Published July 24, 2023
The arsonists have arrived at the inferno, radiating innocence and full of helpful suggestions for putting it out. That is to say, leftists have noticed that Americans feel increasingly alienated and lonely, and they are going to do something about it.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has proudly announced the “National Strategy for Social Connection Act,” which “creates a federal office to combat the growing epidemic of American loneliness, develops anti-loneliness strategies, and fosters best practices to promote social connection.” No doubt this bureaucratic buddy program will reweave America’s frayed social fabric, which just needs more friendship-facilitating feds.
Murphy seems sincere, and some of his concerns, such as those regarding what the algorithm-driven world of social media does to children, are valid. But if he wants to confront the real sources of American loneliness, he should look in the mirror. Nothing has done more to destroy American families and communities than the sexual revolution, which Murphy and his party enthusiastically champion. Sexual liberation promised a good time, but it has turned out to be very lonely indeed.
A lonely society is the predictable (and predicted) consequence of eroding the commitments and duties of the natural family. Broken relationships between men and women lead to broken communities and traumatized children. A culture that worships sexual freedom, even at the cost of killing babies in utero, makes isolation and despair inevitable among the living.
Of course, community and family life break down in a culture that effaces the differences between men and women to the point of pretending that men can be women and women can be men. Under pressure from adult activists and panicked by the superstition that children are being born into the wrong bodies, Murphy and his party have even embraced the surgical and chemical sterilization and mutilation of children.
Yes, there are other contributions to increasing loneliness and alienation: economic policies that place too much value on GDP growth over economic stability, bad housing policies, and immigration policies that allow drug cartels to control the southern border. But someone who is unwilling to face the broken promises and evil consequences of the sexual revolution does not really want to address “the spiritual crisis facing America today.” And so, Murphy quickly backtracked when his tweets about expanding the Democratic Party’s coalition were criticized for opening the possibility of compromise on social issues.
Unless Murphy can muster the courage needed for self-examination and crossing his party’s activist base, he will remain stuck offering useless solutions to the alienation he bemoans. But at least he will have plenty of company.
Many others on the American left are finally noticing our society is decaying, but they are almost uniformly unwilling to admit that the culture and policies they have championed have anything to do with it. For example, The Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne recently urged Democrats to champion family and community. Of course, Dionne has spent his career as the sort of Catholic Democrat who eagerly excuses abortion, adultery, and homosexuality, and he still won’t admit that any of that might have contributed to the collapse of the family and community.
Another example is provided by Michelle Cottle of The New York Times, who recently wrote that men in particular seem to be lonely. She suggests that men receive their own spaces for socializing in their own way, which means more physical activity and less chatting than women. She’s right, and it is too bad that generations of feminists have relentlessly destroyed male spaces and male culture.
These writers illustrate why leftism has been so corrosive to the social fabric, and why liberals are struggling to diagnose the root causes of our social ailments, even though they can finally see the symptoms.
Leftism seeks to liberate us from all unchosen constraints and obligations, which includes our embodiment as men and women. It has effaced the differences between men and women and embraced the sexual revolution, which presumes that happiness, authenticity, and fulfillment are found through indulging our desires, especially our sexual impulses. But as intense as these desires may be, they are not the key to happiness, and their relentless pursuit damages the relationships in which we can best cultivate our happiness in this life.
The sexual revolution places self-indulgence at the center of relationships between men and women, rather than commitment and self-sacrifice. This emphasis on adult autonomy denigrates the dependence of children. It sacrifices their interests and even their lives (nowhere are children more dependent than in the womb) on the altar of adult individualism and indulgence.
Similarly, marriage has been remade into an institution of adult self-actualization — what members of the professional classes settle into after building their careers — rather than the fundamental basis of society in which the two halves of the human race are united to continue it.
The keys to human flourishing are not mysterious. We are relational beings who thrive in communion with others. Men and women are meant for each other. Children live best when raised by their natural mother and father in a stable home.
Getting married, having kids, and going to church offer a far better anti-loneliness program than anything Murphy’s proposed Department of Friendship could devise. Stable families with married parents also provide the great anti-poverty program, the great anti-crime program, the great educational program, and more.
Marriage and parenthood are the vocations most of us are called to, but both are declining, which inevitably leads to loneliness. If Murphy were serious about crafting “the agenda we need to breathe spiritual health back into America,” he would reckon with this truth. But it is easier for a Democrat to propose yet more government programs than to acknowledge the wreckage of the sexual revolution.
To cure loneliness, we must reject the sexual revolution and all its empty promises.
Nathanael Blake is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.