There is a strong case to be made that Europe’s native population faces irreversible decline. There’s also a strong case that America’s native population will never choose to leave its shores. But over the next several years, both those conclusions may have to be revised. As common problems afflicting the west come to diminish Americans’ sense of exceptionalism, and the extinction of millennia-old European culture looms, growing numbers in the U.S. may conclude that the only way to retain the essential character of the West is to relocate to Europe.
His claim is that given its dismal birth rate, Europe cannot maintain itself without immigration. It is very hard to integrate non-Western immigrants. Why not give Americans a shot? It wouldn’t be easy to integrate Americans either, but it would be much more so than Africans and Middle Easterners. More Poulos:
The decisive change, however, will have to happen in America. And here, it’s also not super difficult to picture. We already see the U.S. growing more and more similar to the rest of the world, including Europe, as the downsides of globalization set in and generations of citizens lose touch with the everyday experience of freedom balanced with piety that once defined so much of American life. We can readily envision our politics growing more unexceptional — more tribal, more grinding, more stagnant, more driven by patronage. Under circumstances like that, why not take a chance in a part of the west that seems strangely to offer more of an open frontier than the dead ends of America’s steady-state urban, suburban or rural realms?
Not every American will pose that question or act on it. But for those who can match a personal interest in doing so to a more cultural or ideological interest in helping “save” Europe from another traumatizing and turbulent break with its past, returning to the old world for the good of western civilization may hold a unique and powerful appeal.
I’m one of those Americans to whom something like this would appeal. Probably not anymore, because I’m 50 years old, and have older children, two factors that would make such a move impracticable. But if I were single or married without children, and it was possible to make a living in Europe, I would definitely consider doing this. Here’s why.
Yes, it’s true that I love to take vacations to Europe. The food is something I love, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Aside from being delicious, the cuisines of European countries are expressions of deep and abiding traditions. I have a sacramental mentality, which means that I don’t sit down at a table in the Umbrian mountains and eat an antipasti platter of cured meats and experience them as merely delicious. I learn what I can about why cured meats, and cured meats in this particular style, came to be associated with this region, or this village, and what the cooking here says about the local culture and its traditions. I like to eat good local food and drink good local wine or beer. That’s one of life’s great pleasures.
More seriously, though, I feel at home in Europe in ways that I just don’t in America. To be clear, I am deeply American, certainly far more American than European. My point is that European landscapes and culture speaks to parts of me that no place in the US can or does, because we are such a young country. Europe at its best is a refuge from the things I dislike the most about life in my own country.
I love old things, old buildings, old rites, and old places. This well-known passage from Russell Kirk speaks to me and for me:
I did not love cold harmony and perfect regularity of organization; what I sought was variety, mystery, tradition, the venerable, the awful. I despised sophisters and calculators; I was groping for faith, honor, and prescriptive loyalties. I would have given any number of neo-classical pediments for one poor battered gargoyle.
A friend of mine who has been active in conservative political causes for many years told me recently: “I’ve given up on saving America. I just want to try to save Christianity.” That too resonates with me. If I were younger, and had the opportunity to do so, I would want to go to Europe to fight, so to speak, to preserve the Church, the churches, and the traditions that made up the West.
Of course this is not really possible for me in most European places, or my children, because we are Orthodox Christians, and are not going to give that up, at all. Still, Europe is my mother — our mother — in ways that I find hard to articulate, but feel strongly. And I want to cherish her and to defend her (well, everything about her prior to 1789). I don’t want Notre Dame de Paris to become either a mosque or a museum. There’s something in me that wants to resist by loving these things that we Christians in the West have been given, but have for far too long left uncherished.
No doubt about it, my heart is with the poor battered gargoyles. It is too late for me to do what Poulos suggests, but maybe there are younger American trads who would be open to such a thing, if European governments made it feasible for them. What do you think?