August 3, 2020
Author: Chilton Williamson
Like an insecure woman perpetually obsessed with what others think about her, though in fact people hardly ever spare her a thought, the United States from the beginning of her history has been a highly self-conscious society, always imagining that the eyes of the world are upon this bold new experiment in self-government. She has not been entirely wrong in her imaginings, though for two and a half centuries she has greatly overdone it.
Between 1789 and 1861, foreign democrats and radicals (mostly Europeans) viewed America as the paramount embodiment of the rights of man, conveniently overlooking the Peculiar Institution until the War Between the States broke out. When Woodrow Wilson (Mencken’s “perfect model of a Christian cad”) dispatched his doughboys to France in 1917, half the European Continent (and the whole of the North American one) instantly accepted the United States for what she claimed officially to be: the Arsenal and the Savior of Democracy. America’s reputation as the international champion of freedom and democracy persisted throughout the 1950s and most of the 60s, before the Vietnam War, violent anarchic protest, and the transformation of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning into bastions of the Frankfurt School in Arms occurred.
Even before that happened, Washington and the Military-Industrial-Educational Complex had become acutely and painfully sensitive to criticism from abroad of America, American democracy, and American institutions generally. Once these lost the respect, and forfeited the adulation, of the world–the so-called Free World in particular–the United States would cease to be an international beacon, the struggle against International Communism would be lost, and the earth plunged into outer darkness. In the end, the Children of Light defeated the Children of Darkness, The Shire prevailed, and Mordor was destroyed. Had the epic ended there, all might have gone well thereafter, so far at least as things ever go well in this vale of tears. Unfortunately, The Shire invented a new Mordor called Iraq, a new Sauron named Saddam Hussein, and went to war against them. Since then, the United States has been widely perceived internationally as the Arsenal of Crusading Imperialism, no matter that it lost its war. Badly bruised, humiliated, and deeply angered, America has subsequently become much less assiduous in maintaining and promoting her image internationally, comfortable and secure in her nationalistic arrogance. At the same time, the cultural contradictions of the vaunted American Way of Life have emerged, as one half of the country has separated itself from the other half and pitched battles are occurring between them while the rest of the world looks on, bemused and perhaps somewhat smug. Oddly, Americans–including the American ruling class–seem not to notice the changed perceptions the rest of the world has of the present-day United States, the altered light in which they view it. Self-absorbed as an alcoholic couple having a marital fight at a cocktail party, they are for the first time in their history oblivious to how other nations see them.
Addressing the final plenary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in 2013, Vladimir Putin said:
“We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilisation. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan. The excesses of political correctness have reached the point where people are seriously talking about registering political parties whose aim is to promote paedophilia. People in many European countries are embarrassed or afraid to talk about their religious affiliations. Holidays are abolished or even called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is their moral foundation. And people are aggressively trying to export this model all over the world. I am convinced that this opens a direct path to degradation and primitivism, resulting in a profound demographic and moral crisis. What else but the loss of the ability to self-reproduce could act as the greatest testimony of the moral crisis facing a human society? Today almost all developed nations are no longer able to reproduce themselves, even with the help of migration. Without the values embedded in Christianity and other world religions, without the standards of morality that have taken shape over millennia, people will inevitably lose their human dignity. We consider it natural and right to defend these values. One must respect every minority’s right to be different, but the rights of the majority must not be put into question.”
Putin was speaking of the Western countries generally and more particularly the Anglosphere, which is more subject to political correctness, especially in matters of “gender” and sexual perversion, than the rest of Europe, but his hearers must have been aware that his specific intended focus was the United States, the fons et origo of so much of postmodern cultural decadence. An earlier generation of American internationalists that included people like Eisenhower, Dulles, Acheson, Kennedy, Rusk, etc. would have been appalled and mortified by a like description of their country in their own day. But how much of today’s Washington–Democratic and Republican alike–would be shaken by it?
Andrew Michta is dean of the College of international and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (August 1, 2020) he recalls a book published in 1953 by the poet Czeslaw Milosz, a defector from Poland, called The Captive Mind, about the evils of totalitarianism. Professor Michta uses his space to compare past tyrannies with what is happening in the United States today, described by him as “the resegregation of America, the endpoint of which will be the rejection of everything the civil rights movement stood for.” He argues that the radical protestors and their enablers, the “digital intelligentsia” in the media, politics, and corporate business, are driven by “contempt for the freedom of anyone who fails to comport with their image of a just society.” American elites, he believes, think that “the radicals destroying monuments and issuing wholesale denunciations of America’s past are wreaking destruction on ordinary Americans and their history, not on the elites and their ideology. Today’s elites as a rule do not believe they have an obligation to serve the public, only to rule it…” They are meeting little resistance from ordinary Americans because their “sense of self has been progressively deconstructed. We feel in our bones the wrongness of the violence that is being visited on the nation but lack the language to speak against it….America is in the throes of a destructive ideological experiment, subject to a sweeping and increasingly state-sanctioned reordering of its collective memory, with the increasingly totalitarian left given free rein to dominate public discourse.” The nation, Michta warns, faces “a stark binary choice:” Either we resist the Neo-Marxist assault or we give in to the “totalitarian impulse now in full view in our politics.” And we must resist NOW: Waiting for the election in 90-odd days to do so will be too late.
I do not know whether Michta is an American citizen or not. One way or the other, his is the view of America’s immediate cultural and political crisis from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the German Republic, whose citizens have witnessed–and suffered–this sort of thing already. We can guess how sane and civilized people elsewhere around the world see it.