreaming in class. Nor is he biologically deprogrammed in “life skills and anger-management” classes when he gets into a fistfight. Despite the dearth of therapeutic comfort-speak in his life, Ralphie is a happy little boy – not hallmark happy, but normal happy.
If children could choose their families, most would opt for the kind depicted in “A Christmas Story.” But they can’t. “Progressives” have consigned that middle-class family from hell to the dustbin of history. To them it has long been axiomatic that the traditional family is the source of oppression for women and children.
Philosopher Theodor Adorno was perhaps the first to have helped conflate the values of the bourgeois family with pathological authoritarianism. Ralphie has his mouth washed out with soap and water for uttering the “F” expletive. (“My personal preference was for Lux, but I found Palmolive had a nice piquant after-dinner flavor – heady but with just a touch of mellow smoothness,” he reveals). He is also guilt-tripped with starving Biafrans when he won’t eat. Both these parenting techniques would fail every New Age psychological commandment. By today’s standards, Ralphie would be doomed to an emotional abyss.
The Adorno construct has also informed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Here, too, the consensus among rights advocates was that the traditional family’s authoritarian structure is oppressive to women and children. “The solution,” explains Cindy Silver of the Canadian Center for Renewal in Public Policy, “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.”
“Progressives” can now relax: This bete noire of a family, with its “oppressed” mother, therapeutically challenged father and contained kids has been reined in. The judicial trend of the state as parens patriae has seen the family usurped by the state as the primary socialization agent. Although the Founders intended for the family to be left untouched as “the major source of an orderly and free society,” says Dr. Allan Carlson, politicians have had other ideas. The welfare state in conjunction with the Supreme Court’s radical interpretations as to what constitutes a family and marriage have dissolved what was once the economic and social backbone of American society. Consequently, contemporary America is a society plagued by familial fragmentation, sky-high divorce rates, illegitimacy and the attendant delinquency – juvenile crime, drug abuse and illiteracy.
Culturally, the family has metamorphosed into what Charles Sykes of “A Nation of Victims” terms the “Therapeutic Family.” Having “adjusted itself to the new demands of the social contract with the Self,” the modern family has ceased to inculcate values. Instead, it exists exclusively for the ostensible unleashing of “self-expression and creativity” in its members.
What remains of the unit that was once a vector for transmitting values in society cannot possibly pose a threat to its detractors. Women and children are less likely than ever to have to endure its confines. Women these days are more likely to be divorced, never married, or to bear children out of wedlock. Unencumbered by the “oppressive” effects of marriage, they are also more likely to be poor and to suffer from addictions and sexually transmitted diseases. Their children, a third of whom are being raised in households headed only by a mother, are paying the price of “emancipation.” They are more likely to live in poverty and exhibit higher dropout, addiction and crime rates. Having survived the perils of slavery, the black family, in particular, was still going strong until the 1930s, when the welfare state stepped in. The rest is history. As a social unit, the black American family is extinct.
The state has supplanted family autonomy and parental rights, and kids have paid the price. Yet despite what the state has done to nurture the “Hitler Youth” movement, children still place family above all else. In an exercise undertaken by Elections Canada some years back, an overwhelming number of them expressed a yearning for Ralphie’s family. Lucky is the little boy who has such a family. Luckier still is the little boy who has both a family and … a BB gun.