For an Elderly Christian Gentleman, the culture shock is, simply, quite devastating.
It commenced upon our landing at Madrid’s Barajas airport, when the loudspeaker — in Spanish and then in English — cheerily warbled, “Welcome to Madrid . . . and to Europe!”
There went some 2,500 years of recorded history. There went Hadrian, Numancia, and Cid Campeador. There went Zurbarán, Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya. There went Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. There went the Battles of Pavia and Lepanto. There went Lope de Vega and Don Quijote. There went de Soto, Cortés, and Pizarro. There went Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Ávila, and John of the Cross. There went Calvo Sotelo and La Pasionaria. There went Ortega y Gasset and Gironella. There went Machado, Lorca, and Valle Inclán. There went . . .
I lived in Spain for 15 years. Since returning to the States in ‘72, I’ve spent two months of every summer on the Cantabrian coast. My total exposure to the country and its rich history extends now to almost half a century. The evening of our arrival, I recounted the tale to my (Spanish) brother-in-law. “Well,” he shot back, “what do they say when you fly to Atlanta? Welcome to Georgia?”
Was I surprised by the asperity in his tone of voice? Not inordinately. If Manolo has been converted to the idea of Greater Europe, and has swallowed as well the Chirac-Left slant on American hegemony, he reflects what the majority of Spaniards (and other “old” Europeans) think: America is too powerful, America must be opposed; the grounds for the invasion of Iraq were manufactured; Bush is a gun-happy cretin.
Playing some part in this antagonism is a conflict of cultures, European pessimism vs. American optimism. “It can’t be done” is the instinctive European position. “Fix it,” is ours. But the Europeans have a point: It’s one thing to depose Saddam, quite another to pluck the nettle of viciousness out of Islam and implant in its stead a tolerant, secular democracy. There is, besides, the question of our staying power. Ours is a fast-food, quick-fix culture. When we wrested the Philippines from Spain at the turn of the 20th century and declared that we were going to build a democracy there, we gave ourselves 50 years — and then got out. Such long-term resolution is inconceivable today, when we are unable to think beyond the next round of elections.
Having acknowledged which, one can go on to say that ideology does play a role in the estrangement between old Europe and the New World. Silvio Berlusconi of Italy was getting hard editorial slaps in all the Spanish newspapers upon my arrival; but as the international edition of the Wall Street Journal pointed out on July 2, he is derogated not because of alleged peccadilloes, but because of his pro-American slant. Berlusconi is mud to the “European leftist fringe that keeps getting ousted at the polls” but that has somehow “managed to hold the media and the academy.”
The phantom devils of the Right are academe and the media, whom they distrust and deplore. The phantom devil of the Left is The People, whom they despise. This ideological divide is, moreover, a transatlantic phenomenon. Left-wing Americans are comfortable in Europe; right-wing Americans are comfortable nowhere, not even at home. And face it: The Left has won the ideological battle in most of the Western world — and with that victory has carried the sociological ramparts, infecting culture on both sides of the water with a fetid prurience and sick moral corruption.
That first morning’s issue of Madrid’s ABC (July 1), for example, carried congratulatory references to the venerable newspaper’s 100th anniversary. Nothing untoward about that. ABC is an institution unlike the New York Times but perceiving of the same self-esteem; yet, astonishingly to this ECG, pages 77 and 78 were devoted to classified ads for prostitutes, along with provocative photographs. There is Raquel, 20, “Spanish beauty, insuperable in bed.” There is Leticia, student and model, also 20, who describes herself as sweet and very tender — “I like adventures and sex… If you are discreet, I’ll do anything you ask.” There is Irene, 20, sweet and tender too, and submissive besides, who likes to do “anything you desire.” There is Alma, 19, who models lingerie. She is endearing: “I don’t have experience, but I learn rapidly. I am sensual, beautiful, and muy morbosa [that is, partial to kinky sex]. I receive you in my lingerie and we will make love many times surrounded by the luxury you expect.” There is a sister act of Ana and Angela, lesbian students who are muy morbosas and who perform separately or together; and another lesbo team, Laura and María, who though they are muy enamoradas occasionally “require a man.” There is Alicia, 20, “elegant and morbosa.” And then there is Andaluza, a self-confessed 29 years old, the veteran of the lot: “incredibly beautiful, exotic massages, all services.” Alas, she commands only 100 euros (the others, from 125 to 250 euros). Cheapest, at 75 euros, is Roxana, 19, who receives her clients nude, then gets “on my knees, [in order to] eat you from the front and then from the rear…”
There are dozens and dozens of them advertised in those two pages. In a dignified publication like ABC, which takes itself oh-so-seriously, this is startling: at least, as I say, to an Elderly Christian Gentleman like myself. The cuties almost all describe themselves as muy morbosa, which may be the fitting description for European politics and morals in this new age. They like it low-down and kinky.
We ECGs are having a hard time of it. Madrid isn’t Amsterdam, recall. Neither is Lima. On the eve of our flight, my wife picked up a glossy society-celeb magazine, Orbe, with Princess Diana on the cover (“Confirmed! She was pregnant by Dodi when she died”). A squib by the editor, the handsome and debonair Jaime Cillóniz, describes his product as “ever more entertaining,” boasting of interviews with, among others, a young Peruvian designer whose exciting new collection was just shown at Maxim’s in Paris; and with Francisco Miró Quesada, the “great philosopher, mathematician and journalist, and I can tell you that we feel proud to have interviewed him.” Sr. Cillóniz is presumably proud also of the feature tucked away on the inside pages, headlined “El Sexo Vende” (Sex Sells), and reproducing ads from YSL, Lacoste, Versace, D&G, and Calvin Klein. The Dolce & Gabbana copy depicts a couple in their underwear in hot frontal embrace; the Yves Saint Laurent ad displays a darkly handsome young man, naked, legs spread wide to present his black pubic thatch and dangling organ.
It has been a bad couple of weeks for ECGs all over the world. Sandra Day O’Connor has ruled that our country is dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of diversity. Don’t get me wrong: I glory in our country’s ethnic and cultural mix, which makes Americans just about the most interesting people on the planet. But to propose a cult and an ideology of what is a fun sociological phenomenon is narrow, foolish, and provincial. Justice O’Connor champions the activist tradition of the federal courts that University of South Carolina law professor William Quirk styles the “happy convention” of judicial supremacy. The doctrine is startlingly recent; it began with the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision in 1954 and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Then in 1973 came Roe v. Wade, which instituted the slaughter of infants in the womb. ECGs like me despair that in our ethics, morals, and mores we Americans are now subject to edicts from aging jurists who are infected with the hubris of their position; that our society, which is supposed to be based on laws duly debated in the legislatures, is now subordinated to judicial diktats.
The Supreme Court earlier this summer struck down Texan sodomy laws (never mind that they were already unenforceable); the Court was, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, “perfectly happy to instruct Texans on what they ought to think about homosexuality, a subject not addressed in the Constitution and historically left to state legislatures.” The Journal further remarks that the justices “leapt to the task” of “playing Solomon in the nation’s culture wars… deciding yesterday to overturn their own 1986 ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick, and finding a constitutional right to privacy for consenting adults engaging in gay rights.” Should we be surprised, when the Supreme Court instructs the PGA how to run their golf tournaments?
Sodomy is all the rage, and gay is king. Just the other day, Episcopalians in New Hampshire elected a homosexual bishop who makes no bones about having a lover. Marching in Manhattan’s recent gay-lesbian parade was Mike Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor, who thus stamped with the city’s seal of approval a tendentious claim to normalcy for a “lifestyle” that to ECGs like me is perversion and a sin.
Oh, it’s been a bad couple of months for ECGs! The courts in Canada are fixing to ram gay marriage down the throats of the people up there, and Massachusetts courts are conniving to do likewise in their state. Offense to Christians is not of the same order in this brave new world, on either side of the Atlantic. On July 3, the Wall Street Journal’s European edition carried an op-ed by [former NR intern] Jason Steorts reporting on a contumacious act by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers, which approved the expenditure of 74 billion euros over the next three years for “reproductive and sexual health services” in backward countries. In plain language, this regulation will fund abortions.
Now, just as in our Republic (prior to the Supreme Court’s arrogation of absolute supremacy), there once upon a time was a division of powers among the three arms of government — and so the European Union was once upon a time postulated as guaranteeing respect for the laws and institutions of all member states. In 1983, millions of Irish voters trooped to the polls and approved an amendment to their constitution that acknowledges the right to life of unborn children. The amendment requires the Irish state “in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” Yet the Irish government is now compelled by the EU to help fund measures that are abhorrent to its people.
And guess what? The Irish government is defending the presumption. Sure. On both sides of the Atlantic, we’ve become submissive to highhanded bureaucratic mandates. Two years ago, my wife and I sat for an hour on the runway at Gatwick in a BEA jet bound for New York, not on account of heavy airport traffic or bad weather, but because, as the pilot announced sheepishly, he was waiting on permission from Brussels to take off. Writes Mr. Steorts:
“[L]aws touching on thorny ethical questions are different from… such mundane matters as, say, the regulations of seatbelts… It is illegal in at least five member states to do research on stem cells from leftover embryos in fertility clinics, and a moratorium currently prohibits the EU from funding such research. But the moratorium expires in December, and the European Commission is debating whether to fund the research beginning in 2004. A vote is scheduled for next week, and as the matter is not subject to co-decision by the European Parliament, the outcome will be final.
In setting the agenda of the European Union, Europe’s onetime Communists and leftover socialists are seeking, by fiat, to impose their ideology on all member states. Steorts asks in his op-ed, “The idea that [an unelected] supra-national authority may oblige an entire [people, the Irish] to provide financial and political support for a program that betrays that nation’s own moral convictions seems a trifle undemocratic — at least if you hold the old-fashioned idea that a nation’s sovereignty rests exclusively with its people.” The old-fashioned idea, held by ECGs like me, is that the people — not the Supreme Court, not Eurocrats in Brussels — are the supreme moral authority.
Oh, it’s been a hard beginning of summer for ECGs like myself. Alabama’s supreme-court chief justice Roy Moore, who had the audacity to install “as the centerpiece” of the Alabama State Judicial Building a granite monument on which the Ten Commandments are engraved, has been slapped down and reprimanded. Justice Moore was amiably compared by a federal court to “those southern governors who attempted to defy federal court orders during an earlier era,” likening him to “such states’ rights proponents of segregation [read, racists] as George Wallace and Ross Barnett, governors respectively of Alabama and Mississippi [read, Lower Slobbovia].”
Wow. For displaying the Ten Commandments. Such an outré statement incurs the wrath of the editorial writers of the Paris-based International Herald Tribune (July 3), who picked up on the racist theme. “Judges,” they write, “are often celebrated for their wisdom or legal acumen,” but Roy Moore’s argument that he has “discretionary power” to decide whether a federal court order in this case is consistent with his oath to support the federal and state Constitutions is an “odious claim,” reminiscent of the defiance of southern governors during the civil-rights movement, and in which, to support it, “there is nothing in logic or law.…” His “religious grand-standing” and his “disregard” for the U. S. Constitution and federal sovereignty “are utterly unacceptable.” They conclude: The benighted people of Alabama must rid theyse’ves of this redneck.
Please note, the point is not that the editorialists of the Herald Tribune disagree with Judge Moore’s position: It is that they never even engage it. The oldest rule in rhetoric is that insult is not argument, and that to flout this rule is to risk slander. Now, I don’t know Judge Moore, and he may be as objectionable a human being as he is painted by the Tribune; but it’s worth keeping in mind that his offense consisted in making public testimony of the until-not-so-long-ago unexceptionable historical acknowledgement that our canons of law descend directly from Judeo-Christian traditions. The pesky fact of the matter is that the United States in its conception was a God-fearing republic, and as recently as the late 1950s was so defined by the very liberal Justice William Douglas. But ad reum, nix ad hominem has gone by the boards. The tone of the Tribune rant manifests precisely how the quality of political discourse has decayed. Reasoned argument it is not. (Then again, discourse isn’t practised by the Left.) Intimidation of the straight world by outlandish gay-lesbian marchers is the order of the day. Slander and moral righteousness and vindictive diatribes are sufficient — and the norm.
Alas, this intellectual gangsterism prevails on both sides of the Atlantic. Take a column by one Gabriel Albiac in Madrid’s El Mundo newspaper (June 30), entitled “El Odio al Franquismo,” which is about as sorry a piece of journalism as any of recent memory.
Again, please! — I am not defending Francisco Franco; but in his rant, Sr. Albiac adopts a tone of smug left-wing superiority that takes the place of argument. His entire column is one long PC sneer in which not a single fact, citation of evidence, or logically constructed intellectual statement are adduced to support his self-congratulatory odium for all things Franco. “Many motives have I to hate el franquismo,” he declares heroically. “Family [motives]… personal [motives]… political [motives].” Great: but in this long, long sentence (59 words) of windy and nebulous objurgations, he tells us not a single one of them! He disdains to be specific, declaring, “All this [whatever "this" is — it remains undefined] is old. I can forget it. I hate also, in a fashion that is invulnerable [to reason? to nuance? to distinctions?], all that sh*t for one single reason: the time that I was obliged to rob from my life in order to fight against it; and the people of distorted vision (turbio) with whom I was forced to ally myself and for whom, at times, I could believe I felt affection.” He has with this wretched sentence ranted a total of 203 words, half his diatribe. The rest consists of a similar indulgence in malice and empty moral posturing.
They dominate the sounding boards and infest the airwaves, and they have inherited the earth — these peddlers of perverse opinion, self-righteous certitude, and corrupt moral and sociological standards, who seek to do away with any age-old Christian traditions and republican practices that inhibit their march toward a smutty and carnal secularism. There is no haven from them; their ordinances are decreed from on high by centers of power beyond the reach of public reproof. The very air we ECGs breathe today is a culture shock in which we are immersed, and can only lament. As they sang in an old Negro spiritual we loved as children: “Dey ain’t no hiding place down here.”
— F. Reid Buckley is the author, most recently, of USA Today: The Stunning Incoherence of American Civilization. Mr. Buckley wrote most recently for NRO here.