Over the past few months, I’ve periodically quoted from Mark Steyn’s America Alone because it so cogently expresses what has gone wrong with the Western world’s view of reality. Most of his critique has centered on Europe, which is further down the road toward delusion than America. Of course, he wrote the book before we elected Barack Obama as president; we’ve been trying to catch up to Europe ever since.
Yet there is still, even in the age of Obama, an undercurrent within America that rises up against that delusion—to a large extent, that’s what the 2010 elections were all about. Regardless of the political and cultural developments since he wrote the book, Steyn’s insights and warnings continue to ring true.
For instance, here’s his take on the nature of America’s so-called imperialism:
Most Americans are familiar with their stereotype abroad: the ugly American, loud, brash, ignorant, arrogant. It is, in most respects, the inversion of reality: America may be the most modest and retiring hegemon in history. “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists”? Most of America’s European “allies” checked the Neither of the Above box and most Middle Eastern “allies” checked the Both of the Above box. Belgium isn’t exactly with the terrorists but it isn’t with us in any meaningful sense. Saudi Arabia is with us but also funding the terrorists in every corner of the world. And both countries get away with it.
We may talk big, but we don’t follow through on the tough talk all too often. Another illusion we live under is that most of the world shares our “values,” whatever that means:
“Common values” and “universal values” are not all that common and universal, and the willingness to defend those values is even rarer. They’ve been sustained over the long haul by a very small group of countries. In the years ahead, America has to take the American moment seriously—in part, to ensure that the allies of tomorrow don’t make the mistakes Western Europe did. That means at the very minimum something beyond cheeseburger imperialism. In the end, the world can do without American rap and American cheeseburgers. American ideas on individual liberty, federalism, capitalism, and freedom of speech would be far more helpful.
At the end of his chapter “The Importance of Being Exceptional: Citizens vs. Dependents,” Steyn issues this warning:
If America is to avoid the Continent’s fate, she needs to talk up self-reliance and individual innovation instead of being sheepish (as Democrats often sound) that their Neanderthal citizenry aren’t more enlightened and European. Free citizens have a shot at winning this existential struggle; nanny-state charges don’t.
The current administration has attempted to increase that nanny-state mentality. We need to fight against the culture of dependency if we mean to survive as a free people.