The New Dark Age, Conclusion

The modern American household is a far cry from the family "castle" that even the King dared not enter.  It is a set of cubicles, where individuals stash their stuff and listen to their own music or watch their own programs, punctuated by common rooms where the members rarely dine together, and, if they do, they consume their take-out meals or microwaved frozen dinners of their choice, while scrolling up and down endlessly on the smart phones that keep them stupid.

From the ancient perspective, a husband and wife and their children represented only a link in the chain that connected ancestors with descendants.  Greeks and Romans had no word for “the family.”  Instead, they had two sets of words, one  that emphasized the household (which could include slaves, hired servants, and various dependent relations), and the other that  emphasized the ties of blood.

Until recently, governments have left nuclear families alone, sensing that they present no threat to the power of the state.  However, the builders of powerful states have always feared the strength of the extended family and the clan.  Whether in Britain, in the Balkans, or in the American South, clans have been a law unto themselves.  This may not always be a good thing, as evidenced by the frequent blood feuds that erupted in Scotland, Montenegro, and Texas, but in times of need, it is the clan--not the household-- that has the power and the will to stand up for its members, when they are being oppressed by government.  

The Soviet leadership learned this lesson quickly.  The first generation of Bolsheviks had learned from Marx that the family was an instrument of class oppression.  Although their contempt for the family matched that of Hilary Clinton and other modern leftists, they quickly decided that while the nuclear family was a useful tool for raising the state’s children, the extended kin networks in Russia and Ukraine were actually a threat to the total power of the state.  Henceforth, Soviet law, while breaking up the extended family, actually gave protection to what shallow and historically ignorant sociologists like to call “the bourgeois family.”

Today, then, faced with the state’s stepped-up effort (though largely unconscious) to destroy the last remnants of Christian civilization, American families are being given very bad advice from Evangelical pop psychologists who want them to recreate the "Ozzie and Harriet" model of the 1950’s family.  Contrasting the self-fictionalized Ozzie and Harriet with the equally banal but all too real  Ozzie Osbourne and his wife, conservatives have held up the Nelsons (as well as the Cleavers, the Andersons, and Fred McMurray's motherless household) as the ideal suburban family: a dad who did not have to work, a mother who baked cookies all day, two inoffensive children--one of whom was successfully marketed as a rock star. The Nelsons were, in Eliot’s phrase, “decent, godless people.”  No one believed anything, no one did anything, no one went to church.  

Instead of mooning over the Nelsons and the Cleavers, American reactionaries could be looking at reruns of The Real McCoys, a series which depicted the tribulations of a displaced Appalachian family trying to run a farm in California.  In coping with California and their child, Luke and Kate McCoy were not alone: They had Luke’s sister Hassie and Grandpa McCoy to support them, and, after a while, they even incorporated the Mexican farmhand Pepino, into the family.  

Going beyond Walter Brennan and Richard Crenna, American families might take even more valuable lessons from the real McCoys of West Virginia, brave and hardworking people who knew how to support their families and protect them from their enemies.  (I mean no disrespect to the Hatfields, even if they were Unionists.)  Like all clans, the McCoys prized their freedom and independence and knew that their freedom depended on the efforts and loyalty of the clan, not on government, not on movements, not on counselors.

There is not much left of the McCoys or of any other clan in the developed world, but as the darkness gathers once again, Christian families had better understand that their freedom and independence will not come from a pro-family tax policy or a legal foundation or a militia group.  Those who wish to be free will have to move back to their hometown (or find a new one), drag grandpa out of the rest home or trailer park where he thinks he is happy, hunt up the cousins they have not seen in ten years, and begin to think of their friends and employees as potential candidates for adoption into the clan they are building.  If nothing else, they will form a network of friends with whom they can exchange recipes and share grief.  At best they will found the village it takes, so we are repeatedly told, to rear a child.

Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

9 Responses

  1. Roger McGrath says:

    Walter Brennan lived on a ranch in Thousand Oaks. His neighboring rancher was Joel McCrea. Brennan also had a ranch in Oregon but that was more for vacations. Brennan was very conservative. He supported and campaigned for Goldwater in 64 and for Reagan in 66 (Cal governor). He was an Irish Catholic boy from Massachusetts. He served on the front in WWI. He was a devoted family man and stayed married to his first wife until he died. They had three children together, two sons and a daughter, and I think one of boys produced The Real McCoys. Despite Brennan’s three Oscars he was very un-Hollywood.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I once read an interview with Richard Crenna, who admired Brennan greatly. Most actors in a series, he said, would simply not show up except when they were in a scene. Mr. Brennan–Crenna said everyone always called him Mr. Brennan–would be driven to the set and, looking like a bank president in a handsome three piece suit, would watch each scene carefully. At lunch time, he would take out a modest sack lunch and eat it. Crenna said it was Brennaan’s professional dedication and unfailing courtesy were inspiring.

    He had rather few roles that were worthy of him. He was charming in Meet John Doe and very sinister in one of Ford’s less successful westerns, My Darling Clementine. (Victor Mature as Doc Holliday? The sanctimonious Henry Fonda as Wyatt? Thank heaven for Tim Holt, Ward Bond, and Jane Darwell!!). A serious man on and off the screen. It is pleasant that he was a neighbor of Joel McCrea, who also stayed married. I once asked a WW II vet–a Navy man full of shrapnel–if he was aware that Joel McCrea had stayed married to one woman. He replied, in a NY Mick accent you could cut with a knife, “If you’d married Frances Dee, you’d have stayed married to her, too.”

  3. James D. says:

    I once read on Wikipedia or another disreputable site that Brennan was on set when he learned of the MLK killing and broke out into a gale of laughter and danced a jig. That is reason enough to like him.

  4. Vince Cornell says:

    So glad to hear praise of Mr. Brennan, an actor I’ve always enjoyed. I’ll have to check out “The Real McCoys” which is unknown to me, but several seasons appear to be available on YouTube. I’m also happy to have another reason to avoid Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and My Three Sons. I never watched them growing up (in syndication) and always thought they looked very dopey, boring, and trite. Another show I missed as a youngster was “Hee Haw” – I recently watched a few episodes available on YouTube. I’m baffled. People actually enjoyed “Hee Haw”? I must be missing something.

    Regarding attempts to build a clan is a really hard sell in my neck of the woods. This Corona-nonsense deflated some of my enthusiasm. One decree from Fauci or other “experts” and folks seem eager to obey. The old stereotype about Catholics who have to “check their brain at the door” and just believe whatever the Pope tells them actually seems true for the secular folks now-a-days. “Who you gonna believe? Me or your own eyes?”

  5. Jacob Johnson says:

    The “brain drain” has been ruinous to towns in fly-over land. In addition to welfare, drugs, television, internet, de-industrialization- creating conditions described J.D. Vance in his book, which was probably re-written by a New York Times committee to insert regime propaganda in certain places- the removal of most of the natural leaders from these areas has left them directionless. To people who are destitute, a kind word from from an accomplished and respected townsman can make their day and cheer them up. Let’s hope that the new wave of flight from urban areas helps to alleviate this problem without bringing too many insufferable yuppies with it.

  6. James D. says:

    Mr. Johnson,

    Even worse than the brain drain is when the high achievers from small towns and rural areas are “lucky” enough to gain acceptance at a prestigious college and then come back home after their re-education to lord over the benighted folks they have learned to despise/pity/loathe. It is sort of a national version of what the US has done to the entire world. Regime change via knocking off a foreign leader is supposedly verboten, so it is easier just to in stall a quisling, plucked from the country at a young age, brainwashed at Harvard and wholly dependent on his masters for his position.

  7. Raymond Olson says:

    Walter Brennan played in dozens upon dozens of movies. He was a sturdy character actor who knew how to make, again and again, something distinctive out of an assortment of mostly “hick” tricks. I recommend his “Legs” Garnett, one of the two drunken would-be burglars in W. C. Fields’s basement in The Man on the Flying Trapeze (the other is Fields’s priceless vaudeville second banana, Tammany Young); Judge Roy Bean in The Westerner (for which he got his third Oscar); the “Colonel” in Meet John Doe; sports writer Sam Blake in Pride of the Yankees; accused rustler and framed murderer Tim “Pop” Keith in Across the Great Divide (perhaps his best non-comedic performances); and his bravura performance as limping, mouthy old Stumpy in the parodic western, Rio Bravo. He is reliably an adornment of any film in which he has a big enough role, and in many, including all the movies I’ve mentioned, he’s the best actor involved.

  8. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Ray, I still have a great affection for Rio Bravo, perhaps the first western I fell in love with as a boy. It’s sort of a Boy’s Own Western, just as The Great Escape was WWII for ten year olds. What could be more delightful than to be holed up at the town jail with the good guys: Duke, Deano, Ricky, & Stumpy, with the angelic card sharp (or was she one of those gold heart hookers) Angie Dickinson thrown in for a bonus. All standing up against an army of bad guys, come to rescue their boss, a very evil Ed Asner (talk about typecasting!). Maybe not quite the Vermeer that The Searchers was, but good enough for Howard Hawks to more or less remake twice (El Dorado & Rio Lobos).

    Side note: Asner and Duke did not like each other AT ALL on the set, in contrast to Asner’s most famous character Lou Grant, of the following decade, who idolized The Duke.

    Or so I’ve heard.

  9. Gregory Fogg says:

    I once read an interview with Asner in a disreputable publication. He complained that Wayne always referred to him as “that New York actor” which he, of course, interpreted as an antisemitic slur.