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Yes, They Really Do Despise Their Civilization

You can say this for Donald Trump: he’s great at useless provocation, but sometimes his provocations are helpful by what they force his opponents to reveal. The Warsaw speech was stunning in this way. I’m glad I read it before I read any of the left-liberal comment on it, else I might have thought it had been drafted by Dr. Goebbels.
Here’s a transcript of the entire speech. [1] Go read it yourself. It won’t take long.

I thought it not a bad speech, if somewhat anodyne in the way all such speeches tend to be. It is risible to hear Donald J. Trump talk about how we need “strong families” and “strong values” to survive as a civilization, but the hypocrisy of the speaker doesn’t negate the truth of what he has to say, any more than the great personal virtue of a speaker makes his own claims true (see Jimmy Carter).

Here’s the part that some on the left see as Goebbels-gibberish:

Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are. (Applause.) If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit, and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.

But just as our adversaries and enemies of the past learned here in Poland, we know that these forces, too, are doomed to fail if we want them to fail. And we do, indeed, want them to fail. (Applause.) They are doomed not only because our alliance is strong, our countries are resilient, and our power is unmatched. Through all of that, you have to say everything is true. Our adversaries, however, are doomed because we will never forget who we are. And if we don’t forget who are, we just can’t be beaten. Americans will never forget. The nations of Europe will never forget. We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations.

We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.

We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression. (Applause.)

We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives. And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves. (Applause.)

And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are. Those are the priceless ties that bind us together as nations, as allies, and as a civilization.

What we have, what we inherited from our — and you know this better than anybody, and you see it today with this incredible group of people — what we’ve inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before. And if we fail to preserve it, it will never, ever exist again. So we cannot fail.

And:

We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?

I’m sorry, duckies, but how is this all that controversial? An American president, standing in the capital of a nation that suffered in the last century the domination of two tyrannies — Nazi and Communist — that tried to eradicate its culture, a nation whose Catholic faith kept its spirit alive and led to its rebirth — proclaims that there are things unique and valuable about Western civilization, and that we should remember those things, affirm them, and defend them.

The shocking thing here is that this is controversial at all. It shows how decadent we have become.

Let’s sample some of the left-liberal freakout, shall we?

Here’s Peter Beinart in The Atlantic: [2]

In his speech [3] in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to “the West” and five times to “our civilization.” His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too.

… The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white.

Oh for pity’s sake, this is pants-soiling stuff. Broadly speaking, what we call the West are the countries and peoples formed by the meeting of Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Hebrew religion. There’s a great deal of diversity within the West, but religion, ideas, art, literature, and geography set it apart from other civilizations. One doesn’t have to wonder long to imagine if Peter Beinart would have seen the world this way were he aboard one of the Venetian warships sailing to meet the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto.

For that matter, has Beinart ever traveled abroad? Go to Istanbul. Turks are heirs to a great civilization; you have to look no further than the religious architecture of the city to know that. But you also would never mistake Istanbul for a city of the West. So what?

Every descendant of Africa and Asia who lives in the West and broadly affirms the values that shaped Western civilization is a Westerner. Louis Armstrong and Muddy Waters are as much sons of the West as J.S. Bach and Ludwig von Beethoven. I wrote a book about how reading a poem written by a 14th century Tuscan, Dante Alighieri, utterly changed my life. [4] I have no Italian blood in me at all, but I am part of Dante’s civilization in a way that I simply am not part of the civilization that produced, say, the Analects of Confucius. If not for my mind having been shaped by the Christian narrative, and by Greco-Roman narratives, the poem would not have meant at much to me. Again: so what? This is normal human experience the world over. The civilization shaped by Islam have broad diversity too, but they all share a core belief and experience that binds them.

Thank God that the deracinated, de-Christianized EU elite plan to integrate Turkey into the European Union did not work. And if I were a Turk, I would thank Allah for preserving my Islamic country from that fate too. Elites in both countries wish to deny the religious basis of their respective cultures, and pretend that we’re all a bunch of universalists. We’re not, and never will be.

More Beinart:

The most shocking sentence in Trump’s speech—perhaps the most shocking sentence in any presidential speech delivered on foreign soil in my lifetime—was his claim that “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.” On its face, that’s absurd. Jihadist terrorists can kill people in the West, but unlike Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, they cannot topple even the weakest European government. Jihadists control no great armies. Their ideologies have limited appeal even among the Muslims they target with their propaganda. ISIS has all but lost Mosul and could lose Raqqa later this year.

Trump’s sentence only makes sense as a statement of racial and religious paranoia. The “south” and “east” only threaten the West’s “survival” if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders. They only threaten the West’s “survival” if by “West” you mean white, Christian hegemony. A direct line connects Trump’s assault on Barack Obama’s citizenship to his speech in Poland. In Trump and Bannon’s view, America is at its core Western: meaning white and Christian (or at least Judeo-Christian). The implication is that anyone in the United States who is not white and Christian may not truly be American but rather than an imposter and a threat.

Poland is largely ethnically homogeneous. So when a Polish president says that being Western is the essence of the nation’s identity, he’s mostly defining Poland in opposition to the nations to its east and south. America is racially, ethnically, and religious diverse. So when Trump says being Western is the essence of America’s identity, he’s in part defining America in opposition to some of its own people. He’s not speaking as the president of the entire United States. He’s speaking as the head of a tribe.

I don’t know what was in Trump’s mind (or the mind of his speechwriters) when he delivered that line, but I interpret it like this: Yes, the United States is, at its core, Western, because it is a product of the Enlightenment, which is at its core a secularization of Christian values. The United States makes no sense except as a product of Western civilization. I would say that maintaining Judeo-Christian “hegemony” — meaning understanding ourselves as a people through our unity with the story in the Bible — is vital to maintaining our identity. We no longer do that, which is why I believe we are in decline. (This is a long story; read The Benedict Option [5] for a longer version.)

Here’s the thing: the defense of classical liberal values depends on the Christian religion (which also entails the Hebrew Bible) far more than secular liberals like Beinart wish to concede. Read Glenn Tinder’s long 1989 Atlantic essay on the political meaning of Christianity. [6] More:

It will be my purpose in this essay to try to connect the severed realms of the spiritual and the political. In view of the fervent secularism of many Americans today, some will assume this to be the opening salvo of a fundamentalist attack on “pluralism.” Ironically, as I will argue, many of the undoubted virtues of pluralism—respect for the individual and a belief in the essential equality of all human beings, to cite just two—have strong roots in the union of the spiritual and the political achieved in the vision of Christianity. The question that secularists have to answer is whether these values can survive without these particular roots. In short, can we be good without God? Can we affirm the dignity and equality of individual persons—values we ordinarily regard as secular—without giving them transcendental backing? Today these values are honored more in the breach than in the observance; Manhattan Island alone, with its extremes of sybaritic wealth on the one hand and Calcuttan poverty on the other, is testimony to how little equality really counts for in contemporary America. To renew these indispensable values, I shall argue, we must rediscover their primal spiritual grounds.

Let’s move on. Here’s a tweet by Slate’s Jamelle Bouie:

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Um, yeah. Here’s Pope Benedict XVI, in 2006, dog-whistling to the alt-right, on the definition of Europe: [9]

The last element of the European identity is religion. I do not wish to enter into the complex discussion of recent years, but to highlight one issue that is fundamental to all cultures: respect for that which another group holds sacred, especially respect for the sacred in the highest sense, for God, which one can reasonably expect to find even among those who are not willing to believe in God. When this respect is violated in a society, something essential is lost. In European society today, thank goodness, anyone who dishonors the faith of Israel, its image of God, or its great figures must pay a fine. The same holds true for anyone who dishonors the Koran and the convictions of Islam. But when it comes to Jesus Christ and that which is sacred to Christians, freedom of speech becomes the supreme good.

This case illustrates a peculiar Western self-hatred that is nothing short of pathological. It is commendable that the West is trying to be more open, to be more understanding of the values of outsiders, but it has lost all capacity for self-love. All that it sees in its own history is the despicable and the destructive; it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure. What Europe needs is a new self-acceptance, a self-acceptance that is critical and humble, if it truly wishes to survive.

Multiculturalism, which is so passionately promoted, can sometimes amount to an abandonment and denial, a flight from one’s own things. Multiculturalism teaches us to approach the sacred things of others with respect, but we can do this only if we ourselves are not estranged from the sacred, from God. With regard to others, it is our duty to cultivate within ourselves respect for the sacred and to show the face of the revealed God—the God who has compassion for the poor and the weak, for widows and orphans, for the foreigner; the God who is so human that he himself became man, a man who suffered, and who by his suffering with us gave dignity and hope to our pain.

Unless we embrace our own heritage of the sacred, we will not only deny the identity of Europe. We will also fail in providing a service to others to which they are entitled. To the other cultures of the world, there is something deeply alien about the absolute secularism that is developing in the West. They are convinced that a world without God has no future. Multiculturalism itself thus demands that we return once again to ourselves.

So, for Jamelle Bouie, a Westerner asserting the value of Western civilization is barely-veiled racism? If that’s true, then the term “racism” is meaningless. In fact, it’s worse than meaningless: it’s dangerous. If you tell people that to love and to want to defend the culture of the West is a racist act, then they will cease to care about your judgment on the matter, because you are requiring them to hate themselves as an act of virtue. In that regard, Jamelle Bouie’s sentiment here is a much greater gift to the racist alt-right than anything Donald Trump said in Warsaw.

I mean, really, how ignorant and provincial do you have to be, Messrs. Beinart and Bouie, to hear Trump’s speech and think of it as a #MAGA version of a Nuremberg Rally Address? Is the degree of self-hatred of the West required to be a virtuous, woke person such that you cannot tell the difference between Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and the Horst Wessel Song? Do they really think Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation (all of which is available on YouTube, starting here [10]) is a plummy version of Triumph of the Will? If standing against this kind of liberal insanity means I have to stand with Donald Trump, well, okay, I’ll stand with Donald Trump. I won’t like it, but at least Donald Trump doesn’t hate his own civilization.

Here’s James Fallows on the Warsaw speech: [11]

Has Donald Trump ever heard of Leni Riefenstahl?

:::faceplant:::. I give up. This is madness.

Actually, Ross Douthat makes a good point about the liberal freakout over the Warsaw speech. He says that Trump’s rhetoric is a response to the failure of liberal democracy as a universal, and universalizing, force — something that the mainstream, globalizing left and right shared, and still do.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [8]

In that tweet stream (thread starts here [13]), Douthat says that conservatives who are not alt-right talk about “the West” all the time. It does not make them (us) white nationalists.

True, and it’s a contemptible slur to say so. But note well that this is how leading lights on the contemporary mainstream left regard cherishing and defending Western civilization and its particularities. It is not Trump who interprets Western civilization in racial terms; it is they. They’re going to call us all deplorables at best, Nazis and white supremacists at worst. They are going to keep waging culture war, and blame us for being the aggressors. We are going to have to fight back, but as Polish Catholic philosopher Ryszard Legutko once told me, it will not be enough for defenders of the West and its traditions to say what we’re against. We also have to be for something — and I would add, amplifying his point, we have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Don’t misunderstand me here. The West is certainly no utopia, nor ever has been. It is necessary to criticize ourselves constructively, for the sake of growing in virtue. But that is not what these people are doing. By anathematizing any and all who cherish the culture and history of the West, they will ultimately force conservatives to embrace Reaction as the only bastion of resistance to their nihilistic crusade. But they don’t see it anymore than the Social Justice Warriors grasp that their militant illiberalism is calling up and equal and opposite reaction from the people they have demonized.

There’s something fitting about Trump’s giving this speech in Warsaw. Every conservative should read Legutko’s book, The Demon In Democracy [14]a reflection on Poland’s post-communist experience with liberal democracy. Here are excerpts:

Having cast away the obligations and commitments that come from the past, the communist and the liberal democrat quickly lose their memory of it or, alternatively, their respect for it. Both want the past eradicated altogether or at least made powerless as an object of relativizing or derision. Communism, as a system that started history anew, had to be, in essence and in practice, against memory. Those who were fighting the regime were also fighting for memory against forgetting, knowing very well that the loss of memory strengthened the communist system by making people defenseless and malleable. There are no better illustrations of how politically imposed amnesia helps in the molding of the new man than the twentieth-century anti-utopias 1984 and Brave New World. The lessons of Orwell and Huxley were, unfortunately, quickly forgotten. In my country at the very moment when communism fell and the liberal-democratic order was emerging, memory again became one of the main enemies. The apostles of the new order lost no time in denouncing it as a harmful burden hampering striving for modernity. In this anti-memory crusade, as in several other crusades, they have managed to be quite successful, more so than their communist predecessors.

More:

The people, structures, thoughts that exists outside the liberal-democratic pattern are deemed outdates, backward-looking, useless, but at the same time extremely dangerous as preserving the remnants of old authoritarianisms. Some may still be tolerated for some time, but as anyone with a minimum of intelligence is believed to know, sooner or later they will end in the dustbin of history. Their continued existence will most likely threaten the liberal-democratic progress and therefore they should be treated with the harshness they deserve.

And:

The only change that one could imagine happening was one for the worse, which in the eyes of supporters meant not a slight deterioration, but a disaster. The communist would say: if communism is rejected or prevented, then society will continue to be subjected to class exploitation, capitalism, imperialism, and fascism. The liberal democrats would say: if liberal democracy is not accepted, then society will fall prey to authoritarianism, fascism, and theocracy. In both cases, the search for an alternative solution is, at best, nonsensical and not worth a moment’s reflection, and at worst, a highly reckless and irresponsible game.

Legutko has the number of these liberal journalists and commenters. I can’t urge you strongly enough to read his eye-opening book. [15]

“Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” Trump asked. Maybe he was thinking about Islamic terrorists. I’m thinking about the educated barbarians who cannot create a living culture, only live off the last vestiges of one they inherited, even as they scatter salt in its fallow fields. Donald Trump may be the enemy of culture in many respects, but he is in no way as potent an enemy as these mad evangelists for the Anti-Culture. [16]

UPDATE: Douthat is right about this:

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But it’s also important to know that many on the left offend and repudiate people who dislike Trump by reacting to him like rabid rats got loose in their shorts. Seriously, when I read the transcript of Trump’s speech yesterday, I thought it was pretty ordinary stuff. The American president saying Western civilization is good and worth defending? This is controversial? And as I’ve said a couple of times in this space, it’s eye-rolling to hear Donald Trump talk about the importance of strong families and strong values. Still, if you’re going to go to pieces every time a politician says something hypocritical, you’ll never be able to get out of bed in the morning.

But then here comes respectable commenters on the left, like Bouie, Beinart, and Fallows, yammering about fascism, Leni Riefenstahl, and racist dog whistles, and you realize that whether he meant to or not, Trump’s speech was clarifying. I don’t think Donald Trump could write ten meaningful sentences explaining why the West matters, but that’s beside the point. The point is, when talking about the worth and the defense of Western civilization makes you into Hitler McGoebbelsface in the eyes of liberal commentators, then you suddenly see the situation in starker relief.

The thing is, even if they side with him by default, conservatives must never, ever forget that Trump represents a different form of decadence.

UPDATE.2: This is a fair point by David Frum: [18]

Yet the most troubling thing about the speech was the falsehood at its core; the problem is not with the speech, but with the speaker. The values Trump spoke for in Warsaw are values that he has put at risk every day of his presidency—and that he will continue to put to risk every day thereafter.

Frum’s full column calls Trump a hypocrite for giving the speech, and offers a detailed explanation for why. You may or may not agree with Frum — for what it’s worth, I think he’s mostly right — but it’s certainly a legitimate criticism. But that’s not the criticism many prominent liberal commentators have made. They have criticized the substance of the speech itself, as if standing up for Western civilization was a vicious, racist act. That’s unnerving.

280 Comments (Open | Close)

280 Comments To "Yes, They Really Do Despise Their Civilization"

#1 Comment By Cjones1 On July 10, 2017 @ 5:19 pm

Mr. Trump, without his Nobel Peace Prize or blame America rhetoric, clearly emphasized a pivot towards Poland’s developing renewal of traditional Western civilization values and away from the kumbaya G-20/Paris Climate Accord mentality. Trump victoriously reminded our NATO allies to put up or shut up in regards to their commitments in defending Western Democratic institutions from an increasingly axis of bellicose and imperialist nations (Russia, China, and Iran) as well as the threat of WMD proliferation in countries like North Korea.
Trump’s critics belie a racist undertone to his Poland speech while remaining card carrying members of the Democratic party renowned for instituting and defending slavery and segregation. Then you have the leftists who so easily forget the Godless utopian experiments in Socialism & Communism that imprisoned, enslaved, and slaughtered hundreds of millions in the 20th Century. Didn’t Mrs. Thatcher remark that Socialists could turn pstasdise into deserts in little time?
I find it remarkable that Mr. Trump has become the champion of Western ideas, institutions, and formulas that delivered humankind from the Dark Ages and propelled us into the light of enlightenment and tolerance. The light of Western civilization should not be covered over by the intelligent fools who would distort history and truth.

#2 Comment By VikingLS On July 10, 2017 @ 5:26 pm

@JonF

I am going to break silence for a second.

1) I lived in Russia for years. Hector is right and you need to listen.

2) You did not live in Russia for five years. Hector is right and you need to listen.

#3 Comment By Great Caesar’s Ghost On July 10, 2017 @ 5:42 pm

Rod Dreher has unmasked a key point: This time the Left is showing its true (and quite ugly) colors: anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Judaeo-Christian. If they can malign the Warsaw Speech as a “white nationalist” screed, they will say anything to prevail. They are “people of the Big Lie”, even succeeding in making Donald Trump look good…and a shoe-in for 2020. Rage on, comrades!

#4 Comment By St. Reformed On July 10, 2017 @ 5:49 pm

Any second now I predict that some Lefty talking head will label the crowd’s great chant of “We want God!” before Pope JPII as a dog-whistle for theocracy.

#5 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On July 10, 2017 @ 7:01 pm

Depends what you mean there. Spain, Portugal and Greece were all ruled by dictators when I was a young child– were they outside European civilization then? How about Germany under the Nazis? And when most European nations, Russia included, were ruled by monarchs with autocratic pretensions, did that put Britain with its constitutionalism outside Europe?

If Franco’s system of government had lasted then yes, I think Spain would be discernibly part of a different civilizational bloc than, for lack of a better word, “Northwest Europe”. As the course of history turned out, Spain was integrated into ‘the west’ after 1975. You could argue that so has Poland, but I think that argument would be wrong: the events of the last few years underscore that liberal values have become much more internalized in Spain (and for that matter in most of Latin America) than in Eastern Europe. (As a critic of liberalism I’m not saying this as praise or blame. Eastern Europe isn’t better or worse than the west, it’s just different).

#6 Comment By JonF On July 10, 2017 @ 7:03 pm

Vikingls,

When you are talking about contemporary things in Russia, “I lived in Russia” is a valid basis for (some) things you assert, and indeed I read the specifics of your Russia posts with keen interest. But when we are talking about the vast sweep of civilization over a millennia, it is less convincing.
But perhaps that is the difference here. You are and Hector (and to some extent) are limiting your observation to the here-and-now only, and over-valuing the passing fads of the political world. On the same basis some leftist fools in Europe might be ready to read the US out of their civilization too, exiling us to Latin America as we certainly have elected a populist caudillo sort on Trump.
But if you take the sum over history Russian civilization is a strain of European civilization, just as the Orthodox Church is a Christian
church and the Russian language, for all its Uralic and Turko-Mongol borrowing is an Indo-European language.

#7 Comment By Ofer Imanuel On July 10, 2017 @ 8:10 pm

Trump is less hypocritical than the author implies, w.r.t family values. Obviously, he divorced twice. However, he is also very close to his children, and they all came out pretty decent AFAIK. From what I read, he is also on good terms with his ex-wives.

#8 Comment By slightlycrazy On July 10, 2017 @ 8:59 pm

“Venetian warships sailing to meet the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto.”
the venetians didn’t sail to lepanto, they rowed. that was a battle between fleets of galleys.

#9 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 10, 2017 @ 9:06 pm

I think India would have been better off as a federation of nation-states than as one nation, and the new Modi government gives us one reason why: if you are going to have a bad leader, it’s much better if he rules over 100 million people rather than 1.3 billion.

That’s a basic “states rights” argument for smaller nations or states. It works until either the smaller states starte squabbling, or the bad leader of one decides to take over a few of the rest, or something going in in one state so horrifies the residents of another state that war results.

India may well have been better off as a federation of somewhat smaller states, given that the country as a whole can’t even agree on a national language. English, the language of the colonial power, had to be relied on, because there were riots when an attempt was made to impose Hindi. (I’m old enough to remember the headlines).

#10 Comment By Janwaar Bibi On July 10, 2017 @ 9:41 pm

India is likely better off as an imperfect parliamentary democracy than it would have been as a federation of the traditional rajah domains, or as a ruthless military dictatorship.

Siarlys, I agree totally with this. A patchwork quilt of kingdoms was what we had in 711 AD when night fell on India. Only fools refuse to learn from history.

About Hector and Patel. I listen to Hector when he is holding forth on the finer points of the taxation policy of the Hapsburgs in Upper Ruthenia during the eighteenth century or the subtleties of interpreting Article II(c) of the Pharonic constitution of Queen Hatshepsut in 1478 B.C. in the Lower Nile Delta. However, he told us a few weeks ago he has assimilated so completely into the West that he has no particular tie to India other than the minor historical accident of his birth there, and that we should therefore not expect him to know about current events there. I take him at his word.

I would respond to Patel if I knew what his brief was. There is a certain desi style of argument in which one makes a pronouncement and then sits back, satisfied that the gravity with which the pronouncement was made compensates for the failure to present any argument or evidence in defense of one’s position. If Mr. Patel tells me why I am full of it, to use a Western idiom, I can respond.

#11 Comment By Ras Al-Ghoul On July 10, 2017 @ 10:08 pm

“President Trump’s speech in Warsaw was uplifting and inspiring and Western Civilization implies a whole bunch of things that we in the West take for granted and there would be real “wailing and gnashing of teeth” if we lost those things that make Western Civilization great. OBT, have you ridden in a car lately built by a Muslim/Middle Eastern company? Flown in an airplane designed in Riyadh? Used a piece of software developed in Khartoum? Listened to music written in Benghazi? Not so much–right?”

1. Yep, ‘Technological might’ is right. Is it “the West”
Rod is defending?

2. “Listened to music written in Benghazi?”

The asinine question of the year. So now, is music only a western thing? Seriously, you people need to get out of your virtual junkyards and travel a little bit.

#12 Comment By Jon Hargreaves On July 10, 2017 @ 10:49 pm

The students gathered around their wise professor under the oak tree. Today the master’s face was grave. “We must address today a topic that I’m sure will distress some of you, and yet no matter how dark, we cannot ignore it. The question for today’s lesson is “what was the first sign of the corruption of Judeo-Christian western civilization?”

After a quiet pause several hands shot up:
“Perhaps, sir, it was with the advent of airplanes and extended travel. Family ties became ever more strained, people lost touch with the communities that raised them.” The professor shook his head. Another hand–
“Was it the fact that out of very heart of Western Civilization, the home of Martin Luther, the home of the printing press, out of this heart arose the Nazi empire, which turned a western state into an unprecedented killing machine?”
The professor again shook his head.
“Well then, perhaps it was the uncovering of the fact in the late 20th century that the catholic church, the pillar of western society, had actually been molesting thousands of boys for decades?”
No! said the professor. “You are overlooking the obvious!”
Another pupil offered: “Could it have been the replacement in
the US the christian church with a “church of prosperity”–one that essentially glorified material gain?”
“Way off,” said the professor. “Shall I tell you the real answer?…The real reason for the fall of western civilization?” The students eagerly awaited, mouths open…
“It was a column in the Atlantic by Peter Beinart!” the professor practically yelled. “He despised western civilization! And that, my dear students, was the beginning of the end.”

[NFR: You no doubt think this is clever. — RD]

#13 Comment By jschmidt On July 10, 2017 @ 10:53 pm

” In his speech in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to “the West” and five times to “our civilization.” His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too.

… The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white.”

What a bunch of liberal nonsense. West is now code word for Christian and White!. What planet are these people on. How about West being considered as civilized, industrialized, economically stable. This liberal writers haven’t a clue about what they write about.

#14 Comment By Paula Norman On July 10, 2017 @ 11:07 pm

I imagine these writers are desperate to maintain their position as elitist Left groupies. After their failure to see the weak position of HRC, they are bending over backwards to find every weak position (even invented ones) of Mr. Trump.
They all leave me cold.

#15 Comment By the norwalk avenger On July 11, 2017 @ 12:40 am

Engineer Scotty – “Do some of you actually believe that “the Left” would rather take its chances with Islamic fundamentalism, just to rid Europe and America with the Judeo-Christian variety, and is deliberately seeking Muslim immigrants for that reason?”

Yes.
Yes.
Yes.
Yes.
Yes.

#16 Comment By GMason On July 11, 2017 @ 1:14 am

Yes, they really do. They not only despise it but wish to destroy it.
I am quite glad to see that the left has finally become so overt as to alert even those who have long been asleep.
These are leftists. Every bit as left, every bit as determined, every bit as dishonest and subversive and every bit as dangerous as any other leftists of any other age.
Fight these people as if your nation depends upon it, because it quite likely does.

#17 Comment By HH On July 11, 2017 @ 4:18 am

Great photo of the regressive barbarians.

#18 Comment By Peta Johnson On July 11, 2017 @ 6:48 am

Before Reagan Wall Street did not pay vastly better than academe. Today, only the crazies are there, with some honorable exceptions. The crazies used to be communist. That was ended by the fall of the USSR. But the crazies and their progeny still hate Western civilization. Why? Because they will never be in charge without a revolution. Why do they support Islamists? Because they hope that out of disruption, there might be a revolution.

#19 Comment By smeyer0513 On July 11, 2017 @ 8:44 am

There is nothing actually new about the Left’s attitudes here. The well-educated buffoons at Stanford U. chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture’s gotta go!” back in 1987, demonstrated what Allan Bloom called ‘the closing of the American mind” (another book worth reading).

What is new is that we have a POTUS for the first time since Reagan who seems to understand the stakes. For deeper understanding on why other GOPers haven’t take a look a Dennis Prager here: [19]

My one quibble with Dreher’s article is the repeated attack on Trump as ‘family man’. Certainly there seems to be little in Trump’s past that would recommend him as apostle for family values, given the divorces. But two things arise in his defense: (1) he has (seems to have) remarkably stable and able grown children; and (2) his response to his brother’s death and his respect for his parents. It is possible that he is changing (and not just for political opportunity). The jury is still out, but it is possible that where he is now with his family life (including beautiful wife and young son) and his very serious, all-consuming job, are changing him. I, for one, would not be too quick to judge.

#20 Comment By grumpy realist On July 11, 2017 @ 10:01 am

Hector–would like to hear your comments about a “Polish identity” during the periods of history where Poland was gobbled up by Russia and Prussia? Historically we’ve had quite a few examples where an ethnic or religious group in Europe found themselves, at the end of a war, suddenly subsumed into another nation. Depending how they were treated, they either merged into the rest of the country, or became a pain-in-the-neck to the authorities and a nucleus for internal rebellion.

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 11, 2017 @ 11:49 am

There is a certain desi style of argument in which one makes a pronouncement and then sits back, satisfied that the gravity with which the pronouncement was made compensates for the failure to present any argument or evidence in defense of one’s position.

That, I must say, is a nearly universal disease, emdemic at present in “The West.” Conservatives do it, troglodytes do it, alt-Right is full of it, quasi-left infantile disorders do it, LGBTQWERTY activists do it… I often respond to an impassioned but empty argument with some variation on “so what” or “could you elucidate on that” simply because it could be running any number of different directions, and contains, as presented, no real substance.

Peta Johnson starts with a useful observation… it is quite possible that those who can obtain, or stomach, employment on Wall Street make more money there, so only those who can’t, or won’t, end up in academia. Which would certain skew the politics and perhaps even the quality of academia compared to before 1980. Of course all and never are not the terms to use, some honorable and intelligent people would still prefer academia to Wall Street, and some pettyfogging, greedy, klutzes will still worm their way into Wall Street. But it could be the basis of a demographic shift.

But Peta knows nothing about “the left.”

Why do they support Islamists? Because they hope that out of disruption, there might be a revolution.

They support Islamists in part because they were already hostile to Israel, and are not particularly observant of the shift from left-wing Palestinian leaders like Dr. George Habash (a practicing Greek Orthodox Christian) to Islamists like Hamas and Daesh. They also are infused with a residual attenuated Maoist notion about “oppressed nations” and are notoriously unqueasy about what sort of “oppression” they mean. China ended up in embarrassing alliance with the Union of South Africa and the CIA in the mid-1970s, not to mention being nominally supportive of the Shah of Iran, since he haded an “oppressed nation.” China was also allied with Pakistan, mostly because India was very tenuously connected to the USSR in trade and diplomacy.

These are incompetent fools at the bottom of a deep hole they dug themselves into, and they have no idea what they are doing. They can’t win a revolution because they couldn’t keep one village fed for 24 hours.

Tic-tac-toe!

#22 Comment By VikingLS On July 11, 2017 @ 12:52 pm

“But when we are talking about the vast sweep of civilization over a millennia, it is less convincing.
But perhaps that is the difference here. You are and Hector (and to some extent) are limiting your observation to the here-and-now only, and over-valuing the passing fads of the political world. ”

What political fad? So are you acting on the presumption that I read Huntington and adopted his ideas? Or are you seriously suggesting that I of all people have gotten swept up in the tide of Russophobia in this country?

Looking at the broad sweep of history if anything makes Russia look LESS like the west, not more like the west. The question is not whether Russia is part of Europe, the question is whether it is a distinct civilization from “the west”.

Does it just never occur to you that you might simply be wrong or that it might be YOUR political ideas clouding your judgment?

#23 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On July 11, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

I would respond to Patel if I knew what his brief was. There is a certain desi style of argument in which one makes a pronouncement and then sits back, satisfied that the gravity with which the pronouncement was made compensates for the failure to present any argument or evidence in defense of one’s position.

Oh man. This is why I love reading Janwaar Bibi’s remarks even when he mocks me: when he’s right, he’s really really right. Here he’s absolutely right: I’ve heard this style of argumentation so often from extended family members. (And I’d add, part of this approach to rhetoric often involves using puns, alliteration and other rhetorical flourishes to make up for the lack of evidence. For that matter I’ve been known to do that too.)

#24 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On July 11, 2017 @ 1:03 pm

Grumpy Realist,

Poland disappeared as a state, it didn’t appear as a nation. That’s why Polish activists were waiting in the wings to reconstruct their state, first when Napoleon arrived on the scene and then a little over a century later when the German and Austrian Empires collapsed.

The strength of Polish identity is summed up by one of those stories that you would think only a Russian novelist could make up, except for the fact it really apparently happened (there is some doubt about the circumstances, but William Dalrymple plumps for this explanation as being likely). There was a guy named Witkiewicz in the early 19th century, of Polish aristocratic descent, who was active in the Polish independence movement as a young teenager, arrested at 14 and exiled to Central Asia for life. He decided to make the best of his situation and became a sort of linguist, polymath and political agent, furthering Russian interests in the region through diplomatic relations with the Afghan, Persian, and central Asian monarchies. At the height of his career he ran into a childhood friend at the opera and bragged about his exploits, and his friend excoriated him for betraying his Polish identity and serving the cause of the hated imperial occupier. Witkiewicz was so ashamed that he went home later that night and shot himself.

#25 Comment By VikingLS On July 11, 2017 @ 1:05 pm

@Grumpy

I can’t speak about the Poles, but I found the Estonians, despite decades of time under the Soviets and in places by the Russian empire, very different from Russians. I don’t know how they would have looked had Sweden or Germany retained the territory, but I do know that during German and Swedish colonization they retained their language and culture.

#26 Comment By Ian George On July 11, 2017 @ 1:20 pm

@grumpy realist

And a pain in the ass they most definitely were. 1795, 1830, 1863… to say nothing of 1920 and 1944. They’ve hung on to their national identity quite tenaciously against the forces of Russification and Germanization, which often acted as an impetus to embrace the opposite. After the January Uprising failed, one of the reasons Poles embraced a campaign of mass literacy for the working class was they calculated this would give them a better chance of holding onto their identity against Russification efforts in Congress Poland.

(The third partitioning power, Austria, was relatively benevolent compared to the Prussians and Russians-it wasn’t for nothing that Krakow emerged, in the Austrian partition, as the de facto center of Polish culture in the 1800s.)

One of the reasons Catholicism is still such a potent force in Poland is because, historically speaking, it is seen as inseparable from Polish national identity against occupiers that were explicitly hostile against the very idea. In general, that-along with things like having a Western writing script as opposed to Cyrillic-makes Poles identify with Central Europe, not the Eastern Slavic world, which is seen with negative connotations as backward. It also worked the other way around. During the Time of Troubles, resistance to the Polish Commonwealth’s invasion of Russia was all about defending Orthodoxy from people who wanted to wipe it out.

#27 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On July 11, 2017 @ 1:59 pm

[NFR: Don’t apologize. Fallows is a very good writer. All of those guys I cited are talented, and not hacks — which is what startled me so much about their reactions. — RD]

This is what startles me so much about your article here – you have clearly read these writers regularly and ought to have a decent handle on their views on the greatness of Western Civilization as well as the American greatness. Yet you treat their critique of Trump’s speech as proof that they hate Western Civilization when it’s rather obvious that they are upset that he is corrupting their definition of Western Civilization, not upset that he is praising Western Civilization.

There are reactionaries on the left who think that Western Civilization is the cause of all oppression just as there are neoreactionaries on the right who think that the Enlightenment should excised from Western Civilization. Neither amounts to a full percentage point of either side of the political spectrum. Treating them as the dominant force on either side is only useful to whip up the faithful so to speak, not so much to have a discussion (or govern for that matter).

#28 Comment By VikingLS On July 11, 2017 @ 2:08 pm

@Hector

Just saw a previous post of yours.

I am not sure that central and Eastern Europe are exactly “the west” either, but I have less first hand experience there.

I did live in Estonia briefly and it struck me, and they think of themselves, as a Northern European country like Finland and Scandinavia that had been stranded in the Soviet Union for decades.

As to Appalachia, that’s a long story, I’ll have to think about how to explain it.

#29 Comment By ckuss On July 18, 2017 @ 9:55 am

Agreed that Enlightenment values have Christian roots. But Trump’s take waffles on precisely those Enlighenment values which are most clearly Christian: equal rights, tolerance, the affirmation of human dignity in its essential dimension, and affirms Enlightenment values that are dubious: capitalism, moral relativism. Trump seems to be talking about “blood and religion” and not the Evangelical values at the core of Christianity.

#30 Comment By Matthew Brough On July 23, 2017 @ 9:58 pm

A couple weeks late, but for whatever it’s worth, this post sent me off after Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation series, and it’s one of the most remarkable documentaries I can remember seeing in a long while. Since the election and recent political upheaval in general I’ve tried to make more of an effort to seek out conservative opinions in media – which is not my bent – and finding articles with references like this do make it a rewarding exercise. I should expect to find a shout out to Clark on the HuffingtonPost, for example.

Thanks.