Every summer our children looked forward to a family vacation. Granted, with 13 children, our leisure spots were not always exotic.
In the early years, we were content with summer weekends at Grandma’s two-bedroom cabin. (Yep, I said two bedroom!) It was all we could afford. But as the children grew and the diapers and routine became manageable, our entire crew would save throughout the year — the kids doing babysitting, lawn and snow jobs, and John and I tightening our budget a bit more — to afford traveling to cities and sites we hoped would create lasting memories for all of us. And each trip did.
Through the years, we traveled to South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore, Wisconsin’s Dells, Iowa’s farms (to see Pope John Paul II), Chicago’s Alder Planetarium and Sears Tower, Gettysburg’s battlefields, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Philadelphia’s historic sites and Washington’s patriotic treasures.
One of the big travel bonuses for our kids was dining out. In a super-size family the chance to eat out — even at fast-food stops — comes only rarely. When traveling, our vacation routine was to eat breakfast and dinner at picnic tables and road stops. The best treat was lunch out at a local restaurant. (Lunch costs less than dinner.)
Better even than eating out, though, was staying at a hotel — especially one with a swimming pool. We stayed in two rooms — one for my husband and the boys, and another for me and our girls. Still, it was first-class “luxury” to pull up to an out-of-state “inn” with our 12-passenger van and see the neon sign broadcasting: Pool and TV!
The kids could hardly wait.
No one minded the long day’s drive, the cold cereal out of plastic bowls or the simple sandwiches on yesterday’s bread. All that mattered was the chance to swim and splash around in a hotel pool in the evening.
We have wonderful memories of those trips. We chuckle over more than a few, such as the time our older kids brought their sister Kari, then a toddler with plaster casts on both legs to correct an abnormal walk, into the hotel pool. Her casts unraveled and then came apart. Or the times we’d start to drive away from a place and discover we hadn’t “counted off” and one kid was missing.
By now fun memories of family events have become more precious than gold.
Which is why I shudder to think of what today’s young parents face when planning vacations that include hotel stays. I say this because I recently learned that even so-called “nice” hotels offer pay-per-view pornography in every guest room.
Yes, I did say “pornography.” The term should not be confused with R-rated and unrated film fare. Bad as the latter may sometimes be, it’s a lot tamer than today’s “Triple-X” garbage. The depravity of this stuff is hard to fathom in a civilized society.
How did I learn of the hotel-porn connection? The hard way. A supporter contacted us at ProLife Across America saying she would not attend our annual banquet because it was being held at a hotel that offers pay-per-view pornography.
She also contacted Archbishop John Nienstedt of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese, who was to give the keynote address at the event. Needless to say, the archbishop would not appear at a hotel that offered pornography to its guests. We at our pro-life organization felt just as strongly. After all, life and family is why we exist.
When I called the hotel to ask if they indeed offered pay-per-view porn, the representative responded, “Yes we do.”
No hesitation. No apology. No exceptions. And the moral rot is in every room.
This would have been our fourth consecutive year with this particular hotel chain. We’d had nothing but positive results from the three previous years. From the caterer to the wait staff to the quality of the food, the elements had always added up to a pleasing event for our guests and us.
Ultimately, Prolife Across America canceled the scheduled banquet and relocated to a wonderful church hall with a terrific caterer. Sadly, we were charged a $3,000 “cancellation fee” by the hotel — in spite of the fact we gave almost a four-week notice.
Since the cancellation and relocation, I have learned that pay-per-view porn is offered at many hotel and motel chains across the country. The one we’d been doing business with is far from an exception to the norm. They are smack-dab in the middle of the hotel-industry mainstream.
What a shame that once reputable hotels are involved in contributing to an industry that has wreaked untold havoc on marriage and family life.
Despite the evidence documenting this damage, some maintain that there is no harm in pay-per-view pornography at hotels. “If you don’t like it,” they say, “don’t watch it.”
I say that’s not enough. Among the reasons not to even patronize hotels that offer pay-per-view porn:
• Since when is it right to “look the other way” while an industry that denigrates women, marriage, fidelity and family life benefits by your silence?
• Pornography of every kind uses and abuses women (and, sometimes, children). The industry degrades women and supports abortion.
• The hotel is decidedly not “family friendly.” Rather, it chooses to profit by catering to a clientele that is indifferent to concerns about the state of the family.
• If parents with children are staying at a site that offers pornography, will their young be safe from a possible predator? In today’s climate of child exploitation and kidnapping, the proximity of porn can increase a danger most parents do not want to risk.
• There is a risk. Ask any law-enforcement officer. It is a well-known fact that when a child molester, predator or rapist is apprehended, pornography can be found in his possession, his car or his home.
• Will adolescent and teen children be tempted to “take a peek” when parents are not in the room? After all, children are children. They come loaded with “curiosity.”
It’s not too late to turn this ship around. In fact, I have since learned of a website — CleanHotels.com — that offers a list of family-friendly hotels. These are totally free of pornography. In this mom’s view, these establishments are safer and far more deserving of our patronage.
That’s a start. But together we could do more to clean up America and rid our nation of the evil of pornography. A good place to start is taking the time to express our views and concerns to any hotels purveying pay-per-view pornography.
Whether you patronize a hotel for business, personal travel or family vacations, especially where children are involved, check first before booking to ensure it is pornography free — and that includes pay-per-view.
For our children’s sake, we can’t afford to “look the other way” any more.
Mary Ann Kuharski, author of Outnumbered! Raising Thirteen Kids With Humor and Prayer (Servant, 2006) and three other books, is director of the billboard company Prolife Across America.