You hear a lot about restoring American and family values, but what are they exactly? Many of the people who espouse this rhetoric usually want values and mores to turn back the clock to the fifties, which they see as a simpler time. It was a simpler time in the context that the definitions of a man, woman, an enemy, a foreigner, and a family were neatly written out. However, people were still agitating for equal rights for minorities and women, so this period is not as quaint as it has been glamorized by Hollywood. So what exactly do the people who say this want? They do not want that particular period, but they long for the time when you could easily define someone.
When you can easily define someone, you can see right away who doesn’t belong, and if someone were to question the status quo, they would be seen as not conforming. That is what that time period was all about: conforming to social norms. When a large majority of society conforms, it makes it easier to flow through it because everyone understands their role and place. When the lines are blurred, people are afraid of their own status and the status of others. If you define yourself as a man and such a category as a transgender man exists, does this devalue who you are? If you and your neighbors have always been one color and now the color of those around you start to change, who becomes the foreigner if you can’t tell each other apart?
Some people would say that these modern times have created more strife because of these new freedoms and views, and to this I would agree. When there are more options, there will be more reasons to disagree and create factions in the people. However, the opposite of this would be to return to the catchall term of ‘family values,’ where our identities are strictly defined, and when they are, people will be silently unhappy. At least with more options, people can voice their opposition. I think people are threatened by the changing definitions because they have to question who they are and the power they are losing by conceding the definitions to those they do not agree with. As such, they point to the strife in modern society and claim it is because of modern values that this has happened, not acknowledging the strife that existed in the past.
I would rather live in a world where women are given the same opportunities as men, minorities are afforded the same rights as the majority, and the LGBT community is able to marry as with those who are straight than a world with stagnant definitions of who I am and who we are as a people. When we redefine the rules of society, we do so to offer equality, but some see this as a redistribution of power, which they resent. We can go back and live by these old rules, but in doing so, we undo our progress for the sake of conformity. Values and Mores are not what sex we want to be with, how much we get paid, or equal access to education, but they are how we judge ourselves. These things are rights, but they are not values. I hope we will judge ourselves as open and compassionate and our children will judge us as such when the time comes.