Recently, Fred Reed wrote a nice piece describing America prior to 1964. It was a different world.
“At age eight I walked every morning the perhaps six blocks to Robert E. Lee Elementary School, alone. Why not? There was nothing to be afraid of. My friends and I rode to Westover, the shopping center on Washington Boulevard, and left our bikes on the sidewalk for hours while we read comic books in the drug store. Why not? Nobody stole bikes. My family never locked the doors of the house. Why should we? There weren’t any burglars.”
“A virtue of a dominant culture is that it doesn’t have to be imposed. It polices itself. During my five years in rural Virginia, we all had guns. The substantial number of blacks in the county had guns. Nobody ever shot anybody else, either on purpose or accidentally. It wasn´t something we did. It wasn’t in the culture. White or black.”
While reading this I thought of a conversation I had with one of my colleagues yesterday. The premise of that conversation was that most, if not all of what we were taught / told in school and by the ‘cultural elite’ was wrong. This American Culture of yesteryear was mocked and laughed at when I was a young boy. I clearly remember hearing that the America that Fred Reed speaks of never existed. I never caught the inconsistency – if the culture of the ’50’s “didn’t exist”, then why laugh at it?
The problem with this constant belittling of this American past is that there is ample proof that it did exist. Even though I was in New York City, my brother and I walked to elementary school by ourselves every after I was in 1st or 2nd grade. Manhattan in the 1970’s would hardly be considered old rural America, but there we were, two children walking. Even earlier, when we lived in Staten Island, a more suburban part of NYC, we would play with the other children outside, unsupervised. The pack of children we were a part of ranged in ages from 3 – 7. When we heard our mothers calling for us to come back home, we did.
Reed is succinct and solid (and refreshingly politically incorrect) when talking about culture and what it means. One of the problems of multiculturalism is that when you get taught that all cultures are equal, then all behavior becomes equal and acceptable. The culture of the American past, which certainly did exist, is mostly gone, as far as I can tell. I saw the old way in Iowa, where my mother was from. Was it perfect? In a word, no. But as late as the 1990’s the town I would visit in northern Iowa had unlocked homes and cars. It would be nice to live in a place like that.
This constant attack on “rugged individualism” (never heard anymore), respect for civil liberties (gone), and the understanding that actions have consequences (now you blame someone or something else) means that we have wrought schools with metal detectors, young adults who are not only unable to exercise self control but also eschew the opportunity to educate themselves. Anyone doubting this can come and look at my 8th period class.
It’s going to take a while to climb out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves.