I am wandering around the back rooms of PoMoCon like the guest at a party who’s left the living room when the host said, “Please, make yourself at home.” I think I’m in the kitchen.
Joe Carter kindly set me up. James Poulos sent warm words of welcome. I am happy to be here; it was kind of Peter Lawler to invite me. Joe Knippenberg pushed gently from Facebook. You guys make me feel so wanted.
I’ll join the main conversation shortly. What is worrying me today is an article from the New York Times , “Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S.” What are the implications of this? Maybe nothing, seriously, it could mean nothing but an America with a darker complexion. America’s current version of liberality shows in the NYT; color seems to be the main worry of people quoted in the article. Older America will not accept (and pay for?) a younger America that looks different. “The result is striking: Minorities accounted for 92 percent of the nations population growth in the decade that ended in 2010, Mr. Frey calculated, a surge that has created a very different looking America from the one of the 1950s, when the TV characters Ozzie and Harriet were a national archetype.” He means that those in the surge are not white.
Have we had a functioning Ozzie and Harriet archetype for a long time? Charles Murray ate that idea for breakfast in the prologue to Coming Apart , observing that Harriet was a working mother and Ozzie didn’t obviously work at anything. He was a precursor to the phenomenon noted in the WSJ this week, “Are Dads the New Moms?” . A large part of that is a product of divorce and joint custody arrangements , but in addition, 32% of fathers with working wives are routinely involved in the care of their children. “Fathers are no longer seen as just providers or occasional babysitters, but as actively engaged in their children’s emotional and daily lives, down to their routine care,” says Lauren Rinelli McClain, an assistant professor of sociology at Savannah State University. You remember the meme; “Father Knows Best.”? Isn’t that cute?
Evidently, that new-kind-of family phenomenon is not about race. Putting the two articles together and thinking about the implications, America might merely become more like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet , except for having darker complexions. Ah, if that were the only problem — it is no problem. What is the real worry is what happens to our culture. If America were still a great “melting pot”, assimilating, acculturating and educating a morally wholesome and productive ethos, then we would have no worries. If Charles Murray is right, we do not even do that among whites, anymore. Murray also worries about American exceptionalism, which he writes about without irony. “The exceptionalism has not been a figment of anyone’s imagination, and it has been wonderful.” He’s talking about culture, social mores, the important things that hold society, the nation, together; heck, that hold people together. Yes, about the kind of “mores” Tocqueville noted as part of American democracy’s strength. The worry is that we are not hanging on to those things.
I don’t know that the worry is about individualism. Looking back into the Times article, diversity is about groups, racial and ethnic, not about individuals. America needs to change the way it thinks about itself; individualism might actually bring people together in ways group diversity never could. Actually, need to or not, we will choose, we will have to choose, either embracing what made America exceptional, or rejecting it and becoming something else, not American melting pot, but melted into the wider world and not just Europe. The world’s population moves in; “The trend toward greater minority births has been building for years, the result of the large wave of immigration here over the past three decades. “ We should look carefully at the whole wide world and see if that’s what we want. Don’t immigrants have to think about that, too? We can hope that they moved here to preserve “the last best hope of earth”.