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A friend of American Thinker, understandably upset about the unraveling of America around us, reached out with a heartfelt question: how did we as a society come to behave so acrimoniously toward one another?
The two words that stood out to me while turning this question over in my mind were “we” and “society.” Who “we” are as Americans has changed radically over the last half-century, and during that time, the political sphere in America has eaten away and destroyed the independence of the civic sphere we traditionally call “society.”
Consider these facts:
1. Before Ted Kennedy’s 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, nine tenths of all new immigrants to America came from Europe; after the act’s passage, nine tenths of new immigrants have come from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
2. Since the 1965 Act’s passage, over sixty million new immigrants have arrived in the United States, and over a hundred million more are expected over the next half century.
3. In 1970, 4.7% of the American population was born outside of the United States; in 2017, 13.7% of the national population was born in a foreign country.
These are obviously transformative demographic shifts. In an open society unafraid of debate, we would weigh the benefits of these changes against the dangers they present to national cohesion and stability. Instead, and no doubt because Kennedy’s immigration law has done more to stave off death for the Democratic Party than any other variable over the last half-century, America’s political and business elites have weaponized censorship and political correctness to portray even the mentioning of unchecked immigration’s harms as something taboo. So who “we” are as Americans continues to radically change, but any person reasonable enough to point that out is branded a xenophobe.
Let me add a fourth fact:
4. Eighty-four percent of Americans born between 1928 and 1945 identify as Christians, and 50% of them still attend religious services at least once a week. In contrast, less than half of millennial Americans today identify as Christian, and 64% rarely, if at all, attend any kind of religious service.
At the same time as “we” have been rewritten, the civic “society” has been weakened. Americans have traditionally distinguished the civil sphere from the political sphere. In this way, government is maintained to guard against man’s worst impulses, but society is formed among to create benefits beyond each individual’s limitations. And Americans have always had, until recently, numerous civic engagements and bonds that strengthened society while having nothing to do with politics. In simple parlance, we call this “community.”
The generation of Americans who survived the Great Depression and WWII not only attended church and actively participated in community town halls, but also belonged to veterans’ organizations; Kiwanis; Shriners; knitting and quilting groups; bowling and softball leagues; community improvement boards; and book, radio, and nature clubs. All of these civic institutions fostered social bonds and community that had little to nothing to do with government or party politics.
Post-WWII, however, Americans have steadily decreased both the number of groups to which they belong and their variety. Americans have become much less religious. The camaraderie of Scouts or shooting clubs has been replaced by the anonymity of the local gym. And as either a cause or effect (or both) of this decline, civic institutions have become increasingly political in nature. An environmental club is no longer concerned about protecting a local forest, but rather advocating for the Green New Deal. Online knitting sites that ostensibly have nothing to do with politics go out of their way to exclude Trump-supporters.
Whether Gramsci’s “march through the institutions” has succeeded in conquering and assimilating civic organizations from the bottom up, or whether the Democrats’ Marxist-socialism has succeeded from the top down in making everything personal in America overwhelmingly political, the end result has been the near destruction of civic society and the elevation of a Soviet-like state in its place that insists on intervening in social affairs and controlling personal relationships.
As part of this 1984 restructuring of America, language has lost meaning, and truth, as a virtue, is no longer pursued. Everything from religious doctrine to the underlying events of a police arrest is manipulated for political pursuits of power. Conservatives are censored and fired from jobs for undefined “hate speech,” while the political left increasingly resorts to organized violence to accomplish political objectives. And because freedom-minded people are increasingly not welcome, they are forced to live separately from the cultural and governing institutions of their own country.
Can America remain a unified country when her traditions and history are vilified and multiculturalism is glorified? Can a people remain civil toward one another when everything is regarded and treated as political in nature? The lessons of just the last century emphatically say “no.”
When disparate groups of people are forced to live under one government, balkanization, conflict, and separation almost always result. Yet in the same time span that has seen the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia and no end to violence across the artificially drawn maps of the Middle East and Africa once controlled and later partitioned by European powers, the political elites of Europe and the United States have insisted on forcing drastically different cultures to coexist under single, ever-growing political systems within their own territorial realms.
This is willful blindness at an unconscionable level.
Likewise, one of the chief lessons of WWII was that totalitarian political systems that seek to control the minutiae of each individual’s life not only deprive human beings of self-determination and freedom, but also permit national leaders to orchestrate great acts of collective barbarism and evil that would not be possible if individuals remained in control of their own moral judgments. Communism, Nazism, and fascism all demand that the individual sacrifice personal notions of right and wrong for the political determinations of the state, and anywhere and at any time in history when the state has demanded absolute obedience from its people, great and inhuman atrocities have occurred.
A rational observer of history would look at Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Stalin’s Soviet Union and his subsequent post-WWII imprisonment of Central Europe, and Mao’s China and rightly conclude that subsuming civic society and individual morality to the demands of the state necessarily leads to human tragedy. Instead of correctly condemning the evils of Big Government, however, the political elites of Europe and the United States have pulled a semantic switcheroo and absurdly insisted on stigmatizing and scapegoating the natural formation of nation-states as the real problem. German, Italian, Soviet, and Chinese forms of total population control are rhetorically condemned, while their supranational monster siblings are applauded and empowered in the forms of the E.U., the U.N., and other transnational governing bodies. In this way, the West defeated totalitarianism seventy-five years ago only to turn around and construct institutions that led right back to the expanding totalitarian governments we have today.
Once again, this has been willful blindness at an unconscionable level.
Since the end of WWII, Western governments have promised their populations wealth and security in exchange for knowingly or unknowingly consenting to mass immigration and globalist trading networks that have hollowed out domestic manufacturing and destroyed national wealth for all but an elite few. In this destructive wake, cultural and civic bonds have been all but destroyed while the machinery of the political State has become ever more obtrusive.
Essentially, those who insist on governing us have spent decades shaking and shaking the world’s largest can of carbonated Coke, and now they expect it somehow not to explode all around them.