family values

“Family values” is a term politicians use when they are trying to win votes.

It’s supposed to make you think of a mythical 1950s dinner table with a checkered tablecloth and a turkey on it, 2.5 children, a dog, a yard, a mother who wears makeup and a dress while she vacuums, a father with a briefcase.

But what does it mean, really? Some people use it as a euphemism for their opposition to legal abortions and gay marriage. Others say it purely for the effect above — the warm, fuzzy, safe, stable feeling some people associate with family.

It doesn’t always work, but that’s the idea.

Here are some things you already know: Not every family is happy, not every happy family looks like an episode of Lassie, and just being in a family doesn’t predispose you to adopt any particular set of moral principles. Remember that stuff next time you hear a politician or a preacher saying “family values” into a microphone. Have some questions ready.