By: Scot Bear Re: Re: Buchanan's Family Values THE DAILY IOWAN 111 Communications Center,I

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By: Scot Bear Re: Re: Buchanan's Family Values THE DAILY IOWAN 111 Communications Center,Iowa City,Ia.,52242 -(Fax 319-335-6184 - or- 335-6297, print run 12,400) -(E-Mail: (NOTE: The Daily Iowan welcomes letters to the editor from anyone in the country.) Monday, January 29, 1996 COLUMN BY KIM PAINTER BUCHANAN'S DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY VALUES Values. Family values. It is a sign of the times that politicians say these words more than the rest of us; a sign of how words are cheapened by political ambition when no two people can agree on a definition. At the core of the values debate stands Pat Buchanan. William Bennett and his "Book of Virtues" aside, it is Buchanan who waves the broadest banner with the least shame. America is great, he tells us, because of Americans. Men and women who believe in God, marry for life, refuse to mollycoddle their children and know right from wrong. Buchanan's is a doctrine of tidiness in a world of mayhem, and it is earning him more followers than most people care to admit. Having Buchanan at the core of any debate tends to give it the flavor of a barroom brawl. If one could smell the Buchanan doctrine, it would no doubt carry an aroma of hops, barley and aftershave. There is a reason for this. The alcohol and abuse that formed Buchanan's politics found their purest expression in his grandfather, who drank excessively and regularly beat his father. In his 1988 memoir "Right from the Beginning," Buchanan doesn't hesitate in revealing the story of his upbringing, replete with boxing on command and beatings galore. "To show emotion and feeling was considered an unmanly thing to do; we were to be stoic about pain," he writes. "Take your punishment. Don't let anyone see you cry. Whenever I read in today's press about some individual,especially some man, 'revealing himself' (e.g., bleeding and bleating in print about his 'feelings' and 'hurt'), I always feel a profound sense of embarrassment." In the Jan. 22 New Republic, author Charles Lane finds and explores a relationship between Buchanan's book and "The Authoritarian Personality," a book detailing the experiments and observations of Theodor Adorno and colleagues at the University of California. A social scientist and philosopher, Adorno found in the '40s that "those who scored highest on a test designed to measure bigotry came from homes where the parents ruled by force." In a presidential election year, while Buchanan's is the more immediately compelling tome, a chilling long-term vision is provided by Adorno's counterpoint. If a hard-core family-values crowd gains control of more than one branch of government, the result could be a moral throwback -- the return to an era no better than our own by any objective standard, but one less discretionary and more brutish. I hear knuckles scraping the pavement in Washington when I imagine more right-wing election victories. One must be fair, even to those who renounce human feeling as a matter of principle. Stories abound in Buchanan's book of values that do resonate,values that managed to transcend the racism and juvenile heckling of outsiders Buchanan was encouraged to partake in as a youth. Help was offered regardless of race or station in life, but only to those who had proven loyalty to the family. So it seems Buchanan and I could sit down over beers for a swell visit. If he liked me, he might even get me a job as a sub on "Crossfire." But when issues affecting the lives of millions of gay and lesbian Americans arose,he'd stand square on the other side of the fence, growling about "special rights for none." It's as if a devotion to justice for any group of people is beyond his level of emotional development. He'll deal with one African-American person, or one Jew, but after that back off. He's not currying favor with any special interests. He's an American man. He can do it alone, bite his lip and fight a damned good fight. But the fact is he can't do it alone, especially if he wants to lead a nation. History shows the basis for the totalitarian regime has always been the megalomania of one leader doing it all alone. Life doesn't work that way,nor should it. The proof lies in the twisted nature of totalitarian regimes. Show me the benign despot and I'll withdraw my point, which is that absolutism, and the absolute power of one who's always right, breeds evil. Yet, the valuesnik trumpets the return of the absolute as a panacea for today's social ills. The greatest value in any family is understanding. Our emotional muscles benefit from the work of understanding others. It's called humanity, but it doesn't belong to the catalog of family values in vogue today. Maybe that's the problem with valuesniks. They haven't come to terms with their humanity yet. It's sad to see that in an individual. In a large movement, it's an open invitation to despotism. That the valuesniks scoff away this criticism, offered by the "moral dreck" of the nation, speaks volumes about America's vanishing sense of historical immediacy. Hopefully,some sense of immediacy will infuse this debate before it turns into a mass delusion. Such a delusion would no doubt lead us all straight to hell, where our future would look remarkably like Pat Buchanan's childhood. (Kim Painter's column appears Mondays on the Viewpoints Page. She is on line at [From GayNews...]


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