Monday, December 2, 2019

‘The more, the merrier’ — why we need babies and immigrants

New Americans show off their citizenship documents, Chicago 2013

     Did you have a nice Thanksgiving? I hope so. We sure did. One for the record books, actually. Two turkeys, one roasted, one fried. Three types of cranberry sauce. Four pies, that I tasted personally — slivers of pumpkin, pecan, cherry and key lime.
     Twenty-seven guests, from California to New York. Ranging in age from 87 (my dad) to 5 (the youngest of eight nieces, six of whom were there). Not counting my first great-nephew waiting in the wings, courtesy of a niece eight and a half months pregnant. Anticipation of the Big Event gave Thanksgiving 2019 extra sparkle.
     A baby is an increasing rarity nowadays — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last Wednesday that the U.S. birth rate slipped again in 2018: down 2 percent, the lowest in 32 years.
     Why? Good question. Journalists immediately rounded up the usual suspects.
     “The birthrate is a barometer of despair,” one demographer suggested. Unemployment is low, but the jobs available tend to be marginal, benefitless, future-free gigs that don’t encourage those grinding away at them to take up the task of starting a new generation in between driving Uber fares and pulling lattes.
     Children are the ultimate luxury, more expensive than any vacation or car or most houses. Little howling money sponges, not to forget time-consuming, emotionally draining and physically demanding, if you do it right.
     That frank assessment should not discourage anyone from having kids. They’re the best. Like any difficult endeavor — climbing Mount Everest, flying to the moon — the satisfaction is commensurate with the difficulty. Now that old age is setting out its tools of torture and the standard markers of success —money, status, career — flicker and fade into insignificance, kids matter more than ever.

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  1. Collectively, we are growing older, and have been for decades, as the Baby Boom bulge “moves through the python” before it goes the way of all flesh. There are now more Americans over 65 than ever before in our history. The lowest birthrate since the late Eighties, and more deaths than births for almost half-a-century, have transformed our culture into a society where elderhood thrives, and even prevails in some places.

    But our aging nation’s population is still increasing, and not shrinking, only because so much of the world wants immigrate here in order to be like us, and to join our relatively free, open, and diverse society. Japan, on the other hoof, is homogenous, not welcoming to immigrants, and does not want people who aren’t like them...almost to the point of being racist.

    Unfortunately, the aging of America has also led to purely generational hostilities…as in the recent “OK, Boomer” phenomenon. It’s a pat-on-the-head put-down by the young that transcends even a “STFU, Gramps.” It’s a “Go ahead and rant and babble, geezer, because I’m not even listening to you anymore.”

    Which apparently means that while sexism and racism are now mostly taboo, ageism is still very much alive and well. Would these jeering youngsters be so quick to say: “Okay, (b-word)” or “Okay, (n-word)” instead? Highly unlikely.

  2. Conservatives are alarmed that the birth rate is decreasing. They are trying to "fix" the low birth rate by closing abortion clinics in some states. If we go to war, we will lose even more of the younger generation. Also, we need more access to mental health facilities because too many people are dying from addiction and suicide.


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