A Fading Culture
Those who are hoping
that a Biden Administration will rid of us the division and prejudice that have
characterized the last four years, and return us to some halcyon period, are
mistaken. Mainstream media will no longer be in attack mode nor will late-night
television hosts, so the temperature may appear to abate. But the causes for
the dysfunction we have felt do not lie with Mr. Trump but are a consequence of
attempts to alter the culture that has made us a success.
The word culture stems from the Latin "colere," to cultivate, nurture and grow. It encompasses many aspects of our lives, like music, art and literature, as well as ethnicities, religion and race. But when I write of culture, I refer to family, traditions like church and patriotism, and qualities like honor, manners, respect, humility, tolerance - universal values, acquired over time and required for civil behavior. They are expressed in axioms like the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments and turning the other cheek.
The United States has faults, but its good qualities outshine its bad. As a nation of courageous and independent individuals, we are unafraid to speak of past and present evils, like slavery and bigotry. We should, as well, be as quick to acknowledge our accomplishments: A Constitutional government "of the people, by the people, for the people," comprised of laws, not men; our system of free-market capitalism, which has done more to eradicate poverty than any system of state redistribution; educational opportunities not available to most of the world - two thirds of Americans between the ages of 18 and 22 are in college. To believe that race is systemic is to be seduced by accusations of white guilt and to disbelieve facts; a Pew Research survey found that 91% of Americans either shrug off or applaud interracial marriage. We are the most desired nation for migrants, with 21% naming the U.S., in a study done by the World Economic Forum in 2017. (Germany was second with six percent.)
As a nation, we are blessed with natural resources and favorable climate, but they alone do not account for our success. The crucible has been a culture that valued aspiration, risk-taking, hard work and self-reliance. It was a culture, based on a Judeo-Christian heritage, enmeshed in the traditional family and traditional values. Our universities were designed to allow the intellectually gifted to expand their minds, explore and debate ideas, to learn the "hows" and "whys" of thinking, not what to think. Students were challenged, not coddled. The concept of "safe places," or the idea that the classroom was a place to claim victimhood and air grievances were alien to those who saw their role as imparting knowledge, to form better citizens, to help the Country grow and prosper.
Fundamental to the success of our culture has been the nuclear family. Its decline has been accompanied by dysfunction and cultural deterioration. Today, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 million American children (25%) grow up in households without a father. For Blacks, the number is 65%. Those children bear a disadvantage. In a recent issue of "First Things," Mary Eberstadt, essayist and author of How the West Really Lost God, wrote: "Absent fathers predict higher rates of truancy, psychiatric problems, criminality, promiscuity, drug use, rape, domestic violence, and other less optimal outcomes." Her conclusions are confirmed by sociologists and organizations like the National Fatherhood Initiative. While divorce, at times, is s the right answer, we should promote family values.
Immigration is integral to our culture. The United States is largely composed of immigrants, initially from Western Europe, with slaves from Africa brought here against their will. More recently the majority of immigrants have come from Latin America and Asia. Inherent to what is the United States has been the willingness of immigrants to adapt to American "cultural norms." This does not mean, as some claim, that immigrants are supposed to deny their past. But it does recognize that assimilation is critical to future success. The preference of "woke" progressives is for a segregated, "salad bow" approach, with competing and contrasting identities, rather than a melting pot, with its motto of E Pluribus Unum. To succeed, immigrants must learn our language, culture and customs, while adding their bit to it. Yet, cynical politicians, viewing them as a source of votes, urge them to emphasize victimhood, rather than to encourage the independent spirit that brought them to this Country. To deny them the opportunities the United States offers is demeaning and unfair, as it makes more difficult the climb up the economic ladder, and it is untrue to the culture that has made the United States a success.
In its place, we have developed a "woke" counterculture that idolizes political correctness, eradicates history, cheers white guilt and victimization of minorities; it divides people and discourages heroism. It is a culture seeded in universities, nurtured by mainstream and social media, reaped by "woke" politicians and fed on by organizations like Black Lives Matter and Antifa. It is a culture that allows politicians to milk the public purse for private gain. It permitted the Biden family to become rich off of Ukraine and China. It was behind the lies and the subterfuge in the Obama Administration, which weaponized our intelligence agencies to spy on, and attempt to destroy the Trump Administration, beginning in late 2016. It was behind the failed Mueller investigation and the impeachment of Donald Trump. It is a culture that brooks no dissent and allows no debate. Its followers are seductive, articulate and intelligent. But they are ruthless in their self-righteousness and will lie and cheat to achieve their goals. As well, and which may bring their downfall, they have become insufferable, cultural snobs. Is it any surprise that trust in government has collapsed? Is it a surprise that so many question the outcome of November's election?
At age sixteen, George Washington copied out 110 "Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." While many of the rules are dated and have little applicability today, what they have is a consideration for the feelings of others, rather than the self-righteousness that permeates society today. As such, they are intrinsic to our culture. They proclaim our respect for others and, in turn, give us the gift of self-respect and heightened self-esteem. I would not expect young people today to copy those rules, but they should be aware of them and of what prompted the young George Washington to copy them.
This cultural slide has been fed by a confederacy of snobs in academia, and in social and mainstream media. Corrupt politicians/bureaucrats and their corporate accomplices have created a government of oligarchs. Mr. Trump is a man whose many flaws are well publicized, but whose virtues - loyalty, directness, tenaciousness - go unreported. Our cultural slide is manifest in attitudes toward him: The hatred for Mr. Trump by Progressives is not based on damage he might inflict on democracy, but fear of what he would uncover in "draining the swamp." The media does not mock him for the policies he pursued, but because he called them out for the toadies they are. Academia do not dismiss him for his ideas, but because his speech is blunt and coarse. Mr. Trump is not the cause of this cultural decline. He is a consequence. Where is respect for the office? Where is tolerance for a diversity of opinions? Where are the manners that allow us to live civilly? Where is honor? "It's not dark yet, but it's getting that way."
Sydney M. Williams