This was boyhood before “bang-bang you’re dead” was banned; family life prior to “One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads,” and Christmas without the ACLU.
If children could choose their families, most would opt for the kind depicted in this film, where mother is a homemaker, father is a regular working stiff, and between them they have zero repertoire of psychobabble to rub together. Although clearly adored, Ralphie is not encouraged to express his feelings. Instead, he is urged to show restraint and is disciplined when naughty. And horrors: The little boy even has his mouth washed out with soap and water for uttering the “F” expletive. (“My personal preference was for Lux,” reveals Ralphie, “but I found Palmolive had a nice piquant after-dinner flavor—heady but with just a touch of mellow smoothness.”). When he refuses his food, Ralphie is also guilt-tripped about starving Biafrans.
Such parenting would fail every progressive commandment. By today’s standards, the delightful, un-precocious protagonist of “A Christmas Story” would be doomed to an emotional abyss ─ and certainly to heavy doses of Ritalin for day-dreaming in class and for being all boy in general.
Despite his therapeutically incorrect upbringing, Ralphie is a happy little boy. For “Progressives” ─ for whom it has long been axiomatic that a traditional family like the Parker family is the source of oppression for women and children ─ this is inexplicable.
Perhaps the first to have helped conflate the values of the bourgeois family with pathological authoritarianism was philosopher Theodor Adorno. Adorno’s formulations on authoritarianism have informed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The consensus among rights advocates has been that the traditional family’s hierarchical structure disempowers children. The solution has been for the State to destabilize the parent-child relationship through policies that would define and limit the power of the parent while increasing the power of the child.
While America’s founders intended for the family to be left untouched as “the major source of an orderly and free society” ─ Dr. Allan Carlson’s words ─ politicians and justices decided to the contrary. What was once the economic and social backbone of American society has been inestimably weakened by both the Welfare State and the Supreme Court ─ what with the latter’s radical interpretations of what constitutes a family and marriage, and the former’s incremental steps to trounce parents as the child’s primary socialization agent.
Culturally, the family has been demoted to what Charles Sykes once termed a “Therapeutic Family.” Having “adjusted itself to the new demands of the social contract with the Self,” wrote Sykes in A Nation of Victims, “the modern family has ceased to inculcate values.” Instead, it exists exclusively for the ostensible unleashing of “self-expression and creativity” in its members.
“Progressives” can relax. What remains of the unit that was once a vector for the transmission of values in American society no longer poses a threat to its alleged casualties. This bête noire of a family, with its typically “oppressed” mother, therapeutically challenged father, and contained kids has been reined in, now that women and children are less likely than ever to have to endure its confines: These days women are more likely to be divorced, never married, or to bear children out of wedlock.
Unencumbered by marriage, women are also more prone to poverty, addictions, and sexually transmitted diseases. Their children, a third of whom are being raised in households headed only by a mother, are paying the price in a greater propensity for poverty, and higher dropout, addiction and crime rates. Having survived the perils of slavery, the black family, in particular, was going strong until the 1930s, when the Welfare State took a giant leap forward. The rest is history.
As a social unit, the black American family is extinct.Contemporary America’s familial fragmentation ─ sky-high divorce rates and illegitimacy ─ have translated into juvenile crime, drug abuse, and illiteracy. Yet despite all the State has done to “free” children from the strictures of the traditional family, ask any “emancipated” child and he’ll tell you that more than anything he yearns for a family like Ralphie’s.
Lucky is the little boy who has such a family. Luckier still is the lad who has both such a family and…a BB gun.
POSTSCRIPT: Bob Clark, the director of this magical movie, and his son, were killed by an illegal alien. This says as much about modern-day America as does the dissolution of the prototypical family unit depicted so magnificently in “A Christmas Story.”
©2009 By ILANA MERCER