Saturday, February 13, 2010

America and Europe

The only people who think America is just like Europe are those who resolutely live their entire lives within the bubble of liberal coastal elites which constitute a small (maybe 20%) and shrinking portion of the US population. It is true that the decadent Hollywood elite, big-city Easterners and tenured radicals in the universities still believe believe that America is predestined to embrace the secular, materialistic, socialistic worldview of Europe. But a strong majority of Americans did not get the memo or, if they did, chose to ignore it.

It isn't just Mississippi; it is Massachusetts where they elected a Republican who ran on a platform of opposition to the massive health care reform bill currently before Congress to the seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy. This is bad news for the European elites who gave Barack Obama a Nobel Peace Prize for sounding just like them: America is still a center-right country and is getting more so the longer Barack Obama is president.

Europe, on the other hand, is caught in the culture of death and is committing demographic suicide. Everywhere you look there is a willingness to prostrate oneself before radical Islam, as the show trial of Geert Wilders for "hate speech" against Muslims illustrates.

America is not perfect, but it is not Europe. Mark Steyn, in his colorful style, points out the point of greatest difference between Europe and America during the recent financial crisis:
"I’ve been saying for months that the difference between America and Europe is that, when the global economy nosedived, everywhere from Iceland to Bulgaria mobs took to the streets and besieged Parliament demanding to know why government didn’t do more for them. This is the only country in the developed world where a mass movement took to the streets to say we can do just fine if you control-freak statists would just stay the hell out of our lives, and our pockets. You can shove your non-stimulating stimulus, your jobless jobs bill, and your multi-trillion-dollar porkathons."
There is no doubt that the spirit of self-reliance, religious faith, local community resourcefulness and limited government lives on in America in spite of everything. Victor Davis Hanson points out the irony that European prosperity for the whole period since WW II has been built on reliance on American military protection against Communism.
"After the September 2008 American financial panic, European diplomats and intellectuals lectured Americans on the evils of unfettered capitalism and the superiority of their statist model. The strong euro and steady expansion of the EU had convinced many that their soft socialism was the only way of the future.

But European prosperity was, in fact, heavily subsidized by decades of free protection by the U.S. military. Meanwhile, aristocratic bureaucrats in Brussels were increasingly not accountable to their skeptical continental constituents — and seemed terrified of popular referenda from member states on the EU constitution.

And now? Several EU nations like Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal face financial implosions — brought on by unsustainable government spending, out-of-control pensions, and endemic tax cheating. The euro is falling fast. Bondholders of European debt are jittery. Now, northwestern countries like Germany and France — despite their own budget problems — may have to bail out Greece."
Bashing capitalism and feeling smug about statism has been a trademark of European elite opinion. Obama got the Nobel because he validated, in his person as an African-American and in his liberal policies, this European smugness.

But now, instead of asking "Will America inevitably become more like Europe?" some people are beginning to ask "What would it take for Europe to become more like America?" Simon Jenkins, writing in The Guardian, asks: "Why is there no British Tea Party?"

George Weigel, in a recent speech in Paris, gave his opinion on the question of what it would take for Europe to reverse its cultural decline.
"Pointing to the “demographic winter” gripping much of the continent, Weigel described it as a portent of the future, unless Europeans insist on the place of Christian values in society and combat relativism with truth. . .

The first step in the process of Christian renewal, the Catholic author said, is that “intolerance in the name of 'tolerance' must be named for what it is and publicly condemned.” According to Weigel, Biblical morality is being treated in European culture with “bigotry and intolerance” and this is an “uncivil act that must be named as such.” But the prime example of this intolerance is the European Union and individual states believing that they have the authority to redefine marriage – a human institution that “antedates the state ontologically as well as historically,” he said.

Secondly, Weigel argued that Catholic Christians must speak openly “about the empirically demonstrable and deplorable effects of the sexual revolution on individuals and society.” In addition to this, he argued that Catholics need to bring about a “new appreciation of the dignity and nobility of human love” as illustrated in John Paul II's “Theology of the Body.”. . .

The American intellectual also asserted that the Church needs to be vindicated from the “black legends” that circulate around its history, such as the Crusades, Galileo's trial and the Inquisition.

“I raise these matters of historical record, not to score debating points,” Weigel clarified, “but to suggest that part of the challenge we face today is to recognize, with John Paul II and Cardinal Lustiger, that Europe (and indeed the entire West) is suffering from a false story about itself, and about the relationship of biblical religion to its formation and its history.”

Finally, Weigel advised, the Church must continue to develop a “rich interior life,” and at the same time, find “winsome ways to make the Church's proposal to a post-Christian Europe.” One way to do this, he suggested, is for members of the Church to join with men and women “of conscience,” who may not be believers, to publicly challenge “the ever-more-ominous dictatorship of relativism.”

Weigel is here giving expression to the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, who believes that the Church can be a catalyst for cultural renewal in Europe. Why not? It would not be the first time it has happened. And in the process, Europe will become more like America. Ironically, however, it won't become more like the part of America that is now "Europeanized," but rather, more like Middle America, Christian America, Tea Party America.

It is that or death and while we know that many, confronted with that choice, would willingly choose death, there may be a creative minority that would rather live like conservative Americans than under radical Islamic rule.


Irenaeus said...

Love George Weigel, in general, and you're right that in important ways America isn't Europe.

But I think in many ways America is behind Europe by a generation or two; marriage is collapsing here as it has there, secularism is creeping here as it's washed that continent there. We have a First Amendment in the States, however, whereas European states (as well as Britain and Canada) don't.

Further, you write: "Europe, on the other hand, is caught in the culture of death and is committing demographic suicide."

Depends on the country, but our culture of death is way ahead of Europe by some metrics. Death penalty for one. But abortion especially; in Germany, abortion is rare and much more challenging to get than here. Further, the only thing holding up the US's birth rate is hispanic immigration; that is, without legal and illegal immigration, we'd be around Europe's birthrate -- 1.1-1.5 children per woman. Of course, once hispanics get acculturated here, they contracept and abort just like we "native Americans".

We're much more susceptible to the culture of death, I think, because we don't have long, pre-technological traditions rooting us.

So I'm much more pessimistic. Wish I were wrong.

Craig Carter said...

Your points are all well taken. But my only counterpoint is that the battle is still raging in America, whereas it is pretty much over in Europe. You are right: trends are bad. But there is still hope and when I see American democracy in action it is breath-taking. No wonder the liberal media gets so angry. Well they should because ordinary Americans who have faith constitute a clear and present danger to their dreams of a brave new world.