The Nation's Pulse

Doing Our Part

America's populationo hit the 300 million mark this week -- no small thanks to immigrants and couples happy to have many wonderful children.

By 10.18.06

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On Tuesday, just around breakfast, America passed the 300 million mark in terms of population. While I haven't spoken to my wife about this, I can tell you that I am feeling a sense of accomplishment -- doing our part, so to speak -- to reach this milestone: we have seven children.

Clearly, it is immigration which is the major contribution to the nation's growing population. But some of us native born citizens have also made a contribution to America's dynamism and vitality in this regard.

Big deal, you may say. Well, yes, thank you, it is. For three decades my wife and I have had to endure endless smug, waspish jokes about our family's size. Really, most of them are quite offensive, deserving a punch in the nose, rather than the mild, passive smile we usually muster in the face of these lame attempts at hilarity such as:

"Don't you own a TV?"

"All by the same wife?"

"Don't you know there are ways to fix this problem?"

"What about the environment?"

"Well, at least someone is doing something about the Social Security crisis!"

And the lamest of the lame: "You need to get out evenings."

AT VARIOUS TIMES we have been tempted to answer, "No" to these jibes, adding, "Actually, we just like sex a lot." No doubt, the person on the receiving end of such a rejoinder would be shocked, shocked, at the rudeness of the reply. Go figure.

As to the feeling of accomplishment, there is some joy in knowing that we are helping to insure that the American people will not devolve into a thin, vaporous haze which appears to be the fate of the Italians, Spanish, and other assorted members of the European Union. This is incredibly sad. As a fan of opera, classical culture, Frank Sinatra, and pasta (not necessarily in this order), I simply cannot imagine a world without a critical mass of Italians.

The great irony of my life is that my professional work for the last eighteen years has been in the fields of natural resources and environmental protection. While almost all of my co-workers have been supportive of me and my family, there are those in certain bien-pensant circles who barely suppress their view that I am some kind of war criminal for spawning so many mouths, yes, consumers, for the world to feed. The Walter Mitty deep inside me has wanted to respond to these censorious opinions with something like:

"Maybe your yuppy spawn is a leach on society, but don't project your problems onto my kids. Mine will serve the world, build businesses, grow families, teach the young, aid the sick, feed the poor, and pay for your retirement without breaking a sweat. They have brains, and hands, and hearts, and souls -- not just mouths."

A PROFESSOR from the University of Michigan was on NPR saying that the United States is now the third largest country in the world after China and India. This same professor was surprisingly upbeat about our ability to handle the larger population. We have the space, the ingenuity, and the adaptability to assimilate and transform our growing population into an asset, not a liability.

Later in the programming came a story about China's latest push to force its rural population to restrict family size to just one child. The tyranny driving this government mandate was glossed over in the bland coverage of this latest outrage in what was once referred to as "Red" China. Demographers are now saying that the Chinese attempt at social engineering has resulted in too few girls, and wives, and the prospect of an aged society in the not too distant future.

There will be fewer, older Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans. America, however, will continue to benefit and prosper from a youthful, robust society due to the grit of immigrants and, I am happy to say, from a few of us doing our part for the good of the cause.

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About the Author

G. Tracy Mehan III served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the administrations of both Presidents Bush. He is a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law.