by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As much as our economy and our politics have suffered, so too has our collective social experience — and with it, our very culture.
While viewed from a distance the culture seems hearty and enduring, a closer examination shows what appears firm stuff is actually the culmination of many millions of small, fragile things: Sundays in church and weekends with grandma, spring dances and fall football, family reunions and neighborhood cookouts, company parties and school reunions.
Towns and families across the country have been affected differently. While major cities often languished under severe restrictions for years, suburbs just outside had returned to normal. But while it might be tempting for those who were spared the most draconian restrictions to dismiss the complaints of our distant neighbors whose little traditions were broken, the sad truth is the cracks affect us all.
When my grandfather first instituted our annual family gatherings in the 1960s, a firm rule was it must always be the same week in the same location. Things changed around us — sand dunes turned into high-rises as an American beach town grew into a sometimes-grimy vacation city — but we didn’t change, because generation after generation returned every single year.
He made the rule because he understood just how delicate tradition is. …
… Annual concerts and plays; town festivals and parades; neighborhood block parties: It only takes that one person who kept the tradition alive to give up and move on before they’re gone. Celebrities, politicians and bureaucrats said it was fine to miss this Christmas or that graduation, this wedding or that funeral, but the cumulative effect is erosion of culture.
Sure, erosion occurs naturally all the time — but rarely like these past two years. And sure, we’ve faced disruptions before; in wartime, for example. But just as it was then, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see so clearly what was changed — and what was lost.