Whose Family Is It Anyway?
The fear-mongers have arrived in Nevada County, in the guise of “protecting families.” They appeared at the recent high school district board meeting accompanied by county supervisor Sue Horne, who had earlier contacted local residents via automated phone messages financed by the Capitol Resource Institute (CRI), a far-right advocacy group based in Sacramento.
Their message of fear used the typical buzzwords Ð pro-family and pro-parent Ð with a good dose of paranoia thrown in. One parent supporter of CRI suggested that the district deliberately tries to hide its parent notification policy within a thick packet of required legal disclosures. Karen England, program director of CRI, accused the board members of being “co-conspirators” with students in allowing them to leave campus during school hours to obtain confidential medical care without a parent’s knowledge or consent.
We don’t have to engage these people on their terms, and in fact, we must not. The far right wing in this country (for which CRI is working with the support of State Senator Sam Aanestad and Assemblyman Rick Keene) has perfected the skill of using language to manipulate public opinion. to advance a larger national agenda.
We must recognized this and not let ourselves be manipulated by outside organizations trying to ram their narrow and bigoted definition of “family values” down our throats (see http://www.capitolresource.org).
These so-called “family values” folks don’t really value ALL families. They value only those that match their definition of the traditional family Ð mother, father, two kids and a dog named Spot.
Let’s get real. Today, only 62 percent of families in the U.S. have two parents living at home. 27 percent of children live with only one parent. 1 out of every five children lives in poverty.
“Family values” proponents deny the reality of children’s lives today. They are promoting a culture of fear and mistrust, claiming we must fear not being able to control our child’s every movement, and that we can’t trust our children to make good choices to stay healthy.
These people live in the world of Thomas Kinkade paintings, where everyone lives in a cozy cottage, safe and snug in the warm glow of the fireplace. That’s not a picture of today’s reality. We’ve had kids living under bridges in Nevada County.
The term pro-family is both silly and divisive. It’s silly because no one is anti-family. Everyone is pro-family. Therefore, the term has no meaning. It is used only to be divisive, to get us distracted in a fight about who is or is not pro-family, rather than addressing this more important issue: How do protect and care for the needs of all children, not just those who live in perfect families?
The fundamental issue is whether we are willing to think of young people as intelligent beings who have the right to access their own health care. To answer this question, shouldn’t we listen to the people directly involved Ð the young people and their doctors?
At the meeting, seven Nevada County doctors, including pediatricians Sara Woerner and Michael Curtis, vigorously supported the existing policy as vital to the well-being of young people. A high school student spoke about her friend cutting herself (a form of self-abuse) and that this girl would not have seen a doctor if she’d had to tell her parents.
If that girl had not seen a doctor because of a notification requirement, had continued her self-abuse, and ended up committing suicide, her blood would be on the hands of the Capitol Resource Institute and their purportedly “parent-friendly” supporters. What good is a requirement that you, the parent, be notified if the result is that instead of being notified, your kid is dead?
We do not live in a Thomas Kinkade painting, and no amount of shrill calls for “parent rights” will change that. To be pro-family means we have to be pro-child, and that means protecting ALL children in all sorts of circumstances, including those that don’t meet CRI’s definition of “family.”
Nevada County families do not need or want CRI telling us that we are anti-family or anti-parent when we simply want to protect all children, under all circumstances. Our family values are just fine, thank you. We will not play the language game, and we will not live in a climate of fear. We may not be able to turn the tide nationally, but we can, and we will, do what we have do locally to protect our families, by keeping all of Nevada County’s children safe and healthy.
Susan Rogers is a Grass Valley resident whose son will enter high school this fall. She is the editor and publisher of MediaLiteracy.com.
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