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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

Advent - 31 days to Christmas      Wednesday, November 24 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Dysfunctional families

This being my last "appearance" here until after Thanksgiving, I'll wish everyone an early Happy Thanksgiving.

And in the spirit of this week's great American holiday, at least as it's often celebrated in television comedies and dramas, I'll throw out a few thoughts—preferably "theoretical thoughts"—about dysfunctional families. I think those entertainment gate-keepers (writers, producers, directors of shows) who have a specific or general but strong worldview and who frequently cast the family in a dysfunctional ("impaired or abnormal functioning") light, do so in order to shake the underpinnings of our culture. Doing so threatens marriage, discipline and rearing of children, honoring parents, and the continuation of the nuclear family as the main building block of our civilization. Though "gay marriage" is the buzzword of this season, cohabitation ("living in sin," as we called it in 1960), no-fault divorce, and casual attitudes toward the dissolution of marriage are at least equally threatening to the family.

But especially in the holiday get-togethers of families and extended families portrayed in situation comedies, comedy movies, and occasionally even dramas, the dysfunctional family is on another level of impairment. Everyone goes to Mom and Dad's house for the obligatory Thanksgiving dinner without wanting to see most if any of the other people who'll be there. There's always someone who's alcoholic, someone who tells crude jokes or remarks about other family members, probably someone who's in an adulterous affair or trying to start one with the spouse of one of the family members, and probably a troubled, possibly drug abusing teenager or college student at the gathering.

I'm not as much of a grouch as the previous setup suggests. Two of the most dysfunctional families in television history were the Bundys of "Married With Children" and the spin-off of the old Carol Burnett Show, "Mama's Family." These families are at each other's throats in just about every episode. But there's almost always a resolution in which their love and support of each other shines through despite the top layer of mutual contempt or disrespect. So they're both metaphoric families who blow off steam in the safest place in the world to do that, but who are there for each other when the chips are down. Their dysfunction is all a put-on, so in the end I think it's harmless, and no one in either series actually got divorced or took drugs or got drunk at Thanksgiving dinner, even though there were usually some loud exchanges of stirred-up hostility based usually on trivial premises.

But not only in today's "comedy" shows and movies, but in references to such get-togethers in comedy routines and talk-show monologues, there's a general put-down of Thanksgiving and all other family-centered holidays, and I think the motives behind that are part of the culture war we've been examining here in many previous discussions. They're aimed at undermining the family because many of the world's philosophers (from Marx to Hillary Clinton, as one author puts it) feel the state, or the "society"—or the "village"—could do a better job of raising our young than our parents and our nuclear and extended families.

Personally, I haven't known a dysfunctional family either in my parents' generation or in my own. I give thanks at every holiday that my extended family, like the one I grew up in, loves to get together and spend holidays with each other.

I hope your family does, too.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Signs of our times

At an optometrist's office "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."

Sent by Trudy Myers  

Advent thought for today

Commemoration of Crispin & Crispinian, Martyrs at Rome, c.285 If some Christians that have been complaining of their ministers had said and acted less before men and had applied themselves with all their might to cry to God for their ministers— had, as it were, risen and stormed heaven with their humble, fervent, and incessant prayers for them—they would have been much more in the way of success.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) 
Puritan pracher of the Great Awakening, philosopher, president of Princeton University

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