Family values more important than ever

Posted: Oct 17, 2001 12:00 AM
There is no one way to grieve in a situation like this; no one way to heal; no neat and plausible solution. It is the height of both tragedy and absurdity that 5,000 lives would end in one hateful moment. Perhaps all anyone can do is simply remind one another that it is OK to grieve, that it is OK to be vulnerable for a moment, and to weep for those who perished so senselessly in the attacks. As we piece together our lives, it is my hope that we will take the occasion to also assess this country's greatness. As it is my hope that from the ruin of "ground zero," will emerge a renewed spirit of unity that we simply will not be able to take for granted. In assessing our freedoms, our liberty, our way of life, perhaps it is best that we look back for a moment, and ask ourselves, "Where does this country's prosperity come from?" In no small part, it derives from the sheer diversity of its inhabitants. When the founding fathers crafted the Bill of Rights, they did not reduce citizens into rigid categories - like peasants, or workers or the well-to-do. Rather, they spoke in terms of broad human rights - of those basic freedoms that all people associate with liberty. When our founding fathers devised our government, they did not seek a ruling structure that would mold the people into whatever suited the government's needs. They did not desire, nor could they justify a government that would exercise such despotism over its citizen's minds and bodies. Instead, they did something quite extraordinary: They created a government that encouraged a free market of ideas, that encouraged a diversity of perspectives and they trusted that through the friction of these diverse minds, we would achieve progress. So when we think of America, we think of a broad tapestry of perspectives, united by the common belief in freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness under God. With this liberty, however, comes a special responsibility. Here, the government does not hammer its values into the youth. It does not fabricate principles and indoctrinate the young in a rigid pattern of being. Here, in America, we are given so much liberty that the heroic task of instilling a value system is left to each individual family. This is an extraordinary act of faith. With our notions of liberty, we leave it to each parent to demonstrate to their children, the ideas of compassion, human goodness and love. With our sense of self-government, we leave it to each individual family to instill in their children a sense of individual striving and personal responsibility. For this reason, we must never allow ourselves to be lulled into indifference when it comes to family values. So it saddens me when I read that marriage rates have plummeted to a 40-year low, or that divorce rates continue to hover just above 50 percent. It worries me when I read that parents now spend less time with their children, or that the children of duel income families are left largely to raise themselves. Each day these children come home, they cook their own dinner, and decide whether to do homework while gazing at the television. It is indeed a worrisome thing when the symbols of our materialism, like televisions, VCRs and video games, become the surrogates for our children. As we take this occasion to assess the way of life that we love, I think it is critical that we understand just how basic and fundamental what we call "family values" are to our way of life. It is crucial that we not forget that in a self-governing society like ours, the strength of the nation resides in the strength of the family.