Focus on the family.
How many times have we heard that our inability to focus on the family is a large portion of our nation’s problems? I agree with the GOP that the deterioration of the family unit has, in great part, taken a toll on us all. Southern states, in particular, harp on lessening family values. They remind us repeatedly that healthy families contribute to healthy government.
But what are family values? And how have they become synonymous with the GOP?
Education? There is no logical way to focus on the family, without focusing on the education of the youth. How then are southern states ranked, consistently, among the least educated in the nation? Louisiana is ranked 48th for high school completion and 47th for college. Alabama is ranked 46th for both. Arkansas is 44th and 50th, respectively. Also needing improvement are Kentucky, Virginia, and Mississippi.
Women? There is, indeed, small chance of a family without a woman. Mothers are a vital part of any family unit. Surely, policies are in place to ensure that she is best capable to care for her family. How then are southern states ranked among the worst, where women are concerned? It may be no surprise that Mississippi is ranked #1 in this list. The state, coincidentally, has the highest teen birth rate. It’s ranked 5th highest in STD transmissions, and has 1 in 3 children living in poverty.
Health and Well-Being? An important part of being a healthy family is being, well…healthy. Yet, southern states are not doing so well in this area either. Mississippi and Louisiana tie for least healthy states in the country. Three other states…Arkansas, West Virginia, and South Carolina…round out the bottom five. Factors used in determination were percentages of obesity, diabetes, and limited availability to a primary care physician.
Healthy Economies? At the core of any healthy family is the ability to work and provide for its members. Employment is vital, crucial to the success of any family. Here we find that, on the whole, southern states are struggling here. Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky make up seven of the top ten. Seven. Of the top ten. Keep in mind, that other southern states gained honorable mention status.
So, what have we learned?
By most American standards, the items listed above are extremely important when considering how healthy a family is. It would stand to reason that states that place family values on a pedestal would work at doing everything possible to support families. As demonstrated above; the south is lacking when it comes to the realities of prioritizing education, women’s issues, health, and economic prosperity for all citizens.
Well…what gives the southern states (read: GOP) the edge where “family values” is concerned? Hold on to your hat, Millie! I think I’ve figured it out!
Could it be….Religion? Southern states, as I have written before, are among the most religious in the nation. A large number of southerners claim some form of Christianity as their belief system. Jesus is a BIG deal! A ‘religious’ population will tend to elect ‘religious’ leaders. The idea being having someone in office who understands people like them, right?
Here’s the thing. Religion, or lack there of, is a personal decision. There is no empirical evidence that suggests that being raised in a religious family is better than the alternative. The fact is… most people who identify as non-religious do not care about another’s decision to believe in God.
Get it? They. Do. Not. Care.
What they are concerned with is the tendency of religious folk to encourage policy based on biblical teachings. We don’t do that here, remember? Our nation is composed of Christians, but we are not a Christian nation.
I, for one, am no more in favor of Mosaic Law than Sharia Law. And I am a Christian! My personal views are to be no more important than the views of the Jew or the Muslim. They are not to be considered vastly superior to the agnostic or the atheist. They are to be considered personal, between myself and God.
By all means, believe whatever you want. Please! This is America. All I ask is that you stop cloaking religious bigotry in the banner of “family values”.
Let me pull out my purse and give you my two cents. Family values consists of more than memorizing the Lord’s Prayer, going to church, and “blessing people’s hearts”. Family values consists of empowering our women, employing our parents/guardians, educating our children, and ensuring access to healthcare. It is caring for those less fortunate. It is taking care of our elders. It is treating ALL people well because we desire to be treated well.
*Ironically, these are things taught by Christ…forgotten by Christians.* Go figure.