Monday, November 19, 2007

Newspaper Column of the Year

Is Mark Steyn's Thanksgiving article from yesterday:
Americans have a lot to be thankful for.

Europeans think of this country as "the New World" in part because it has an eternal newness, which is noisy and distracting. Who would ever have thought you could have ready-to-eat pizza faxed directly to your iPod?

And just when you think you're on top of the general trend of novelty, it veers off in an entirely different direction: Continentals who grew up on Hollywood movies where the guy tells the waitress "Gimme a cuppa joe" and slides over a nickel return to New York a year or two later and find the coffee now costs $5.75, takes 25 minutes and requires an agonizing choice between the cinnamon-gingerbread-persimmon latte with coxcomb sprinkles and the decaf venti pepperoni-Eurasian-milfoil macchiato.

Who would have foreseen that the nation that inflicted fast food and drive-thru restaurants on the planet would then take the fastest menu item of all and turn it into a Kabuki-paced performance art? What mad genius!

But Americans aren't novelty junkies on the important things. The New World is one of the oldest settled constitutional democracies on Earth, to a degree the Old World can barely comprehend. Where it counts, Americans are traditionalists.

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.

Americans think of Europe as Goethe and Mozart and 12th century castles and 6th century churches, but the Continent's governing mechanisms are no more ancient than the Partridge Family. Aside from the Anglophone democracies, most of the nation-states in the West have been conspicuous failures at sustaining peaceful political evolution from one generation to the next, which is why they're so susceptible to the siren song of Big Ideas – communism, fascism, European Union.

If you're going to be novelty-crazed, better the zebra-mussel cappuccino than the Third Reich.
Read the whole thing.

(via reader Doug J.)

5 comments:

MaxedOutMama said...

That's hilarious, but so true.

The only thing close is Switzerland, which is a pretty conservative place. Notably, until very recently everyone male there was in the army and was required to keep a military rifle at home.

Carl said...

And, I believe, women only got the vote in something like 1971.

MaxedOutMama said...

I remember when I was in elementary school they didn't have the vote. Yes, you're right. 1971 it was.

MaxedOutMama said...

Ah, but the last canton to allow women to vote did so in 1991.

Carl said...

M_O_M:

Finally, something to like about the Swiss. ;>)