Every now and then I check up on people I used spend a lot of time with when I was younger, looking through Facebook or other online profiles. I do so less than I used to, because with each year we drift farther from the times we used to spend together, and farther apart in every way.
The biggest difference by far is the fact that I have children. Because I am a city boy, fewer than half of my former acquaintances are parents, and that may be understating the situation. This simple difference puts us worlds apart in concerns and politics, and I’m afraid in many cases we wouldn’t enjoy each other’s company much any longer, because we have conflicting world views and very little common ground.
Those who don’t live in America’s urban centers may not realize how profoundly different and unnatural the urban lifestyle is. Marriage with children is the exception — not the norm. It’s a world where sex and work are detached from all but one’s personal pleasure and comfort. Nature is a concept that gets a lot of lip service from urban liberals, but it’s covered up with steel and concrete; the conservative rural whites they so despise have a far deeper connection with the land. In cities, most people one sees are strangers – including neighbors – and the order of it all appears purposeless.
If anyone wants to understand the profound political schism in our country, the contrasting lifestyle of city vs. country explains it better than anything, and the most important part of that contrast is children. Having children influences people in very important ways, and among urban people under 40, white ones in particular, it is an experience that is increasingly rare.
Children change things in myriad ways. The way we talk, the way we dress and even the way we walk (people are more careful around kids). Without them, vulgarity seems inconsequential, overt sexuality harmless and perversion tolerable. Gender politics – utterly toxic to families trying to get along to raise kids – seem like a reasonable game to play for one advantage or another. Predatory sexuality of both the male and female varieties is not seen as much of a threat, and generally winked at.
On Thanksgiving, a family member told me about a scene on Capitol Hill (Seattle’s most urban, populated and liberal neighborhood) following the Democrats’ election victory. Evidently, residents poured out onto the street and burst into a spontaneous, orgiastic celebration. I doubt even committed liberals would feel comfortable having their children in the midst of that mob, and that’s big city America today. That scene is urban American politics in a nutshell.
For those who care about family and children, I’d strongly advise leaving the cities. Those who have children should avoid sending them there for college if they want any grandchildren. Cities may be fun, and jobs there may pay more, but the costs they impose on families are excessive. The only way ordinary people can avoid the fragmentation of their families is through being a part of some kinship or religious centered clan, as many urban ethnic groups such as Chinese, Jews and Italians are, but that isn’t a great fit for most Americans, who tend to place more value on the nuclear family.