Driving north from Deming last week the NPR station faded out somewhere between Hatch and T or C, so I hit the scan button on the car radio and was immediately transported into some weird other dimension, an alternative reality I can only begin to describe. It was scary. It was Christian Life Radio.
The music was fine, what there was of it. It was the propaganda that threw me. Not even a halfhearted attempt was made to pass it off as "news" or "commentary." No, on Christian Life Radio we get our propaganda right out in the open. Or rather, we get our marching orders: the places to call, the names to use, the words that can shape the message—all laid out neatly for the obedient flock to set into motion.
There was no subtlety to the line that goes something like this: There is afoot in the land an insidious homosexual conspiracy working feverishly with the intent to destroy the American family. If we want to protect American family values, we must work to pass the national constitutional amendment which defines marriage exclusively as taking place between a man and a woman. State action along the same lines is good; desirable even. But to be safe we must pass the Defense of Marriage Amendment. As soon as Congress returns to Washington, we need to start the pressure. Call today!
I'm not making this up. It was not a commercial, a 30- or 60-second spiel sponsored by a congregation or a devout businessman. It was a sermon, five minutes long at least, issued as a policy directive from the station to its listeners, broadcast over the public airways, using an FCC-issued public license. It was a blatant call to arms designed to manipulate public policy.
To me, the worst aspect of this experience is that the American Family is definitely under attack, but from a different direction which rarely gets mentioned on the airways. And few voices are speaking out about that very authentic peril—even as flags wave over the imaginary menace to a heterosexual family that is represented by two people of the same sex marrying.
The real assault on family values has been a covert operation. It is now in its fourth decade of warfare and our society is beginning to show the strain. I'm talking about the erosion in the economic supports offered families, particularly working families. So vicious are these attacks that the American working class family may soon be as extinct as the passenger pigeon.
But while our families are being agitated to take to the barricades against the imaginary dangers posed by gay weddings, no similar concerted effort is being made to mobilize them against the very real pitfalls ahead.
When you think what stresses families today, the list is pretty obvious. Gay marriage is not on it.
The list starts with crushing financial debt. No longer can most working class families experience the luxury of having one of the parents stay at home with the very young children—or even be there when the school age kids come home at 3 p.m. It takes two salaries to keep the credit card companies at bay, to pay the rent, to fix the car, to pay for holiday gifts.
And lots of our young families aren't getting ahead. They are lucky if they are even staying afloat; furiously treading water. That kind of economic pressure grinds at families, erodes relationships, gets taken out on kids. But who is seriously talking about the importance of raising the minimum wage as a "family value?" We all should be.
Then there's health care—or for thousands of young families in New Mexico, the lack of health care. (As valuable as it is, I can't really count lighting candles to Our Lady of Guadalupe while praying to stay healthy as "health care." But that's all many families rely on.) So it isn't surprising that 50 percent of all personal bankruptcies in our state are brought about by crushing obligations for medical treatment. Not many can afford even a one-night stay in a hospital without insurance.
Third on the list is housing. The dream of home ownership is fading rapidly for many young couples. Affordable housing in desirable neighborhoods sounds almost like an oxymoron.
Add in child care to complete the short form of the list. Paying for it is getting harder and harder for young families who don't have a grandma to call on for assistance. But it's also getting tougher just to find dependable child care, let alone child care that actually prepares the child for success in school. The stress on family life brought on by child care desperation is enormous.
So I would say to Christian Family Radio that there are plenty of crusades that could be waged in defense of our families. Instead, our families have been asked to subsidize corporate profiteering. It's too steep a price to pay. At the very least, stop distracting them from their real challenges with phony "crises" like gay marriage. That's the least of our families' troubles.