The Lost Structures of Civility

I came across this yearning, evocative piece about growing up in Chicago in a publication that I would bet isn’t read by too many Chicagoans: the New York-oriented City Journal.

Written by Hadley Arkes, an emeritus professor of political science at Amherst, I thought it recalled so nicely what produced a sense of community throughout the United States for so many years, and which we desperately need to resuscitate now.  I don’t really agree with his politics, but I do think he clearly articulates something that the United States has lacked for a long time.  It’s a fairly dense article, but it boils down to this:

“The point was: there was always someone there. I was given the sense that the grownups could simply be counted on to do what grownups were supposed to do… What was produced in Chicago was a politics attuned to the needs of people in the local community—and by “needs,” I mean the things they cared about. That could be simply picking up the garbage on time and keeping the streets clean, but it could also include a respect for the moral sensitivities of people in the neighborhood.”

We need real grown-ups just as much as ever, to pull our communities and cities back together.  We really can’t wait another moment.