Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home Now?


Mobility is the great undiagnosed sickness afflicting America. All of our ruling class and most of our writing class consist of deracinated careerists who scorn the placebound as ambitionless losers and sticks in the mud wholly unsuited for world conquest and national greatness. Those of the uprooted who miss home are said to be silly sentimentalists. Suck it up, rube: attachment to home stunts personal (and economic!) growth.

I’m grateful to Gerald Russello, editor of the valuable University Bookman, for pointing me toward Susan J. Matt’s Homesickness: An American History, just out from Oxford University Press. Herewith a taste from Matt’s introduction: “In the twentieth century, the imperative to move became greater, the need to accept dislocations more pressing. From expanding corporations, government agencies, and the military, Americans heard they should subordinate themselves to the large institutions of modern society and move cheerfully when asked. Child-rearing experts suggested that parents prepare their offspring for these inevitable partings by sending them away from home so that they might master their homesickness early in life. Psychologists, corporate leaders, and government officials hoped that ultimately individuals would learn to transfer their loyalties from mother, home, and hometown, to their employers and the government, and would be transformed from mama’s boys into organization men. Impatience with those reluctant to leave home grew over the course of the twentieth century, and the perception that homesickness was a sign of immaturity solidified. Americans learned a code of behavior and emotion
management that taught them to repress all signs of homesickness in public life in order to appear modern and mature.”

Soldiers, conscripts, African American slaves sold away from their families, American Indians incarcerated in government boarding schools, wives of IBM ladder-climbers, the displaced victims of urban renewal,  homesick pioneers and immigrants and country boys adrift in the city….much of this makes for heartbreaking reading. But if we are ever to get back home, we need to understand how we came to lose our way. This is a superb book on a subject at the core—the heart—of the Front Porch Republic enterprise. Bravo, Susan J. Matt.

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