Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On Growing Up

I just read an interesting article by Bill Whittle on National Review, Shame Cubed. Mr. Whittle gets pretty fired up about the comments of Barack Obama recently made public by the Drudge Report. These were comments made about 8 years ago on a Chicago NPR station.

One of Mr. Whittle’s qualms, which I share, is with the media who did not publicize this interview but instead spent millions of dollars researching the paternity of Ms. Palin’s child, Trig. It is a fair accusation to make, that the media is not terribly interested in researching or “digging up dirt” on Mr. Obama. Mr. Whittle states: “We no longer have an independent, fair, investigative press. That is abundantly clear to everyone — even the press. It is just another of the facts that they refuse to report, because it does not suit them.”

Another thought that has been kicking around my noggin lately is the idea that the United States is still a relatively young society. By “young” I don’t mean that our median age is low. It is not, it’s 37 years, the highest it’s ever been in the U.S. What I mean is that we are in the midst of a cultural gestation that we may have reason to think will result in a more mature populace.

The United States was largely an Anglo-European and Protestant nation for its first 100 years. The foundations of the society were based on common descent (mostly English, Scottish, and some Western Europeans) and Protestant principles. The fact that most of the population was Protestant is significant because it formed, amongst other things, the national cultural and moral consensus.

In the late nineteenth century, into the twentieth century, the population of the U.S. at least doubled with an influx of immigrants. Most of these immigrants were Catholics from Ireland, Italy, or a host of other poor European nations. This was a tremendous influence on the socio-cultural makeup of the United States. For several decades (into the 1950s and even 1960s) these immigrant populations were sequestered in ethnic communities with their own stores, churches and schools. Intermarriage was not common.

Of course this changed in the 70s and 80s, and any cultural divisions were virtually invisible and irrelevant by the 90s.

The net result is a swirling and muddying of the socio-cultural waters. Cultural identity has virtually gone to nil, and this has in turn lowered the bar on education and awareness. Those consider themselves educated who turn in to “The Daily Show” or read “The Onion”. We have become the nation of the quip.

My thesis is this: that intelligent conservatism relies on tradition and culture, both of which are currently lacking. They lack because we are a nation without identity, as a result of a cultural confusion that is pervasive in the United States today. We don’t know who we are.

But there is reason to hope that this will change. We are a nascent republic in many ways, just discovering ourselves. Will we congeal into a “people” with common culture and moral direction? Perhaps if we do, we will have the sense to demand a media that is as interested in the socialist declaration of a presidential candidate as it is in the sex life of a vice-presidential candidate’s daughter. Perhaps we will grow up.

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