Framing the Family: No Moms Allowed

mother and babyI’ll be honest, I feel somewhat in denial.  Perhaps it’s a stage in a kind of intellectual grief.

If, as I wrote yesterday, our politics is a “play of frames”–a “turning on” of certain metaphoric templates that, once activated, produce a limited, specific and predictable understanding of the world’s operations–then we are indeed lost.

For the frames are managed by power and wealth.  And for at least the last hundred and twenty years that constituent has managed to bring us to the brink of nuclear war, the consequences of which continue to threaten life; it has managed to undermine the very structures of environmental health; it has brought us to a state of perpetual ideological war that is fought not only with arguments but with massive military destruction.

We are left with praying or hoping (you choose your method of wish-fulfillment) for a good “strict father” who might really be a “nurturant parent:” a sheep in a wolf’s clothing.  Perhaps Hilary was our shot…playing tough only to walk in to try to raise a “village.”  Instead we got the wolf Obama in sheep’s clothing.  Apparently, we got played by frames.

Lakoff, who I linked to in yesterday’s post, Framing Rules, claims we vote as we define ourselves and our worldview: we vote identity and our version of morality.  This is not voting for “self-interest” necessarily, as we have been shown by books like “What’s the Matter with Kansas” by Thomas Franks.

Lakoff also posits there are only roughly a third of folks who can carry framing metaphors that will track both “left” and “right.”  This, as usual in politics, is the holy grail of voter demographics we call “the middle.”  Lakoff insists there is only one way to “win” in politics; use the right framing words and stick with them; use YOUR words not THEIR words.  Any “frame” word will activate the frame regardless of how you talk about it or what you say.  The frame, once activated, fills in the content somewhat automatically so that no matter what is said against it from the “left,” the “right-framed” voter will hear the positives in the frame that have been promulgated and inculcated to and in them over the years.

As Lakoff points out, all right-wing frames are subservient to ONE moral vision–the conservative worldview.  This is a “unifying” principle–in this way it is a “totality”–and this principle is defended NO MATTER WHAT THE ISSUE.  I find this horrifying, but I’m a lefty, commie, pinko, nigger-loving, anti-war, anti-capital, atheist, Marxist, queerbait anarchist.  Are these inappropriate terms?  How do those fit into my frame or yours? It seems as if they fulfill the role of activating frames that don’t help me in sharing my own moral vision.  But more to Lakoff’s point–Progressives (his term choice) do not have such a unifying principle and so they are easily “diffused” in terms of political power.  All groups struggling for their primary single issue interest

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A basic example of how these frames are inculcated is, as discussed yesterday, the primary right-wing frame of the Strict Father–an instructive review can be made of the work of James Dobson, Founder (Father) of the group Focus on the Family in 1977 (which he left in 2003).  In fact, we really just need to look at the bibliography of his massively popular books.  Republican politicians have their own comparable lists made for them by the Heritage Foundation.  Progressives, as the Right-wing likes to say, appear to be “free to choose” their influences.

Here’s the book list compiled on Dobson’s Wikipedia entry:

  • Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men
  • The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide
  • Dare to Discipline
  • Dr. Dobson Answers Your Questions about Feelings and Self-Esteem
  • Dr. Dobson Answers Your Questions About Raising Children
  • Dr. James Dobson on Parenting
  • Emotions: Can You Trust Them?
  • Life on the Edge
  • Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage That Will Go the Distance
  • Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Families in Crisis
  • The New Dare to Discipline
  • The New Hide or Seek: Building Confidence in Your Child
  • The New Strong-Willed Child
  • Parenting Isn’t for Cowards: Dealing Confidently With the Frustrations of Child-Rearing
  • Parents’ Answer Book
  • Preparing for Adolescence (Vision House)
  • Romantic Love: How to Be Head Over Heels and Still Land on Your Feet
  • Solid Answers
  • Stories of Heart and Home
  • Straight Talk to Men
  • Straight Talk: What Men Should Know, What Women Need to Understand
  • Temper Your Child’s Tantrums
  • What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women
  • When God Doesn’t Make Sense

In response to the Left-intellectual denigration of the Tea Party, Chomsky said recently that they deserve better: they’re angry, and they should be. They are being given answers (“not good answers”).  No one on the Left is giving them answers.  No one in government is giving them answers. As Chomsky is quoted in The Progressive:

“Ridiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error,” Chomsky said.

Their attitudes “are understandable,” he said. “For over 30 years, real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy”…

“People want some answers…They are hearing answers from only one place: Fox, talk radio, and Sarah Palin.”

James Dobson (psychologist, in case you didn’t know) is giving families answers, and is offering consistency in those answers; conservative, “Strict Father” consistency.  (I’m biting my anarcho-syndicalist tongue not to offer Emerson against this…you do it for me.)

Who might be considered of comparable stature on the “Left”?  Who is the “nurturant parent” offering empathy other than punishment?  Dr. Spock maybe?  Below is a list of some of Spock’s titles via Wikipedia.  Why not read the two entries, Dobson and Spock, to see which career you might wish to identify with?

  • Baby and Child Care (1946, with revisions up to eighth edition, 2004)
  • A Baby’s First Year (1954)
  • Feeding Your Baby and Child (1955)
  • Dr. Spock Talks With Mothers (1961)
  • Problems of Parents (1962)
  • Caring for Your Disabled Child (1965)
  • Dr. Spock on Vietnam (1968)
  • Decent and Indecent (1970)
  • A Teenager’s Guide to Life and Love (1970)
  • Raising Children in a Difficult Time (1974)
  • Spock on Parenting (1988)
  • Spock on Spock: a Memoir of Growing Up With the Century (1989)
  • A Better World for Our Children (1994)

I’m not entirely sure if I should have offered a woman public intellectual in opposition.  Women seem irrelevant as regards these issues.  Am I wrong?  I don’t mean that I think women are irrelevant as the opposite is the truth–we need more women to help change these horribly “male-dominated” ideologies (frames).  But you can at least infer from Spock’s titles that his focus seems to be on communicating and understanding human social need.  He’s a helper.  A big “no-no” to the Right.  The Good Lord, after all, helps those, blah, blah, blah.

Spock’s titles suggest that all of us can discover a good, healthy, happy way to live within our differences.  The focus seems to be on “love” and “care”.  Dobson’s titles make clear, with emphasis, there’s only one way to rock.

I’ll close with a bit of “hope” (I’ll imagine it has feathers and can really fly).  A Facebook friend shared a political ad for Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor who created the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (another “no-no” for the Right).  She’s running against Scott Brown in Massachusetts.  Here’s the ad:

As another friend commented, this is nothing new for a message.

I think it just might be the kind of thing Lakoff is requesting of the Progressives.  Taxes build roads; taxes build schools; taxes build libraries and parks and pools; taxes maintain all those.  No one of us succeeds on his or her own.  Corporations are using our infrastructure and keeping profits or investing overseas.  They are not upholding the social contract of our country, our states, our cities.

We all make success possible for each other IF we participate fairly in this social contract.

Does the Strict Father not benefit from a nurturant society?  How can we be independent and strong citizens, as the strict father requires (after proper rearing), if Dad has taken not only the best portions off our communal table for himself, but ALL of the portions?  Why does Dad want us to starve?

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