Of Familial Optimism

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I was very pleased to see Dr. Carle Zimmerman’s Family and Civilization referenced in Allan Carlson’s “A City on a Hill—With Transgender Toilets?” (View, March).  I discovered this book early last year and was amazed by its lessons.  The rapid and unintelligent changes in our culture seem so absurd without the context of history, and Zimmerman’s work helps to make these changes intelligible—if still very regrettable.  For the past year, I have been repeating his theories and recommending his book to anyone I think will listen.

The section of Zimmerman that most impressed me is the same one that Carlson cited: a description of the “atomized” society that applies equally well to decadent Rome and the modern West.  There could be no more fatal rebuttal to the leftist’s accusation that the antifamilist is on “the right side of history.”

I appreciate Carlson’s optimism.  He predicts that a “period of renewal” is inevitable.  Indeed, it is a demographic certainty that the atomized society will not endure for long.  But it is an open question whether that society will be replaced by the cultural renewal of its native people or by migration from more fecund and culturally self-confident outsider populations.  The Romans did not reform.  They were absorbed by their northern neighbors.

At least some optimism is warranted.  A significant number of young people, like me, find the promiscuity and crass materialism of globalist liberalism to be sorely lacking.  The case can still be made for the self-reliant family with a country, a God, and a created order.

        —Matt Michaloski
Plainfield, IN

Dr. Carlson Replies:

As both a traditionalist and a Scandinavian, optimism does come hard for me.  Still, in the spirit of Carle Zimmerman, and quoting directly from G.K. Chesterton: “The institution of the home is the one anarchist institution. . . . It is the only check on the state that is bound to renew itself as eternally as the state, and more naturally than the state.”

All the same, Mr. Michaloski correctly notes that “renewal” can take two forms: a social-cultural-religious rebirth among an existing people or displacement of a degenerate “atomistic” population by a new band of “barbarians” committed to what Zimmerman calls “familism.”  For both Europe and the United States, the identities of the potential barbarians are fairly clear.

Nonetheless, the prospect of renewal does now seem to be gaining momentum in places such as Hungary, Poland, Croatia, and—most remarkably—Russia.  Even in unlikely lands such as France and Spain, youthful movements committed to familism have recently been able to put over a million people in the streets of Paris and Madrid to protest “same-sex marriage,” surrogacy, easy abortion, and other atomistic behaviors.

In the United States, the trend lines are more blurry.  Despite some promising actions by the early Trump White House, “mature” pro-life and pro-family movements are showing signs of sclerosis.  They need younger leadership using a fresh vocabulary and showing bolder action for authentic renewal to occur here.

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