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Red/​Blue, Strict/​Nurturing Families, and Inherited vs. Negotiated Commitments

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Civil Rights, Family, politics | Posted on 09-01-2008


I know that I read Red Family, Blue Family: Making sense of the values issue by Doug Muder several years ago.1 I clearly remember posting a link to it in Suzette Haden Elgin's blog, and having her pick it up and pass it on enthusiastically.

A friend posted a link to it again this week, and I re-read it today. I don't know why, but it made even more sense this time around. Muder uses the work of George Lakoff (Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think and Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives) and James Ault (Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church) to explain things that have previously seemed inexplicable.

Why do people like my father and Sam's father feel so strongly about the value of liberty that they risked their lives in the Marines to protect it, yet feel just as strongly that women must not be permitted to control their own bodies? How can an intelligent woman like my mother acknowledge that my relationship with a woman had absolutely no effect on her marriage, or that of anyone else, and still insist that it was completely wrong, a threat to "real" marriages, and that same-sex marriage must not be legalized? (Let's not even get into the fact that I had a concurrent relationship with Sam, because legally recognizing polyamorous relationships is something she can't even begin to discuss.)

Muder quotes Lakoff:

What does opposition to abortion have to do with opposition to environmentalism? What does either have to do with opposition to affirmative action or gun control or the minimum wage? A model of the conservative mind ought to answer these questions, just as a model of the liberal mind ought to explain why liberals tend to have the cluster of opposing political stands.

Then he goes on to answer those questions, far better than I can summarize.

I still don't know how it is Sam and I could come so far from our families of origin in so many ways. There are so many verboten topics between me and my family that, while we love each other, we can hardly have a conversation!

I have a ridiculous urge to print out the entire article, double-space, in a big, easy-to-read typeface, and snail mail it to Daddy (he'd never read it on a screen). I want to send the link to every family member for whom I have an email address. But I won't.

Because the other thing I still don't understand, but that I absolutely know, is that they don't waste any time contemplating these issues. As far as they're concerned, they're right, and we're wrong. Dialog is not valuable. As I don't think I've ever had even one truly rational conversation with any blood relative,2 I have to agree with them regarding the lack of value in trying to open this kind of discussion.

Maybe I'll understand the rest better when I read Lakoff and Ault's books. They're certainly going on my "to read" list, and closer to the top than the bottom.

1 The web server is having issues at the moment, but there's a PDF of the article that you can still get to.

2 Our dear friend James is the sole exception, and he's a very distant blood relative!

Comments (2)

“I still don’t know how it is Sam and I could come so far from our fam­i­lies of ori­gin in so many ways. There are so many ver­boten top­ics between me and my fam­i­ly that, while we love each oth­er, we can hard­ly have a conversation!”

Boy, I feel you there.

“Because the oth­er thing I still don’t under­stand, but that I absolute­ly know, is that they don’t waste any time con­tem­plat­ing these issues. As far as they’re con­cerned, they’re right, and we’re wrong. Dia­log is not valuable.”


Boy, do I relate again.

I thought you’d understand 🙂