Sunday, July 23, 2023

Fatherhood and Baseball

My son is now a toddler. Which means as a father you transition into the role of a goalie. Doing your best to keep him from putting things in his mouth, walking somewhere he shouldn't, and in general pulling out all of the authoritarian instincts you'd rather not have but all of us do as humans. Or putting it more realistically and optimistically, the protection instincts. And just like the freedom vs. order battles we have as we get older, I will say that it's better to eventually fall down and learn rather than constantly have an overly-protective parent lurking about all the time. But there will be a time and a place for that. As the years go by, one of these places will be the sport of baseball. 

 I'm just out of my rookie season as a new Dad, but as your role expands with each passing month and year, you get more and more to do, which is good. I find myself preparing and planning the future for the family more and more down to the smallest detail. My wife and I are planning to eventually move from our "starter home" to a "family forever home" for instance. And the detail on my mind the most has nothing to do with the home and everything to do with proximity to downtown Little League baseball fields. 

 My father was a home salesman and a road warrior but he was a bit less busy in the summer as home show season was over. He'd set aside time and coach my Little League and youth baseball teams. It was the most time we ever spent together when I was that age and I imagine the story repeats itself all across the country, or at least it did for a few generations. The ending of Field of Dreams works for a reason after all. But I think about those baseball fields, and aim to make sure the home where our children make most of our memories is nearby. Now maybe the children won't like baseball? Would I be a bit disappointed? Of course. But I'd adjust. Because as the years go by you realize that the game, as great as it is, was just the excuse. 

 This is my second blog for The Frank Forum, a space dedicated to the revitalization of America's distinct civic culture. Both articles deal with fatherhood and families as the theme and I'll confess that will almost always be the case. For those that want to read more distinctly political, historical, and policy writings my Substack, Twitter, and occasional op-eds and upcoming book co-authored with Gavin Wax will provide plenty of that. But when Frank invited me to contribute here and I read what he was trying to accomplish I realized it complimented what I was trying to accomplish too, just as our conversations over the past few years have done that. I'm growing increasingly fond of the communitarian word as well. For while America was founded to secure the blessings of liberty, the founders also understood that such a nation could not long endure without the "little platoons" of association, the Tocqevillian-observed civic culture, and in the case of much of what I'll write about here and elsewhere, without the family. 

 Families are an obstacle to the left's ambitions. Families are also the renewal and recovery point for this country. The coalition that makes it easier to raise a family in this country will rightfully govern for a long, long time, and nationally, it offers our best chance of civic renewal and recovering a communitarian a moment that compliments our individual liberties rather than competes with them. Herein lies the real future of the right. Populist as well as communitarian in the most time-tested and tradition-minded of ways. It won't be easy, but great things never are easy to build up and make great. For if this American song in the 21st Century is to soar, and if we do not pick up and reconnect with communitarian traditions, we're vulnerable to more and more cultural and economic collectivism, statism, and the same old disastrous road to serfdom the well-meaning liberty-minded people were so worried about in the middle of last century. 

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Alone Together

I have good news, and bad news.

The good news: People are finally starting to report on America's chronic loneliness epidemic. "Why is that good news?", you may ask. Well, the fact of the matter is that problems aren't solved until they are first addressed. So the fact that I'm hearing more about loneliness is ultimately a good thing. As per my last post, even this administration, for all its faults, is acknowledging the problem. In May, if you recall, the U.S. Surgeon General released an 80+ page report detailing America's fallen civic state. Loneliness, the report posits, is akin to chain-smoking. 

But anyway, this is a positive development. For too long, our leaders and their cohorts in the legacy media have swept this problem under the dusty rug of delusion. The flimsy fa├žade of normalcy has triumphed over the truth.

During the age of COVID-hysteria, for example, little was said about the countless deaths of despair across the country. While the bottom-third of every major news network had a real-time ticker of COVID cases and casualties, there was no such ticker for cases of mental illness and suicide. We are social animals; isolation will kill us. 

At least we are paying attention now... 

The bad news: People are hurting. We are feeling the effects of being alone. 

This from The Hill:

Nearly 30 percent of American households comprise a single person, a record high. Scholars say living alone is not a trend so much as a transformation: Across much of the world, large numbers of people are living alone for the first time in recorded history. 

It is incumbent on us to stand athwart this "transformation". We must never except this as the new normal. Because if we do collectively shrug our shoulders and become indifferent to this reality of increased atomization, we will be, in effect, sowing the seeds of our own national coming apart. 

Alright, enough of this doom and gloom...

I do genuinely believe that we can rebuild a communitarian culture. It will take small communitarian acts. 

An example:

My friends and I just recently started a new tradition: Beer and wings night. On the first Saturday of every month, our little group goes to the neighborhood bar to drink and socialize. While this may seem trivial, it actually is not. This is, in a very micro sense, a small step towards a civic revival. If more people could get together and form book clubs, poker nights, and beer and wing nights, our country would be in much better shape. 

So...what are you waiting for?



Sunday, July 9, 2023

Communitarianism in Florida

"The one greatest predictor of your longevity and health is your level of social interaction", University of Miami School of Architecture Professor Joanna Lombard told town planner Victor Dover. People, in short, need each other. To live atomized, lonely lives is not only sad and dull; it is actually bad for your well-being. 

Last May, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy admonished Americans that feeling isolated and lonely is as detrimental to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The lengthy report, titled Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, painted a rather grim picture of, what the late Amitai Etzioni would have referred to as, America's "Radical Individualist" cultural ethos. 

From the report:

Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling - it harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. 

This should scare you. By forgoing social interaction and civic engagement, we are, in effect, killing ourselves. While working remotely in your pajamas and binge-watching Netflix is fun and convenient, it is so unhealthy. 

Professor Lombard, however, says that city planning can encourage social-connectedness. A city replete with verdant walkways, bicycle lanes, and balconies and front porches can facilitate a healthier and less atomized citizenry. 

Lombard and Dover look to Lake Wales, Florida as a case in point. "When I look around at Florida and I see who's doing what", Lombard said, "I feel like Lake Wales has all the pieces." 

This short interview prompted me to look into Lake Wales. "Where is this magical communitarian paradise?", I wondered. Lake Wales is a small city of approximately 17,000 residents situated in Polk County, which is in the central part of the state. 

It is breathtakingly picturesque.

Robert Steutville writes about the interview in Public Square:

Dover's interview is part of a planning effort that Dover, Kohl & Partners is helping to lead for Lake Wales, Florida. The Lake Wales Envisioned Initiative is working with the City, citizens, and other groups, to plan a healthier, economically stronger, and more sustainable future for the suburban municipality in Central Florida, a town that is at the heart of a current mass migration into the Sunshine State. 

New Yorkers, in particular, have been moving to Florida in droves. In April of this year, Selim Algar wrote in a New York Post op-ed that the mass exodus of New Yorkers leaving for Florida "wasn't just a pandemic thing." "According to new figures from the Florida Department of Highway Safety" Algar writes, "10,824 Empire Staters swapped out their licenses in the first three months of this year." 

People crave community, and if there is a dearth of societal bonds in their current ZIP code, they will flee to somewhere else. In this case, Florida.