Trains and Traditions

Trains and Traditions

Say what you will about the MAGA movement. A necessary premise of its core argument is that America was once a great nation, but somewhere along the line we lost our way. The fact that this message resonated with half the country should sound alarm bells.

An older thread from a Catholic Millennial on Twitter resurfaced recently. Its contents are germane to the topic, so it's reproduced below.

Lo-Fi Republican 1

Lo-fi Republican 2

Lo-fi Republican 3

You'd have to have a heart of stone not to feel pity for Lo-fi Republican's family--or perhaps a nagging sense of unease. 

One key takeaway from his heart-wrenching thread is a defining trait of Millennials that distinguishes them from Generation Y. Gen Y has an often unhealthy obsession with the past. Millennials have been conditioned to hate and reject it.

Where did this conditioning come from? A seemingly unrelated thread by Appendix N author Jeffro Johnson suggests an answer.

Jeffro Trains 1

Jeffro Trains 2

Jeffro Trains 3

Grant's forefathers bequeathed him the finest house in town. They'd carefully built it up over the generations until what had started as a two-bedroom farmhouse had grown into a stately mansion when Grant's father passed custody of the property to him. Grant worked diligently to maintain his patrimony, even donating copious time, treasure, and talent to the neighborhood watch when riots in another neighborhood threatened his street. As a result of Grant's efforts, the family home attained its greatest glory yet.

Weary from his labors, Grant retired and left the great old house to his younger brother, Silas. The junior sibling quietly oversaw the estate's operation for a while, but it wasn't long before his niece and nephew Bonnie and Bob voiced discontent. The family had been plodding along in a rut for too long, and if they were going to live under the same roof as their elders, it was high time the youth had a say in how things were run.

Silas had grave misgivings about Bob and Bonnie's novel ideas, but he mostly kept them to himself. Anyway, he was outnumbered, and for some unknown reason, their father Grant recused himself from the debate. 

Around this time, the neighborhood association convinced Grant and Silas to hire maids and groundskeepers to help them maintain the property, since Bob and Bonnie were more interested in harping on their newfangled ideas than washing dishes or mowing lawns. 

It turned out later that the neighborhood association had an under-the-table deal with the town's bank, which in turn held a significant stake in rather shady housekeeping and landscaping firms. But nobody noticed until it was too late.

Bonnie and Bob's numbers won out over Silas' timid disposition. They took control of the estate and set to upending house rules that had governed the family since the two-room farmhouse days. Bonnie and Bob argued that what worked for small farmers might not work for more sophisticated people. They unflinchingly questioned all of the family's traditions. After all, they said, we should question everything--except the belief that everything should be questioned.

Kept up by strangers and unmoored from the rules that had guided its owners for generations, the house soon fell into disrepair. The family fell into disrepute as representatives of the town bank goaded them into petty feuds with their neighbors, and even strangers across town. 

Despite their vocal suspicion of received wisdom, Bonnie and Bob still went through the motions of the family's main traditions. They mostly ignored Silas' son Jon, who enjoyed the mansion's luxuries while nursing moderate resentment at having been passed over. Still, he tried his best to be a good uncle to Bonnie's son Xander and Bob's son Yves, the latter of whom grew up largely confined to the room that his elders had turned into a miniature wonderland of candy and toys.

Yves' only contact with reality came from his infrequent talks with Xander. He looked up to his cousin, but the older boy exuded a frightening bitterness that Yves couldn't understand. He suspected that Xander was a little crazy when he said that things at the house had been better when his father was young. Yves also couldn't comprehend Xander's apparent dislike of his mother and uncle. Life was good, and it was all thanks to them.

The day he turned eighteen, Xander moved out of the mansion and into the guest house across the property. He largely cut ties with the family but would put up Christmas lights every other year. Yves missed his cousin, but he didn't have long to dwell on it before his dad suddenly threw him out. It was past time he grew up and made his own way, his father said. Aunt Bonnie sagely agreed.

Yves stumbled in a state of shock through the disheveled waste of the mansion's once-lush garden. He only met sullen strangers--cronies of the shady hired hands who'd stealthily bled the family's finances over the years while bringing in more and more of their accomplices. Finally, he holed up a dank tool shed behind the house. Only memories of a golden childhood spent in the warm, safe room he couldn't quite glimpse through the grimy windows remained to keep him company.

Jon's daughter Millicent, meanwhile, had been turned loose as a toddler to run wild in the yard. Raised by the hired help, their spiteful hangers-on, and social workers from City Hall, i.e. the town bank, she believed that her family had stolen the house from their hirelings' ancestors. Bonnie and Bob had assured Jon that his daughter would come up with new rules that worked for her, but instead she grew up entirely directionless with a burning resentment toward family traditions known only through her strange surrogate parents' warped lens.

When they sensed that the time was right, the hirelings and their cronies, whose nearly matched the family's numbers, declared their intention to seize the house and reduce its original owners to peonage. Millicent zealously aided her dispossessors, even helping them set fire to Xander's guest house. What none of them knew until too late was that the bank had cooked up a scheme with City Hall to foreclose on the house amid the tumult and rent it to the help they'd originally convinced the family to hire.

Jon, Xander, and Yves explained their family's disgraceful impoverishment to Xander's son Zedekiah, who'd never known the grand old house as anything but a dilapidated wreck teeming with strangers that hated him. His elders had left him with nothing to lose. Take that however you want.

Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier


  1. My story is not too dissimilar from the Conservative Millennial's experience, except with a Gen Y twist. It ends up having a slightly different result.

    In other words, it's mostly the same as the above, except my family never sees each other, not even once a year. When they do it is awkward and they never talk about anything but the past. They only ever meet at funerals, too. Most of them do have kids, but usually only one (I think one Gen X cousin I haven't seen since I was a teenager has two, but I really don't remember) and they never feel very comfortable talking about how their lives are going now or what the future holds. It's always talking about old things, or revisiting the better days of the past.

    None of them are religious. The majority are either oblivious or ambivalent to the state of the world, mostly just mouthing platitudes you see in the media and never questioning the narrative, and never believing in anything beyond a surface level understanding of what they see on the news. But it isn't that they can't: it is that they don't want to. A few seconds of conversation makes this clear. They don't want to think about anything, as far as I can tell. They just want to check out and be left alone.

    I don't have any SJW relatives because most of them are either Boomers or Ys. One set nods along to the funny haha comedians Bill Maher has on and usually cannot process anyone who opposes their views, the other has no beliefs that they express beyond the privacy of their home. It's like dealing with two different sorts of brick walls.

    I wish I did have a Millennial relative. At least then I might be able to argue with someone who cares about something enough to fight for it, as bad as that experience might be. Passion is better than ambivalence.

    It isn't just my family, either. Friends' and acquaintances' families are the same. The only past friend that is different from the above is one who is a religious conservative. He has about three kids, I think. He has no problems expressing himself or talking about how things are going.

    Every generation has their own vices and demons to tackle. The difference is they are a lot easier to face when you don't have to do it alone, when you have people who care. And yet here we are. This generation has the highest suicide rate for a very understandable reason.

    This is the world you want when you champion individualism at the cost of the collective. It ends up harming the individual, too.

    1. It's not the ostentatious evil you see on the nightly news that offends God most in this age. Kind of like you were saying, He prefers hatred to apathy because if there's at least some passion, He can work with it.

    2. Brian

      According St Faustina, our Lord can't stand lukewarm people. He said you would vomit them out of his mouth.
      Acedia is our vice and I'm trying to figure out how to defeat it.


    3. Which is why as bad as things might get I do not despair. This might be what is required for the most ambivalent among us to finally get shaken awake.

      I'd rather Ys get woken up than be able to live in a neighborhood that acts like it's still 1989.

    4. @Xavier,
      I might be barking up the wrong tree here, but I was thinking yesterday about not caring about things (in this case, me not caring about Star Wars) and noticed a similarity between acedia - indifference so deep that one no longer cares that one no longer cares - and virtuous detachment. I recently watched a video by Father Chad Ripperger about detachment. The different, I suppose, is that apathy is not caring, while detachment from lesser goods, for the sake of attachment to the Supreme Good, God Himself, actually leads to caring more deeply for the things and people from whom one has virtuously detached. One still loves, but without possessiveness or a sense of need. I am probably not doing the concept any justice at all.

  2. Anger can drive mankind to great or terrible things. God can work with a passionate anger to lead us back to his teachings. Apathy and disinterest are far harder to be worked with. Instead of a limited chastisement, it requires a nuclear reaction to shake people out of there apathy.

    One of the great scenes in Batman Begins is when Bruce Wayne is speaking to Alfred on the need for dramatic examples to combat apathy. I've always thought that not all dramatic examples are good and inspiring, they can be downright horrifying.

    1. It could be a holdover from my long-lost comic geek days, but I've had a nagging feeling that something like a real-life version of the superhero might emerge from the chaos of these times.
      If it happens, bank on it being nothing like Watchmen, though.

    2. I would expect The Shadow, or Paul Kersey.

    3. I’d expect Paul Kersey or Gary Plauche writ large

    4. The enemy has been running roughshod over normal people because most normal people are more concerned about what they have to lose and what other people think than doing what's right.

      The variables of that equation are rapidly changing, and when it tips into a preference cascade, you're probably going to see some shit.

  3. There was a big push, well pre-boomer, to disparage the idea of mentoring your own children. It probably peaked early 1900s here in Oz. Kids staying home and learning the family trade was Child Labour practiced by Deplorable Uneducated Rural Poor; whereas the enlightened and educated were to live in urban neatness and attend Public School with Natty Little Uniforms. The Boomers, it is my guess, weren't the originators but the culmination. Their parents inculcated them with this value; to be the mythical new man of the blank slate and Proper Education.