GenX — those lucky enough to have come of age before political correctness and its totalitarian offspring, wokism, took hold — might prove to be the last Americans, according to a new Wall Street Journal survey.
“Patriotism, religious faith, having children and other priorities that helped define the national character for generations are receding in importance to Americans,” the Journal reported in Monday’s edition.
Conducted jointly with NORC at the University of Chicago, the poll found the only priority that has increased among Americans in the last 25 years “is money, which was cited as very important by 43% in the new survey, up from 31% in 1998.” The importance of hard work, typically the best way to go about getting money, dropped 14 points, to 61% from 75%.
Religion and patriotism — ie, love of God and country — suffered double-digit declines from 62% and 70%, respectively, to shocking new lows of 39% and 38%.
“Americans have lived off the social [capital] built from 1930-1948 for almost eight decades,” Ryan James Girdusky responded on Twitter — social capital that has been frittered away like a wastrel’s inheritance.
Exactly like that. It’s enough to make me wonder if GenX really will be the last Americans — the last generation to take civics classes without the propaganda, the last generation without helicopter parents, the last generation to remember both 9/11 and the Cold War.
But what really grabbed my attention was the sharp falloff in community involvement, down to a tepid 27% from a pre-COVID high of 62% in 2019. Pollster Bill McInturff said the numbers paint “a new and surprising portrait of a changing America,” and not for the better. Alexis De Tocqueville noted in his two-volume Democracy in America (1835-1840) that the “art of joining” in voluntary associations was the “fundamental science” of living in a free country.
He famously explained that “Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all minds” learned how to guard against such democratic perils as excessive individualism, the tyranny of the majority, and the stifling effects of administrative centralization simply by “constantly joining together in groups.”
But who wants to join with other people when “tolerance for others,” as the WSJ revealed today, which was “deemed very important by 80% of Americans as recently as four years ago, has fallen to 58% since then.”
COVID and the resulting state-sponsored fracturing of American civility seems to have accelerated the trend lines. Lockdowns vs. liberty, masks vs. faces, mandates vs. adult choices, public educators vs. everybody — if there weren’t two Americas before March 2020, it certainly feels now like there are at least that many.
The falloff in community and tolerance is bad news, but there might be a gem hidden in there if we dig deep enough.
The old G. Michael Hopf saw keeps coming back to me as I write this column: “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.”
I can report that, at least in my neck of the woods, younger GenZ kids have no use for whiny Millennials. And apparently, whiny Millennials and the oldest GenZ cohort have little use for making whiny offspring: “Only 23% of adults under age 30 said that having children was very important,” says the WSJ. The next generation — what comes after Z? — might be smaller, but it also might be much more conservative. Conservatives are more likely to have children, pass on civic and religious values, and avoid progressive indoctrination by homeschooling.
So maybe, hopefully, GenX is just the last Americans before the next American Renaissance.
There are hard times ahead, but we’ve been through those before.
Besides, you can’t scare GenX. We made it through the Cold War, biking and skateboarding without helmets, and our absent Boomer parents.
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