After preaching abstinence-only sex education, Congressman Mark Souder resigns when he’s caught with his pants down with staffer
What is it about "family values"? It seems that every time a politician espouses "family values," they are soon embroiled in some scandal involving sex, betrayal, hypocrisy or drugs.
The latest example of this comes from U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, a Republican from Indiana. This guy has served eight terms representing the good Hoosiers of his district and now, poof, he’s gone!
In a flurry of announcements, Souder stumbled through a resignation and apology for having "sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff."
That is Bible code for got caught with his pants down.
For a change the aforementioned staff member was of the opposite sex. That must be a relief to the far right. I suspect they are grateful he isn’t a closeted homosexual, like at least a half dozen other "family values" guys that have fallen recently.
OK, so Souder is human like all of us, and he has human failings. That is excusable as just part of the human condition.
The problem I have is when folks like him and the other hypocrites of the "family values" army start telling me how to live my life.
Worse still is when Souder can’t just confess his failing, resign and get on with his life. Nope, he has to find someone other than himself to blame and he does in a parting shot:
"In this poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted for political gain. I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process."
Well it’s good to know he was only thinking of his family when he resigned. Of course, he wasn’t thinking of them when he was making whoopee with his staff member, but I guess that was all the fault of that old demon, Washington, D.C.
And his family values are pretty strange when he goes on TV being interviewed by that same female staff member about the virtues of abstinence and abstinence in sexual education. Here’s where his family values come in direct conflict with mine.
You see, my family, both of choice and by birth, places a high value on integrity. That doesn’t mean I never make mistakes. On the contrary, I make some whoppers.
But I try to at least own them as mine and chalk them up to experience. Scapegoating has never been part of my value system.
What’s worse about Souder is his constant push for abstinence-based sex education, a system that has been proven over and over to be a failure.
That affects my family of choice. When young people are denied education on how to prevent STDs and on proper use of simple strategies like condoms, it directly contributes to the number of LGBT youth who can and do contract HIV and a host of other STDs.
Souder represents the family values of something more akin to the two-faced Roman god Janus than the face of Jesus that Souder so often touts.
(And to all you Roman history buffs, I know that is an imperfect analogy.)
My point is that the right wing has so often used the phrase "family values" that it has lost any meaning at all. When is the last time any politician backed up that assertion of values with specifics?
Just imagine if some politician or pundit actually put together a list of those values and actually tried to live by them.
Even air-headed celebrities like Sarah Palin can’t give concrete examples. Her last try was the assertion that the law should be based on the Ten Commandments. I seriously doubt if she keeps the Sabbath holy:
"But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work — you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns." (Exodus 20:10)
So in the interest of integrity I figure I would list my family values and I invite you to do the same. Sometimes it’s good to take stock of what you believe and how you live.
Here’s my list:
• Love the members of my family, both biological and of choice, no matter what. That doesn’t mean being blind to reality. Sure, they are human like me, and that is why I love them all the more.
• Love my community. That means treating the people who I come in contact with on a daily basis like a big extended family. That means loving them much like my immediate family and treating them with respect.
• Love myself. That means embracing all of who I am and giving myself freedom to grow and learn while being accountable to my family and community. That means being as honest as possible and living with as much integrity as I can.
• Accept that all people have unique differences.These might be sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnic origin or a myriad of other differences.
• Accept that I cannot change anyone but myself. I have tried changing others and the results have always been unproductive at best and disastrous at worst.
• Enjoy the gift of life. I understand I only have so many days in this existence and making the most of them just seems to be the best use of my time.
That’s what I mean when I say "family values." So, what does your list of "family values" look like?
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 21, 2010.