August 12, 2003 | Commentary on Family and Marriage
Have you ever been asleep on a plane, only to be rudely awakened by a sudden jolt? One minute, it's smooth flying. The next, BAM! The plane hits some air pocket and falls fast enough to nearly bounce you out of your seat. Within seconds the pilot's authoritative voice is heard gently reassuring you that he's in the process of taking the plane to an altitude of smoother air.
If you're like most people, you feel much better knowing that the plane is no longer on auto-pilot: The sudden jolt has caused the pilot to take full control.
Lately, I've come to think America works the same way. We pretty much ignore small bumps, mentally relaxing in a mode of automatic pilot if the ride is even fairly smooth. But when we're jerked awake by elements that directly threaten us, we know it's time for someone to grab the wheel and guide us safely home.
Five years ago, no one seemed to care much when Saddam Hussein thumbed his nose at our sanctions and no-fly zones. After 9-11, Americans suddenly started insisting that we snuff out those who seek our demise. Today, the vast majority of Americans feel pride for having supported President Bush in his efforts to remove the brutal dictator from power.
America's religious heritage has been under attack for years, and very few seemed to notice or care. But when a judge ruled last year that the words "under God" must be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, the voices of Americans nationwide were heard in a joint cry of opposition. The ruling was since overturned and today the offending judge has become the butt of jokes.
We're sitting bolt upright in our seats on other fronts as well.
A quarter-century after Madelyn Murray O'Hair successfully removed prayer from the public schools, students of faith are fighting back for their constitutional rights to express themselves in the public square. Consider: On the last day before Christmas break last December, students at a high school in Massachusetts went against their principal's orders and handed out candy-canes bearing a note with Christian messages. He ordered in-school suspensions. They refused to accept the punishments, took the principal to court and won. Courts also have ruled recently that Christian groups have the same rights to use school facilities for after-school meetings as do debate teams and drama clubs.
I'm sure that if you stop and think long enough, examples of your own outrage or the outrage in your community over threats to bedrock values will come to mind. Americans, everywhere eventually yell "Enough!" when our sensibilities are insulted, or our values are trashed.
Americans are, once again, drawing the line in the sand. Between the recent legalization of same-sex marriages in Vermont and Canada, the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas that struck down the state's sodomy law, the opening of a high school for "gay" students in New York City and the decisions by the Episcopal Church to approve a "gay" bishop and allow "gay" marriages, Americans are saying they have had enough.
A USA TODAY-CNN-Gallup Poll taken in May found that 60 percent of Americans thought "gay" sex should be legal, but by late-July -- after the Lawrence decision but before the Episcopal Church's actions -- the number had fallen to 48. The July numbers also reveal that 57 percent of Americans do not believe that same-sex couples should have the same rights as other married couples -- the highest such percentage since 2000.
The drop in support of the homosexual agenda has been highest among liberals and moderates. The number of liberals who favored "gay" marriage fell to 57 percent by late July from the 80 percent support it received in May. Today, only 36 percent of African Americans think "gay" sex should be legal, down from 58 percent in May. Also rising is opposition to homosexual civil unions that include providing the couples with some of the same rights as married heterosexual couples. And for the first time since 1997, of those polled, more people oppose homosexuality as "an acceptable alternative lifestyle" than those who support it.
All this goes to show that Americans seem to value American values most when we fear we have lost them. From free speech, to the freedom of religion, to national security, to protecting the definition of marriage, the pattern is the same: Americans fight back when we perceive our values have been punched in the nose.
The family unit -- beginning with a marriage between one man and one woman -- has been the basic unit of every civil society since time immemorial. Make no mistake: There is a concentrated effort afoot to alter this foundation, that if successful, will be the single greatest social experiment in the history of mankind. Americans are sensing that the family is now teetering on a precipice, and instinctively seem to understand that the consequences of such a fall would impact every other area of our lives and destroy all other institutions we now hold dear.
This time, more and more Americans aren't just hoping those in authority will take control -- they're insisting on it. Check out the websites of organizations like Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council to find out how many are helping to steer the American family to safety.
Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation.
Reprinted with permission of Internet newspaper WorldNetDaily