The American family is dead.
It doesn’t know it yet, but like a person with an undiagnosed but metastatic malignancy, its days are numbered.
It is on its last legs, stumbling through in an ever-weaker and less-vital state, about to fall face forward into oblivion.
Marx got his wish.
In the “Communist Manifesto,” he said that the bourgeois family
was an institution based on private gain, on capital, and that for the proletariat to rise, the bourgeois family must be destroyed.
Family, as he saw it, was an institution for the preservation of wealth and comfort, that it was selfishness of clan instead of selfishness of individual, and that it diverted loyalties away from the collective whole.
So he called for its end.
And in America his wish is coming true.
In a sea of amorality and welfare dependency, where religion and values are rendered situational and irrelevant, where idleness and entitlement permeate the culture, family is just too much bother.
Sex is a video on the Internet, or a hookup on the sly, and affection is directed at self and little else. True independent adulthood is delayed into and through the 20s, marriage is pushed back and pushed down, births will soon be mostly out of wedlock, and the cultural pattern of true love is two gay guys on a sitcom or some rapper shouting crudities about sodomizing a string of women.
Partners are not sweethearts, they are sexual toilets. Children are not blessings, they are burdens. And the notion of a married man and woman raising their children is demographically isolated and eroding fast.
The America family is dead.
Marriage rates are at notable lows and still falling. Illegitimacy rates are at historic highs. Fertility rates are, in some categories, below the replacement rate. Abortions, in some communities, end half the pregnancies.
The American dream – the bourgeois family Marx so hated – is flickering out.
Punished by taxes, doped by social programs, pulled apart by government-funded daycare and pre-schools, the family is not different, it is worse. In terms of cohesion and structure, families are increasingly frayed and weak.
At least they are on paper.
Because the stats show that, by our choices, we’re not choosing family. We’re doing other things with our lives, and whether you call that liberation or self-actualization, the impact is the same. Fewer marriages, fewer children, fewer intact homes.
And more sorrow.
Because the family does not exist in a vacuum. It is not an independent phenomenon. The family is the foundation of society. It is both the root and the fruit of what our lives are supposed to be about.
Family is the basic unit of society.
And as the family goes, so goes society.
Which puts us all down the toilet.
Where did we go wrong? In turning loose of the values, traditions and institutions of our heritage and culture. We abandoned what for 4,000 years had been our guiding light.
And that has brought terrible consequences.
From failed individuals to horrific urban crime. Educational failure, economic dependence, criminal misconduct, drug usage, out-of-wedlock births. It’s all just a vicious cycle that spirals downward, corkscrewing into the ground below.
We are following in the path of great civilizations from history. We are following their path of decay and destruction.
And it will end badly if we don’t do something quickly.
Because if we don’t do something quickly, the American family is dead.
I don’t give money to beggars.
At least not usually.
I work in a good-sized city and used to work in another, and for 25 years I’ve been pretty good at walking past the random annoying drunk with his hand out.
I’ve seen the three-legged dog and the supposedly homeless veteran and the guy who needs bus fare to get somewhere.
I see panhandlers about the way I see dog droppings, as rude obstacles along the walk of life, to be veered around and walked away from quickly. Before he gets the second syllable out I shake my head and mutter, “No, buddy,” and hurry on.
Not always, but usually.
I’ve bought a few lunches over the years, and one time I felt something odd and called a guy back to give him a10-dollar bill.
But I don’t usually give money to beggars.
Which leaves me in a quandary of sorts. I know that giving money to panhandlers only makes things worse. It reinforces a negative behavior and the money probably all goes to drugs and alcohol anyway.
But a small set of verses from scripture haunts me.
“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
“But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
“And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.”
I think sometimes about those verses and I try to ignore them.
Last week I was in the last days of a working vacation out west. On Friday afternoon, a bit after 4, when my shift was done, I left the radio station in a rented car and went out onto a main arterial with three lanes of heavy traffic in each direction.
I was thirsty and thought to get a Gatorade for myself and my son. He’s 28 and had been out of work for a couple of hours and we were going to drive through heavy commuter traffic south to the next county where the rest of the family was.
There are two convenience stores on this road, side by side, and for the 13 years I have visited that city I have always stopped at the second one. Never once have I stopped in the first one. Already on this trip I had stopped at the second one twice.
But this time I pulled into the first convenience store and went in to get the Gatorade. I like the cucumber and lime flavor, with the Spanish label, and he lately has been preferring the mango. And as I stood in front of the cooler and saw that they had both flavors I unexpectedly looked two coolers over and saw a sign that advertised two quart chocolate milks for $4.
And I got them.
And called my son from the car before I pulled out of the parking lot.
It turned out he had already left, that he was going to meet me, that we were driving separately.
So I put his chocolate milk on the passenger seat and opened mine and swallowed it down against the 90-degree heat.
Then I pulled out into traffic and headed toward the intersection that turned to the Interstate entrance.
A couple blocks before that the traffic had backed up with the afternoon commute and a long line of us waited to get past a red light that never let more than a third of the accumulated cars through at any one time.
I was in the right-hand lane, against the curb, preparatory to turning, the air conditioning blowing full blast in my face.
When I saw this young guy with his foot in a brace and with a crane walking up the curb with a sign asking for $1.50.
He was hustling right along, trying to get to as many cars as possible, and as he approached I felt the impulse to give him that other quart of chocolate milk.
So I rolled down the passenger window and as he saw it and reached my way I lifted the chocolate milk and leaned toward the window.
“Here, buddy,” I said.
“God bless you,” he said.
And he quickly moved back down the line of stopped cars, as quickly as he could, maximizing his chance to pick up dollars and change.
I listened to the radio newscast and pulled forward when the light was green and stopped when it was red and pulled ahead when it was green and stopped when it was red.
By then I was almost at the intersection and I noticed just back from the corner, even with where I had stopped, was a small tree casting a small circle of shade on a narrow strip of grass.
In the circle sat a sunburned pregnant woman and leaning against her was a little boy, maybe 4 years old, who was whimpering. His face was flushed and sweaty.
I’ve seen people sit there before. Sometimes Somalis waiting for the bus, sometimes Latino women waiting for their men to be dropped off from their day-labor jobs. On Friday it was this lady and the boy.
The light turned green and the brake lights flicked off and the first cars in the line began to move and the guy with the foot brace and the cane hobbled into view, quickly, arcing over onto the grass and leaning down to the woman.
To hand her the chocolate milk.
He continued on to position himself for the new line of cars and she looked at the lid, to make sure it was sealed. Then she shook it and opened it and handed it to the boy.
Who lifted it to his mouth and began gulping it down as the car in front of me rolled forward and I followed, turning right and merging with the line of cars making for the Interstate onramp.
That’s when I thought of those verses.
And unforeseeable consequences.
And thirsty little boys.
And a God who knows which ones like mango and which ones like chocolate.
And how we’re all beggars.
(I wrote this in 2001. We won that round. But the state is back at it, with the help of an interim superintendent. On Monday night, 70 people crowded the Canisteo school board meeting to push back against current efforts to change the mascot name. PS -- Vacation is almost over. The column will be back steady by the end of the week.)
Once a Redskin, always a Redskin.
And I guess that’s what angers me so much about this. This dictate out of Albany about high school mascots.
Richard P. Mills, the education commissar of the state of New York, sent out an order last week that will change life for scores of schools and hundreds of thousands of people.
He declared our lives and our heritage politically incorrect and socially unacceptable.
I doubt he’s ever been to Canisteo. Or Canaseraga or Irondequoit or Penfield or Hornell. Or the lion’s share of the other communities across New York he decided last week were too stupid to run their own affairs.
Too ignorant and benighted to be trusted with the complex task of naming their own high school sports teams.
And that’s funny.
Because New York isn’t all socialist. Not by a long shot. The cities are, especially the big cities, but out in the country it’s a different state. A hardscrabble state of Yankee individualists. The kind of people who feel capable of leading their own lives and who resent outsiders who want to help.
Like this Mills idiot. A Republican appointed by a Republican, kneeling before the god of political correctness as no New York Democrat ever has. The steady march to fettered thought and mandated orthodoxy takes a giant leap forward at the hands of the party of Lincoln.
And it’s one more proof that freedom of thought and speech have fallen victim to the spread of government power at every level.
We were the Canisteo Redskins. And our town, valley and river took their name from the Seneca word for “head of navigation.” That meant that if you wanted to go farther north on these waters that flowed eventually into the Chesapeake you were going to have to carry your canoe.
It had been a Seneca city of refuge, a walled village where drifters of every race collected and were left alone. Until the French came in and burned them out. Until Sullivan came through and made it America.
And we were proud of that history and so the high school teams took the name “Redskin.” Just like some schools became the Chiefs or the Braves, the Red Raiders or the Warriors.
Our parents did it, or our grandparents, and by the time it was our turn to play for the varsity it was an honor to be a Redskin. It was the high point of a high school career. We did it with pride.
And it became a special and sacred part of our memories and of our lives. A piece of heritage we inherited from our parents and bequeathed to our children. Full of the innocence of youth and the full-throated roar of a Sectional basketball win.
And now he’s made it dirty.
He’s made us dirty.
He’s said they have to change. Because they’re insensitive. Because we’re insensitive. Because we need to be led to an enlightened understanding.
Because it doesn’t matter how it’s intended, it matters how it’s interpreted.
And that makes us all hostages of whomever the latest bellyacher happens to be. If one pretends to be uncomfortable, the rest must be discomfited.
And the notion of representative government is turned on its head. The voters and taxpayers of New York’s school districts overwhelmingly oppose this lunacy. They think it is ridiculous. And the crooks in Albany are telling them to screw off.
Mills the milquetoast ordered superintendents and school board presidents to convince communities of the need for this statewide ban. Instead of the citizens telling government what they want, the official position of the New York State Department of Education is to have the government tell the citizens what it wants.
Under force and penalty of law.
Over the name of a high school mascot.
Over the will of the local electorate.
It seems that a community of Americans ought to be allowed to decide for itself what its sports teams will be called. It seems like, but it isn’t.
Local parents and taxpayers can’t decide what’s taught in their schools. They can’t decide what’s appropriate for classrooms. They can’t set goals and expectations for staff or students. And now they can’t keep decades-old mascots.
All it seems they can do is pay the taxes.
Which are among the highest in the nation, in a state with the worst credit rating in the nation, and the highest burden of state regulation, and a Republican governor.
Seems kind of out of whack.
But it’s not. Freedom is dead in the Empire State. All we have left is six months of winter and the privilege of kowtowing to the social and cultural elite.
All of which makes a Redskin a little hot under the collar.