Rockford doesn’t have either mountains or the seashore, andnit has nothing like the history and charm of Charieston, but.nit’s still “a pretty good place to live,” and if some peoplencomplain of the lack of restaurants and entertainment, allnthey have to do is drive to Chicago or Milwaukee.nA pretty good place to live. I thought immediately ofnRalph’s Pretty Good Grocery: if Ralph doesn’t have it, younprobably don’t need it anyway. No, Rockford does not haventhe beauty or sense of history you find in Charleston or evennSan Antonio, but that is not because of its youth. Photographsntaken at the turn of the century disclose a town ofnconsiderable charm. In the middle sat Sinnissippi Park, thennearest thing to a formal garden in this part of the country.nThe park and gardens are still here, but they are cut throughnby an ugly and entirely unnecessary freeway.nToday, there is literally no downtown Rockford, only annabandoned city center increasingly occupied by the library,narts center, the nonprofit theater (one of the town’s greatncultural assets) and public offices. Most of the old buildingsnhave been torn down, and a few years ago preservationistsnwere unable to rescue two old limestone buildings that hadnbeen typical of old Rockford.nIn a recent American Scholar article (“Back to Batavia”)nBill Kauffinan puts his finger on the problem. In hisnhometown the local Catholic hospital wanted to buy andntear down one of the last downtown mansions (built inn1811) and replace it with a highrise apartment building fornrich old people. The two old-fashioned Batavians on thenplanning board voted no; the three from more recentnimmigrant stock voted yes.nIn a series of essays and books, co-written with JamesnQ. Wilson, Edward Banfield developed the notion ofn”other-regardingness,” a willingness to work for the commonngood, as a characteristic American virtue, one to whichnEuropean Jews rapidly assimilated, but one that it has takennother European immigrants much longer to acquire. Muchnof the American social and political system, especially thenbest qualities of American democracy, grow out of thisn”other-regardingness” that characterized the Pilgrim fathersnand the self-reliant individualism of John Smith. Withoutnthe one there would be no concern for the welfare ofnpoor immigrant groups, and without the other we shall soonnlack the abundant wealth that made our generosity possible.nI have more than once tried to explain all this to BennWattenberg and other advocates of increased immigration.nThey aren’t stupid or even particularly cynical, but I cannotnmake any headway for a simple reason. The America I known(and remember) is a place where they have never lived. Innthe course of their lives most of them have graduallyntranscended their families’ ethnic enclaves and becomencitizens of the great North American cosmopolis. MynAmerica is something they may have read about in books;nthey may even mourn its passing; but they do not believe itnsurvives except in a few degenerate pockets of Appalachiancharacterized by incest and pellagra.nAssimilation has worked, we are told, and by ceasing to benIrish or Italian or Czech, the immigrants and their childrennhave either become American or have created a new culturenfor “the first universal nation.”nBut where is this new national culture that sets a patternnfor the worid? Is it on MTV or in the “songs” of MCnHammer and Public Enemy? Perhaps it is the films of DavidnLynch. Or better still, the commercials for fast-food chains,nblue jeans, and poorly made automobiles. We may not benable to quote from Daniel Webster’s Bunker Hill address ornget an allusion to Macbeth, but we all “deserve a breakntoday” or want to know where the beef is. Some of us driventoday’s Chevrolet on the way to the Magic Kingdom, wherenwe can see genuine replicas of European villages. Nonwonder the new immigrants despise us and refuse to give upntheir languages and cultures.nThe Big Lie of modern American life is that thenassimilation process worked. It didn’t. The great postwarnpromise of American life was a new way of life in thensuburbs, where the Hamiltonian man of business couldnreturn from a hard day in the city and pursue the life of anJefl^ersonian yeoman in his off hours. Booth Tarkington endsnhis great novel trilogy Growth with the construction of ansuburb where the immigrant laborers could escape thensmoke and shed their ethnic heritages. A generation laternFrank Capra held out the same promise for Bailey Park innIt’s a Wonderful Life, and after World War II the designersnof Levittown and other new cities claimed to be creating annew and more democratic culture that transcended the oldnlimitations of class and tribe. That didn’t work either: thensuburbs proved to be sterile non-communities where abandonednand resentful housewives slowly turned into angrynfeminists.nWhat sort of community can be created without the tiesnof blood, history, and faith to bind it together? All the blocknparties and Scout Troops and Little Leagues in the worldncould not disguise the fact that the suburbs were little morenthan refuges for women and children. They had neither pastnnor future and offered the worst features of town andncountry: a dense population without the variety and sights ofnthe city; the boredom of the countryside without either thenwildlife or the hard work that gives a savor to rural life. Thennew life was as hollow as the editorial blusterings of the NewnRepublic: the suburban “homesteaders” traded in the realnAmerica of Cincinnati and Indianapolis, of farms andnvillages, for the promise of a New America that could nevernbe realized.nWhat the suburbs, especially restricted communities, nownrepresent is an escape from the ethnic terrorism of the cities.nThe rich have withdrawn into their private islands andnpadlocked paradises, and the rest of us have achieved thenminor success of learning how to live with each other innsuburban civility, but even that civility will give way beforenthe continuous invasion of aliens seeking to fulfill thenpromise of American life.nImmigration per se has not been the major obstacle tonAmerica realizing her nationhood, but the pressure ofnimmigration made it impossible to deal with the realnproblem, which has been and continues to be the centralizationnof political, economic, and cultural power. At this pointnin our national history, there are only two ways to escape thenmoral and political paralysis that afflicts communities acrossnthe country. The most obvious solution is the quasi-fascistnmeasures promoted by liberals, neoconservatives, and thenBush administration: create a national culture out of an oddnnnJULY 1991/17n