April 5, 2006

This is not a family blog: Moral and semantic questions posed by a pizza box

"Do you want another slice of pizza?"


"Uh oh."

"What's wrong?"

"It says on the box... Little Caesars, a Family Company."

"Does that mean what I think it means?"

Sam spotted the words on the box, and I brought my slice of pizza into the computer room so I could begin my research.

We'd been burned by pizza before. Nary a slice of Domino's had crossed our lips since we discovered that the company's founder was a major contributor to pro-life organizations.

After some heavy-duty Googling, I found that Little Caesars was, in fact, a family company. That is, the owners of this corporation are a group of people who are related to one another. Their philanthropy favors politically benign causes such as health care and education programs for low-income children.

I reported the news to Sam, and we finished our pepperoni pizza with a sense of relief that no traceable portion of our dinner costs would be supporting charities that offended our liberal sensibilities.

I can't remember which one of us raised the even more distressing follow-up question:

"When did the word 'family' become so loaded?"

I'm in favor of families. I think we should be nice to the people we're related to. I have very little in common with my brother, but he's still one of my favorite people. I call my mom often, and I'm quite fond of my in-laws.

But show me the word "family" in another context, like on a pizza box, and my skin bristles just a little.

I suspected I might be reading too much into things. Looking for an objective source, I Googled the word "family," devoid of context. The top result: Focus on the Family, a site geared to one very specific kind of family: The conservative Christian variety.

My family is a pretty traditional one. I grew up with a mom and a dad who loved each other until death parted them. I fell in love with a man and married him in a church we still attend regularly. We'd like to have children. You know... have a family.

I just hate using that word at the exclusion of others. My definition of family is a group of people bound together by blood or by love. That includes single parent households. It includes gay couples, with or without children. It includes anyone who makes a profound commitment to another person or people.

Furthermore, I don't think that family should be forced upon anyone. I believe in openly providing people with the full range of available options so that no child has to be born unwanted.

I know that there a lot of people out there who disagree with me. I respect that. I just wish that "family" didn't have to be an f-word for people who interpret it as I do.

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