For a couple decades, I straddled two very different worlds. On the one hand, my wife and I helped found and run a very alternative school. On the other, we are involved in a number of parish and other Catholic organizations. While there was always a certain number of people at the school who were there just because they wanted something different for their children, over time, it turned out, the bulk of the students and families were there because they were desperate or simply too antisocial or damaged – parents and children – to fit in anywhere else.
Eventually, the lunatics took over that particular asylum, and we were forced out by a cadre of gender theory dogmatists and their naïve dupes. All but the last of our 5 kids graduated from that school, and the last was already 15. Not a great loss, for us, at least.
Meanwhile, we were getting to know a bunch of people at church. While of course simply showing up at Mass doesn’t magically solve all your problems, so there remains plenty of suffering and craziness to go around among our friends from church, there is a spine of very basic and almost earthy sanity there.
Most bluntly, it’s not unthinkable among our church friends that a man and a woman could get married, stay faithfully married, raise a bunch of kids together, and still love and even like each other over the whole process. It’s not unheard of that children could love their parents and siblings and get along with them just fine. In short, what would have been considered normal human relationships in many places and times are not only possible, but an achievable norm for mast people. Indeed, numerous examples of this mythical monster, the happy family, walk among us.
Among the school crowd? There were only 2 other married couples in anything like a normal married relationship; almost all the kids came from broken, blended, or single-mother households. Kids raised by grandmothers; kids raised by a mother and this week’s boyfriend. Kids manipulated by divorced adults and forced, on pain of withheld affections or even contact, to mouth the party line, whatever it is today: that daddy or mommy is the bad guy, that sometimes people just stop loving each other, that – most damaging, perhaps – that the emotional and social problems that ended up bringing that kid to our school have nothing to do with the chaos of their home lives – if where they are living can even be called a home.
These poor folks cannot accept, and can only barely imagine, that two adults could suck it up and persevere for the sake of their own children and their own souls. They will not entertain the idea that people should choose and commit to mates who will be there for them and their kids, just as they, themselves, commit to be there for them. Either the reality of happily married life is seen as an oppressive fairytale or a simply unattainable goal.
Nope. They are looking for a soul mate, a Prince Charming, the perfect woman, or the one night stand who allows them to forget for a moment their own weightlessness. The want and find only someone who will never challenge them to grow out of their problems into an adult, a mother or father, an actual functioning human being.
The key: these poor folks very possibly don’t even know any happy, functioning families. Their own families, going back 2 or 3 generation now, very possibly do not contain a single happy, or even intact, family. These broken children of broken children might acknowledge the existence of happy marriages and families on an intellectual level, I suspect such relationships remain emotionally incomprehensible.
To such people, it cannot be that society is – or was, at least – built on exactly such marriages and families, let alone that the (only?) legitimate function of government is to secure the safety and provide the liberty needed for just such relationships to thrive. An amorphous, Orwellian idea – ‘social justice’ – is substituted for the the concrete and primary and radical reality of family.
This is bad enough, but I fear this sort of divorce from reality, where people deny the very existence of the practical if imperfect realization of ideals because they have not experienced such realizations in their lives, extends even further. Two examples: learning and politics.
Learning I’ve beaten to death here. Because almost everybody has been processed by the schools, we tend to think (insert bitter laugh here) that schooling equals learning. Slavish conformists, almost definitionally and certainly in practice intellectual mediocrities, have persevered through the higher levels of schooling and been awarded jobs as professors. Such are held up as the apex of erudition. Our star students, as likely to have met a unicorn as a truly educated person in the schools, are presented with these jokers as if they are the goal, the measure, of education.
Thus we have a generation of people so unfamiliar with what an educated person looks like that they mistake a mediocrity like Obama as a genius. He stands at the apex of the conformist mediocrity pyramid; they know no other standard.
Again, such ‘well-educated’ people cannot imagine that the government’s (possibly) legitimate interest in education means anything other than schooling as they know it. We will have our legions of B.O.; the idea that we might instead create an environment favorable to the rise of more Edisons or Faradays is simply incomprehensible. In fact, suggesting such a thing makes one the enemy. Listen to the rhetoric of the anti-homeschooling crowd.
Final example: if you grew up in Chicago, you must on some level resolve the cognitive dissonance of ‘democratically elected leaders’ and ‘haven’t had an honest, open election in 200 years.’ From what I can tell, this reality is simply ignored. I don’t suspect students are taught about the mob ties, murders, graft, bribery, and election fixing that make up Chicago’s political history.
If they even allow these thoughts to enter into their heads, they will consider such behavior normal and unavoidable. Isn’t that just politics? Your team has to steal elections because, if they don’t, the much worse other guys will! The idea that one might try to have fair elections and honest government seems like fantasy. Rather than holding up good government as a worthy, if rarely realized, goal, one toward which law, law enforcement, and public honor should be directed, people praise ‘honest graft’ and write paens to all the good Tammany Hall did,
This is, perhaps, the functional divide between blue and red: the governments in corrupt big cities – but I repeat myself – have created a world where trying to do anything different is seen as naïve and hopeless – having things run by Fred Roti or Billy Bulger or Kamala Harris (to pick three egregiously obvious examples of corruption) is just the way it is. Taking steps to change this falls into the same realm as taking steps to support families or learning – simply unimaginable.
Damage – psychological, economic, spiritual, political – is then projected onto reality. The idea that life is improved by pursuit of approachable ideals – here, of family, of learning, and of government – is simply incomprehensible. It has no recognized presence in the lives of so many people that they can’t or won’t even acknowledge it.
And we have to live with the results. There is no way to talk or vote our way out of this. Live well, and don’t give in or give up.