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Restoring Our Country Must Start In Our Homes And Neighborhoods

Three years have passed since I had a long discussion with other conservative women about how to counter a presidential run by Hillary Clinton. We correctly surmised that with her record of scandal and reliance on identity politics, she might have a difficult time prior to the general election but that once she was the candidate she would prove unbeatable. Thus, we were brainstorming what arguments might appeal to women who were inclined to support Clinton.
We did pretty well predicting her tactics, but she turned out to be a much poorer candidate than we thought — and we weren’t giving her much credit as it was. Looking back, she was easily beatable but for Republicans’ choices.
Although Hillary has lost, the election has made it clear we face deep rifts in our society. So what will we do next? And I don’t mean what party players or politicians or Washington DC will do next. That has been covered, oh, once or twice in the past few weeks. I mean, what will We the People, in our individual capacities, do next?
I’ve been thinking of that old discussion among women and believe it is more important now than it was then. The idea doesn’t apply only to persuadable women, but to us all.

Say It With Me: Be the Village

In that old discussion, I lamented that due to 1 percent feminism’s* indoctrination of women born since the 1970s, women think we have to do it all and all on our own. We discourage help of many kinds to prove to ourselves that we truly can do everything men do, in high heels and backwards. (I publicly discussed how this feminist mistake plays in motherhood in “Feminism and the Razing of the Village” and in career in “The Confidence Gap: One of feminism’s self inflicted wounds.”)

Because we insist on doing everything ourselves, many modern women do not have experience with a community that pulls together daily. Thus, many do not merely worry but assume that people will fall through the cracks without government intervention. For illustration, skim some of the comments to Erick Erickson’s recent New York Times op-ed on community restoration. Many of those commenters think Erickson absurd to call for community to pull together. “If government doesn’t help people, then no one else will…you heartless, soulless [explicative],” as some of the comments continue.

Any argument that government is the problem requires addressing the cracks that so many assume are there. If government leaves, then what comes next? In that old discussion I suggested a new tactic on explaining what comes next. We would not lecture others on how community should work, but instead would ask them to make it work. The message: “Be the Village.”

Back then, my thoughts focused on declared feminists. Even in those circles, we can see a growing movement of women who have chosen a domestic life because they recognize the importance of mothers in early childhood.

Those women are at least skeptical of governments’ ability to replace community. They already see that a village — in the more popular term — must have more than a distant bureaucrat throwing money at a problem that never seems to go away or some well-intentioned regulation, which may fix the targeted problem but complicates or creates a dozen others. They’ve learned that needs are often personal and specific, requiring a close and gentle touch. I posited that many of those women might warm to a call to “be the village.”

Reconcile at Home First

The call wouldn’t get tangled in the sex wars, either. We could ask women to lead not because men are too stupid to do so (male mocking is getting ever so tiresome) or that women should lead because it is our role. We could ask women to lead because they can lead, which avoids the oaf man and dutiful little woman traps and has the great virtue of being true.

At the time I worried that “be the village” was too cheesy, but less than a year afterward Ariana Huffington launched her Third Metric initiative, that particularly unoriginal insight that we’ve forgotten there is more to life than money and power. Her goal is to have women lead the way to more life-friendly professional standards. (You know, all the European delicacies like more holidays, shorter work weeks, and mandatory minimum maternity leaves, which sound great but are full of unintended consequences ) Those events were filled with platitudes, and women warmed to that language. “Be the village” wasn’t nearly so sentimental as “live like the world is rigged for you,” which was a popular Third Metric mantra.

Now after this election and the many damaged relationships, not only does Be the Village sound sober, but it can also be soothing. After this election, some reconciliation will be required. We can start with our communities, with the people we actually see every week. There, we can start by being the neighbors we’d like to have.

I’m not alone in making this call. Besides Erickson’s op-ed mentioned above, Ben Domenech recently noted that it is the essential point in Yuval Levin’s “The Fractured Republic.” David Blankenhorn’s organization Better Angels has called for community restoration. And the Competitive Enterprise Institute just released a sequel to an old favorite, “I, Pencil.” “I, Whiskey: The Human Spirit” is about the freedom to connect and create.

Government is failing us. We’ve lost the community instinct to help each other because national politics is fractious and partisan. It drives us apart. So let us Be the Village and help rebuild American community. If nothing else, building something is cathartic to the American soul. And Lord knows, we will need catharsis.


If I were unsure of this plan — I wasn’t, but if I had been — just this Sunday before the election, I sat in the pew and heard this: **

So in the privacy of your voting booth on Tuesday, look at the candidates for what they are: Flawed humans a little too much like you and I for comfort. Say a prayer for each of them. Say a prayer for your nation. Then cast yourself upon the mercy of God. And when you leave there, go and love and nurture and nourish each and every person you meet…and don’t forget to do the ultimate loving, nurturing, nourishing act: pass the baton of faith. So that, four years from now, the next time you look into that particular voting booth-shaped mirror and ask, ‘Where are we?’ The answer might be one we feel a little better about.

* “One percent feminists” is my recently preferred term for the ’60s feminism championed by Gloria Steinem, the kind that trashed so much in pursuit of perfect 50/50 ratios, corner offices, zipless fucks, and male tears. 

**The sermon was from my associate rector, Matt Marino. His writings may be found here