I see the gap between the Right and Left in American politics as in many ways unbridgeable, requiring a leap from religion to secularism or vice versa. But I also see it as in many ways bridgeable, requiring only a willingness to recognize common goals.
The Right talks a lot about Family Values, and the Left talks a lot about a Living Wage. With some modifications in vocabulary, this could be a single successful discussion. Parents could spend time with kids if a single salary could support a family. For most Americans this is no longer the case.
Remember the horrified talk a decade ago of what would become of “latch-key kids”? Most kids are now latch-key kids, and so one no longer hears the label or worries about the problem.
Remember the idea of a “house husband,” the notion that a couple might choose which of them would stay home with the kids? Now that neither parent can stay home there doesn’t seem to be much happy feminist liberation in women’s working outside the home, and certainly no talk of men’s working in the home.
How have we managed to create so much work and to call it success? Why are we pleased to hear how much we’ve “grown the economy” as if it were our child, when our jobs are getting longer and more tedious, our children more neglected and troubled?
Is it really preferable to spend 50 or 60 hours a week cursing at a computer, calling on the company’s full-time computer fixers, attending training sessions on new software, answering desperate phone calls from your children, and not earning enough to support a spouse, much less kids, as opposed to spending 40 hours a week with a pen or a typewriter and earning a living wage? How do we define “progress”?
And what about the people who come through the office at closing time to pick up the trash and recycling? Does it matter to us that their families are falling apart or never being formed because they work two or three jobs in order to survive? Is it more important to us to do something for them or to prattle on about “Family Values,” as if this were a mere code for support of short-sighted greedmongering expansion of the gap between rich and poor?
I’m convinced that most of the people who actually like the term “family values” do so because they care about people, and would do something to allow families a better shot at survival if they understood the problem and how easily it could be helped.
Following what I believe was the sixty-ninth recent serious shooting incident in an American school, thousands cried out that guns don’t kill, people lacking moral training kill. And many thousands more expressed disgust at the idea of psychologists stepping in to help troubled kids. That’s the parents’ job, of course. But the parents aren’t around. The parents are out working for shrinking wages in the richest country on earth, and as likely as not are divorced – a situation in many cases contributed to by financial strain.
Some voices suggested priests and preachers instead of psychologists. Religion is, of course, usually a winning stance with the Right. But if anything can top religion it’s Family Values, and that’s the banner I want to fly. Raise minimum wages to what they were thirty years ago and then raise them some more. Raise them until no full-time worker needs food stamps and a second job, and until every full-time worker can support a family. Provide businesses with increased morale and reduced turnover expenses. Provide communities with greater stability. And provide kids with parents.