We know Eastern Europe was a totalitarian prison until the Nineties, but we forget that Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) has democratic roots going all the way back until, oh, the mid-Seventies; France and Germany’s constitutions date back barely half a century, Italy’s only to the 1940s, and Belgium’s goes back about 20 minutes, and currently it’s not clear whether even that latest rewrite remains operative. The U.S. Constitution is not only older than France’s, Germany’s, Italy’s or Spain’s constitution, it’s older than all of them put together. ~Mark Steyn
It’s true that we have been fortunate in having had a political system that, while far from unchanged, has been far more stable than has been the case in other countries. But as seems to be the case these days with all expressions of admiration for America, it is impossible for Steyn to leave it at that and must resort to belittling and mocking other countries for their internal upheavals and political misfortunes. Speaking just of the Greeks, they had a functioning vasileomeni dimokratia (democracy with a king) in reality at least from 1864 until 1924, twelve years of admittedly fairly chaotic republican government, and then another two decades of post-war democratic government until the regime of the Colonels seized power (and received Washington’s endorsement). Like many other European countries, Greece was deeply affected by WWI and its aftermath to a degree that was impossible in America. Greece was affected particularly by the outcome of Greece’s own war in Anatolia and the Katastrofi that followed, whose consequences deeply divided the country, as did the experience of Axis occupation. Not having to cope with such enormous changes with relatively limited resources, we have been fortunate–and should be thankful–not to have to experience the trials that Greece has gone through in the last century.
Because of our fortunate geography and our distance from the centers of global conflict, we have never been confronted with quite the same kinds of political strains of many European nations. We also enjoyed fairly unique circumstances in not having an entrenched established hierarchical order that was violently overthrown with the same degree of massive political and social reorganisation as many European nations did. Because our War for Independence was in many respects a fight for preserving constitutional practices, we have enjoyed continuity of political institutions that societies split between forces of revolution and counter-revolution could not realistically have had. Steyn notes the rarity of the American experience without considering that a good reason not to mock the turbulent political histories of other peoples. There, but for the grace of God, go we.