“…if something can’t go on, you don’t have to figure out a way to stop it, because it’s going to stop anyway.
“… If you’re careening along a road toward a collapsed bridge, you’ll certainly stop, one way or the other. But it makes a difference, at least to you, whether you skid to a halt four yards before the cliff edge or whether you come to rest at the bottom of the ravine.”
Few events pass the world scene without inviting some sort of comment from columnist Mark Steyn. You would think the title “One-Man Global Content Provider” is ludicrously overstating one’s contribution to the innumerable discussions in modern society. Yet, if you try to keep up with his activity on his website and elsewhere, you’ll begin to wonder if he has some sort of device that allows him to violate the laws of spacetime and cram a dozen extra hours into each day.
For those who disagree with him, Steyn is a madman, an evil bastard, an ill-educated Charlatan, Islamophobic, hatemongering radical. You name the insult, he’s absorbed it without blinking. For those who agree with Steyn, he’s on the leading edge decrying where Western Society is headed.
In fact, people like Steyn are exactly why we have free speech expressly protected in our legal system and Constitution. Even if you disagree with him, or are unsure about agreeing with certain portions of his thoughts, Steyn provokes a great deal of thought, and will force you to figure over your position in a new way.
He’s a Canadian who picked up an accent while attending boarding schools in Britain. He now lives in New Hampshire, writes a lot about music and musicals, but even more, Steyn covers current events around the world. His international perspective gives him a deft ability to put American politics into context, and at the same time, he manages to do regional analysis for more countries than most modern newspapers acknowledge exist.
In general, I find myself in agreement with Steyn, and often awed by his ability to draw together disparate elements of society and draw conclusions so potent they seem conspicuous, but only after you’ve read them. His latest book, After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, released a little more than a year ago, and re-released this week in paperback. For the upcoming election, I can think of no book that more fully lays out the troubles we are facing.
On the heels of his other dire warning to Western Society, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, After America sounds the alert on the largest waves heading toward our nation. Portions of America are already aware, but too many people slumber on, assuming that a national debt with twelve zeros is just something we can manage and ignore.
Don’t worry. This isn’t a dry book about the national debt and GNP and so forth. Steyn shows countless examples of how the spending is just a symptom of the problem. America was once a land where any feat was just a matter of ingenuity, where success was heralded in all corners, where the biggest obstacle in the way of success for any man was his own complacency. Many threads of that spirit remain, but the American dream is now sick with regulation, infantalization, governmentalization, monopolization, credentialization, and entitlement. And yet this illness hasn’t destroyed the America spirit, only suppressed it. The left’s attempts to smother self-reliance have only stumbled along, and now they are achieving more success, even as they re-awaken the nation they are trying to stifle.
“Everywhere from Iceland to Bulgaria angry mobs besieged their parliaments demanding the same thing: Why didn’t you the government do more for me? America was the only nation in the developed world where millions of people took to the streets to tell the state: I can do just fine if you control-freak statists would shove your non-stimulating stimulus, your jobless jobs bill, and your multitrillion-dollar porkathons, and just stay the hell out of my life and my pocket.
“That’s the America that has a fighting chance—a nation that stands for economic dynamism, not the stagnant “managed capitalism” of France; for the First Amendment and the free-est, widest, rudest bruiting of ideas, not Canadian-style government regulation of approved opinion; for self-reliance and the Second Amendment, not the security state in which Britons are second only to North Koreans in the number of times they’re photographed by government cameras in the course of going about their daily business. But when you hit the expressway to Declinistan there are few exit ramps. That America’s animating principles should require defense at all is a melancholy reflection on how far we’ve already gone. Live free—or die from a thousand soothing caresses of nanny-state sirens.”
What’s unique about Steyn is his intriguing mix of potent pessimism and true, ironic humor. A few commentators are marvelous cynics. A few others can satire with history’s best. Mark Steyn has a different method, informing while balancing the worst of news with the sharpest wit. Even as his analysis depresses, his style makes you laugh out loud.
“”Code language” is code language for “total bollocks.” “Code word” is a code word for “I’m inventing what you really meant to say because the actual quote doesn’t quite do the job for me.” “Small government”? Racist code words! “Non-confiscatory taxes”? Likewise. “Individual liberty”? Don’t even go there! With interpreters like Professor Harris-Lacewell on the prowl, I’m confident 95 percent of Webster’s will eventually be ruled “code language.””
Who knew that the war on free speech could be so funny? If it helps us swallow the truth to laugh at what we’re absurdly having to deal with, then this is the right method to emphasize it. Most commentators are horrified by the assaults on personal liberty and respond only with incredulity and martyrdom. It’s hard to live in a world where that’s all there is, and Steyn will have none of it. Face the facts, yes, but know we’re in the right and laugh scornfully at the blatant idiocy which is designed to silence any opposition.
“You oppose illegal immigration? You’re a xenophobe. Gay marriage? Homophobe. The Ground Zero mosque? Islamophobe. If that’s the choice, I’d rather be damned as racist and sexist. The evolution from -isms to phobias is part of the medicalization of dissent: the Conformicrats simply declare your position a form of mental illness.”
There’s so much I could say about After America, and at one point I started to copy down all the quotes that I liked. I gave up once it became clear more than half the book was going to make it into the quotes list.
In our current political season, there is no better diagnosis for our condition than After America. Steyn also has a number of broad steps that should be taken to bring the American spirit back with vigor. Any book that merely tells you how to vote should be ignored. Steyn dissects and analyzes the old can-do spirit that built this nation into the greatest the world has ever known. He doesn’t tell you what to think, but makes powerful, rational cases for specific thoughts that were common for much of America’s history.
Buy this book, read it, and make your friends read it too. And keep in mind, disagreement can be a good thing. How else will you know the validity of your own beliefs if you don’t test them against others?
“I THINK THEREFORE I’M A DEMOCRAT
“What kind of sentient being boasts on a bumper sticker about his giant brain? And cites as evidence thereof his unyielding loyalty to a political machine? Talk about putting Descartes before the whores. What that translates to is: “I’M A DEMOCRAT. THEREFORE, I HAVE NO NEED TO THINK.”