From an old piece by Russell Baker, the most perceptive and sensible New York Times columnist of my lifetime:
Implicit in the politician’s call for “family values” is a summons for people to shape up and start living their messy lives the way government wants those lives lived. Listen closely and you can hear politicians insisting on a government duty to meddle in the strange ways of families. You can hear government asserting a duty to promote moral uplift. What could be more loathsome than a government supervising the moral elevation of the family?
As all of us here must know when not mesmerized by political quacks, every family is a self-governing institution and, in every case, entirely idiosyncratic. To ascribe nobility to such structures is absurd, for each operates under its own rules and morality. There are large loving families, and large families whose members detest each other while loving the blood that unites them, and dark families primed for intra-family murder, and foolish families stuffed with pride in their genealogy charts, and little two-person families headed by single parents, and divorced families, and families like Ma Jarrett’s and Ma Joad’s and Ma Barker’s.