Posted by: terrapraeta | February 3, 2010

From the Archives: Our Political Family

In our family portrait we look pretty happy
We look pretty normal, let’s go back to that
In our family portrait we look pretty happy
Let’s play pretend, act like it goes naturally

In our family portrait we look pretty happy
(Can we work it out? Can we be a family?)
We look pretty normal, let’s go back to that
(I promise I�ll be better, Mommy I�ll do
In our family portrait we look pretty happy
(Can we work it out? Can we be a family?)
Let’s play pretend act and like it comes so
(I promise I�ll be better, Daddy please don’t
In our family portrait we look pretty happy
(Can we work it out? Can we be a family?)
We look pretty normal, let’s go back to that
(I promise I�ll be better, Daddy please don’t

Pink, Family Portrait

Ahhh… politics. Heh, yeah right. Let’s get on with it.

Conservatives want us to see them as our ‘Strict Father.’ Protecting their children from the evils of the world. Leading us by example, (say again?) into a world of self sacrifice, self denial and self reliance. The Big Bad Wolf ever present and waiting for us to misstep.

Liberals, on the other hand, appear to not know exactly how they want us to see them. But if we step back and characterize them anyway, we find our ‘Nurturing Parent’. Caring for and supporting their incompetent children, protecting them not only from the Big Bad Wolf, but also themselves.

I say… never seen No Big Bad Wolf.

In fact, I’ve never seen a child thrive on either one of these models alone. In the real world, both mom and dad wear a dozen hats, only two of which are represented here. So if we want to stick with the family metaphor, maybe we need to look a little deeper into the source of that metaphor. In a real family there are multiple levels of both support and discipline. Mom and Dad play their varied roles, but we also receive constant input from Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Schools, Community Leaders, Friends… how does this fit in?

I would suggest that perhaps the metaphor fails by simplification in two distinct ways. First by insisting on the dichotomy. Second by insisting that the model and metaphor is identical regardless of the government scope. If we fill it out in both directions, perhaps we will have something that works. So I’ll color in the rest of my portrait, here and we’ll see what we end up with.

Local Government: Municipal and County governments represent both the strict father and nurturing mother. At this level, you find the ‘immediate family’ inclusive of all disciplinary action, safety nets, boundaries and support mechanisms. Local governments are close enough and accessible enough to actually BE representative of their citizens. Who better to identify both socially unacceptable behavior and necessary assistance structures. ‘…Now red was your color..’ (M.J. Keenan)

State government: At the state level, we are venturing into the realm of extended family. When Mom and Dad need help, where do they turn? Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, Cousins. The state is responsible for making sure that the local communities have the resources available that they need, as well as the responsibility to look over mom and dad’s shoulders to make sure that they are doing a good job. No one likes an abusive parent, even if only baby Joe is victimized. Purple robes drape the state… for opportunity.

Federal Government: Whether Federal or international, the role on this grand scale is the same: to provide a structure and tools for use by the state and local governments. This is our community outside of the family itself. Symbolically, the outside influence that encourages growth and development, that introduces ideas from one family to the next. Color me Blue for fluidity.

Now, keep in mind that this family metaphor ties directly into “Well Being=Self Fulfillment.” All of these structures, whether talking about the actual family or the metaphorical government/family, are geared to help the individual realize their full potential and well being. On the flip, the one thing that there is no room for is personal aggrandizement within the government structure. How does that happen? Best way is severe limitations on both income and rights/responsibilities the further up the chain one goes. Perhaps local politicians make a rather hefty salary with lots of legislation possible. After all, they still have to look their neighbors in the eye at the end of the day. While at the federal level, they are not much more than arbitrators, helping to smooth relations between local and state organizations.

I know, this is all a stretch. Its meant to be. Its an exercise in redefining our metaphorical systems so that we can rethink our old rote answers. After all, those old rote answers and the programs that they have engendered don’t seem to be working so well. Instead of, say, building a new prison, perhaps a new context will allow us to come up with a fundamentally different answer. Like what? I dunno. Maybe a combination of Probationary Community Service, Career Training, Counseling, and in extreme cases, perhaps Local, State or National Banishment.

I dunno.

Maybe that’s a stupid idea.

But at least its a new idea.

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ”
— The Declaration of Independence



  1. My wish for the criminals would be… non-jail options for all but the violent. For the latter, solitary confinement, along with lots of legal help just in case person was framed (legal students and such). Of those, who are found guilty as sin, two options: if only one instance of violence of the kind which tends not to repeat, the chance for redemption via some service to humanity. Medical research or some such. For the repeat offender, or someone who did something too gruesome and cannot be trusted to reintegrate, exile to self-governing securely-separated colony. We provide food and basics, they have to figure out how to live among themselves. ?

  2. Hey —

    the criminal thing is a hard question… especially so long as our current systems are dominant. I am far less “liberal” than most on this particular topic, but that prob’ly makes sense in some weird way….

    Probably tomorrow I will be posting another article totally re-addressing this neo-metaphor from my current world view. Rhizome, tribalism, Iroquois Confederacy…. like that.


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