YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

January 26, 2011

Obama and the rhetoric of the political “family”

Fragonard’s Happy Mother, 1753

[Here is a new blog that relies on this earlier one on the rhetoric of “family.” See http://clarespark.com/2013/03/18/babel-vs-sinai/.

The President’s State of the Union speech, January 25, 2011, began with a declaration that we (the American people) are a “family”* and then went on to list the “investments” in a happy future that would be originated and subsidized by the federal government. Hegel once said that the family delivers the child to the state. I am not a Hegelian, but he got that right.

When I complained about the use of the F word to drastically and unforgivably describe the individual citizens of a democratic republic, I was immediately reminded by one Facebook friend that it was the Right that proclaimed “family values.” This blog will attempt to analyze the political speech that misdescribes citizens with diverse and opposed opinions about economics and culture as members of a potential “family,” for the F word is one of the most potent items in the arsenals of mind-managers, while “the Right” is by no means unified in their use of the word.

First, on “family values.” Liberals today should stop for a moment and contemplate the massive changes in our political culture since the movements of the 1960s and 70s began their assault on the traditional family, an institution that for many signified protection and solidarity, notwithstanding such divisive emotions as sibling rivalry and flawed parenting strategies or bad examples (i.e., clinging mothers, absent fathers, deadbeat dads, etc.). The middle class family was held to be “a haven in a heartless world” and a bulwark against the State as Christopher Lasch famously wrote in his study with that title.  The culture wars have been fought over the perceived decadence and/or dysfunction that “liberation” movements brought in their wake, and I have written about them here: primitivism, bohemianism, early adolescent sexuality and a frightening rise in teen age pregnancy (See http://clarespark.com/2013/03/11/do-paleoconservatives-want-a-theocracy/) . Add these rational fears to the propaganda churned out by social psychologists after World War 2, namely that fathers must stay at the helm of the family in order to avoid too strong an attachment between sons and mothers–an attachment that led straight to feminization and Marxist adventurism. (I wrote about it here: http://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/.)

I have not studied libertarians on their positioning regarding “family values,” but suspect that most would prefer that the state keep its nose out of the choices of individuals, whether these be marijuana use, abortion rights (Ayn Rand supported them, but limited abortions to the first trimester for the sake of the mother’s safety), or the freedom not to reproduce at all.

I have noticed with some outrage that the image of Gabrielle Giffords has been deployed by liberals, and it is here that I complete this blog. The moderate Democrat was the focus of public concern for many weeks, and we still do not know that she will fully surmount the bullet to her brain. But as a famously “caring” politician she fulfilled the happy mother archetype, eager for face to face contact with her constituency where a very bad boy assaulted her and killed six other innocents. Hence Democratic propaganda blaming excessively harsh political speech on the Republican Party and on conservative talk radio and television could be effective in raising Obama’s approval rating, especially after his speech calling on civility (by which he could only have meant the toning down of “right-wing” radio and television). The good father was protecting the good mother from resentments internal to the national “family.” In his call for a national healing, Obama benefitted from decades of “family” rhetoric and the faith in the possibility of  national unity, notwithstanding the glaringly opposed political philosophies that confront each other today as Keynesians and proponents of the laissez-faire economy (or limited government) slug it out in public space. Of course by healing and moderation, POTUS means yielding to statism as he defines it, for one cannot through “common ground” or “compromise” reconcile irreconcilable facts and strategies to achieve a “national consensus”.

As I wrote in my last blog (http://clarespark.com/2011/01/25/american-slavery-vs-nazi-genocide/), the year 2011 will see a rise in public talk about the Union and the Civil War that was fought to vanquish slavery and enable the modernization process stalled by the Southern slaveholding politicians in the antebellum period. I predict a resurgence of the far Left and its stigmatizing America as a very bad, essentially evil entity whose sins overwhelm its positive achievements. They will press for a reconstructed, redistributionist “family” that repents and makes reparations to its millions of victims, using the failure of Reconstruction as a talking point. Given the positioning of the 60s-70s generation in the commanding heights of the education establishment and in the media, get ready for the Happy Mother who gathers all her children to her ever lactating breast once “social justice” is finally achieved. And the milk-fed “children” will never notice that they are in a state of strategic regression, enlisted men and women in the eternal war against Evil.

*Here are the President’s exact words:

“…It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.

But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater -– something more consequential than party or political preference.

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation. (Applause.)

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow. (Applause.)”

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7 Comments »

  1. […] First, despite the romanticizing of the nuclear family by politicians and churches, the family of origin is a hotbed of potential trauma that can haunt the adult throughout life, poisoning all relationships and causing chronic illness. I have no doubt that rivalries for the favor of either Mother or Father are valid, however out of fashion “Freudians” may be. But we must bury such rivalries (with either parent, or with siblings) for the sake of the “family unity” that is favored by demagogues of every stripe.  I refer not only to Oedipal feelings or to “the Elektra complex” but to the fierce resentments inflicted through sibling rivalry. Our feelings toward parents and siblings, however, must remain “pure” and unambivalent, for ambivalence is a no-no as we celebrate Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or the birthdays of childhood rivals whom we are not permitted to resent, even as they displaced us or bullied us in untold and/or repressed family dramas. (For more on this, see http://clarespark.com/2013/01/17/bondage-and-the-family/, and http://clarespark.com/2011/01/26/obama-and-the-rhetoric-of-the-political-family/.) […]

    Pingback by Friendship in the era of anti-Freud | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — May 19, 2013 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  2. [...] Dr. Karon holds that schizophrenia is not a genetic disease requiring sedating medication, but rather (controversially) proposes that psychoanalytically oriented therapy can provide cure. He stresses the widespread need of people generally to have a willing ear to listen to her or his troubles. Given that health insurers (including Medicare) are reluctant to pay for anything but short term counseling and medication, one wonders if willing friends and relatives are not called upon to listen to those of us with emotional difficulties that are manifested in biological symptoms and general misery. For the willing ear, the key would be in not judging the speaker, and in controlling one’s own emotional responses to loaded material, a feat that few of us are up for, especially in our youth (or in the prolonged youth that the rhetoric of “family” prolongs: see http://clarespark.com/2011/01/26/obama-and-the-rhetoric-of-the-political-family/). [...]

    Pingback by The “Brain Trust” at UCLA | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — March 19, 2013 @ 11:29 pm | Reply

  3. [...] This is the second of two blogs on the awful effects of collectivist propaganda, including Obama’s deployment of “the rhetoric of the political family.” See http://clarespark.com/2011/01/26/obama-and-the-rhetoric-of-the-political-family/ [...]

    Pingback by Babel vs. Sinai | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — March 18, 2013 @ 7:22 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks for the interesting piece – however I feel that we are over-analyzing this issue. As usual, ALL politicians, of the so-called “right” and the so-called “left”, use anti-individualist rhetoric to manipulate public opinion and behavior. The entire notion of the “family” is nonsense and belongs strictly outside political debate. What I call my family is (1) entirely up to me and (2) only based on my voluntary, values-based individual relationships (which inherently means that no one whom I don’t know can be part of my family). And certainly no one in a political institution is part of my family.

    This whole “love your country, we’re all family” bull is just typical patriotic appeal – tribalistic collectivist evil. There’s also no left or right to it. It’s all evil – only technical differences between the two. It has been used by fascists, communists, and perhaps most notably by U.S. politicians.

    Comment by tiffany267 — March 18, 2013 @ 1:38 am | Reply

    • Collectivist rhetoric was not always in use. For instance, the philosophes of the Enlightenment defended free thought and natural rights. Classical liberals, then and now, reject collectivist rhetoric. Anarchists do too, but they are generally anticapitalists and often antisemitic.

      Comment by clarespark — March 18, 2013 @ 1:43 am | Reply

  5. Reblogged this on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog and commented:

    The rhetoric of the political “family” returns citizens to either parents (the State) or to dependent children, subject to the control of their surrogate parents.

    Comment by clarespark — March 17, 2013 @ 8:47 pm | Reply


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