Our lesson today comes from the songwriter Frank Loesser: “Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition.”
Or as Barack Obama and his San Francisco pals would put it: God and guns. Loesser got the phrase from Howell Forgy, a naval chaplain at Pearl Harbor, who walked the decks of the New Orleans under Japanese bombardment exhorting his comrades. When the line came to Loesser’s ears, he turned it into a big hit song of the Second World War:
Praise the Lord and swing into position
Can’t afford to sit around a-wishin’…
– which some folks sang as “Can’t afford to be a politician.” Indeed. Senator Obama’s remarks about poor dumb bitter rural losers “clinging to” guns and God certainly testify to the instinctive snobbery of a big segment of the political class. But we shouldn’t let it go by merely deploring coastal condescension toward the knuckledraggers. No, what Michelle Malkin calls Crackerquiddick (quite rightly — it’s more than just another dreary “-gate”) is not just snobbish nor even merely wrongheaded. It’s an attack on two of the critical advantages the U.S. holds over most of the rest of the western world. In the other G7 developed nations, nobody clings to God’n’guns. The guns got taken away, and the Europeans gave up on churchgoing once they embraced Big Government as the new religion.
How’s that working out? Compared to America, France and Germany have been more or less economically stagnant for the last quarter-century, living permanently with unemployment rates significantly higher than the U.S.
Has it made them any less “bitter,” as Obama characterizes those Pennsylvanian crackers? No. In my book America Alone, just out in paperback and available in all good bookstores — you’ll find it in Borders propping up the wonky rear leg of the display table for the smash new CD Michelle Obama And The San Francisco Macchiato Chorus Sing “I Pinned My Pink Slip To The Gun Rack Of My Pick-Up”, “My Dog Done Died, My Wife Jus’ Left Me, And Michael Dukakis Is Strangely Reluctant To Run Again”, Plus “I Swung By The Economic Development Zone Business Park But The Only Two Occupied Rental Units Were Both Evangelical Churches” And Other Embittered Appalachian Favorites …
Where was I? Oh, yes. In my book America Alone, I note a global survey on optimism: 61 per cent of Americans were optimistic about the future, 29 per cent of the French, 15 per cent of Germans. Take it from a foreigner: In my experience, Americans are the least “bitter” people in the developed world. Secular gun-free big-government Europe doesn’t seem to have done anything for people’s happiness. Consider by way of example the words of Keith Reade. He’s not an Obama speechwriter, he’s a writer for the London Daily Mirror. And the day after the 2004 presidential election he expressed his frustration in an alarmingly Obamaesque way:
Were I a Kerry voter, though, I’d feel deep anger, not only at them returning Bush to power, but for allowing the outside world to lump us all into the same category of moronic muppets. The self-righteous, gun-totin’, military-lovin’, sister-marryin’, abortion-hatin’, gay-loathin’, foreigner-despisin’, non-passport ownin’ red-necks, who believe God gave America the biggest d*** in the world so it could urinate on the rest of us and make their land “free and strong.”
Well, that’s certainly why I supported Bush, but I’m not sure it entirely accounts for the other 62,039,073 incontinent rednecks. Mr Reade, though, does usefully enumerate some of the distinctive features that separate America from the rest of the west. “Self-righteous”? If you want a public culture that reeks of indestructible faith in its own righteousness, try Europe — especially when they’re talking about America: If you disagree with Eutopian wisdom, you must be an idiot. Obama and far too many Democrats have bought into this delusion, most thoroughly distilled in Thomas Frank’s book What’s The Matter With Kansas?, whose argument is that heartland voters are too dumb (i.e., “moronic muppets”) to vote for their own best interests.
Europeans did “vote for their own best interests” — i.e., cradle-to-grave welfare, 35 hour work-weeks, six weeks of paid vacation, etc — and as a result they now face a perfect storm of unsustainable entitlements, economic stagnation, and declining human capital that’s left them so demographically beholden to unassimilable levels of immigration that they’re being remorselessly Islamized with every passing day. We should thank God (if you’ll forgive the expression) that America’s loser gun-nuts don’t share the same sophisticated rational calculation of “their best interests” as Thomas Frank, Obama, too many Democrats and the European political establishment.
As for “gun-totin’,” large numbers of Americans tote guns because they’re assertive, self-reliant citizens, not docile subjects of a permanent governing class. The Second Amendment is philosophically consistent with the First Amendment, for which I’ve become more grateful since the Canadian Islamic Congress decided to sue me for “hate speech” up north. Both amendments embody the American view that liberty is not the gift of the state, and its defense cannot be outsourced exclusively to the government.
I think a healthy society needs both God and guns: it benefits from a belief in some kind of higher purpose to life on earth, and it requires a self-reliant citizenry. If you lack either of those twin props, you wind up with today’s Europe — a present-tense Eutopia mired in fatalism. A while back, I was struck by the words of Oscar van den Boogaard, a Dutch gay humanist (which is pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool). Reflecting on the Continent’s accelerating Islamification, he concluded that the jig was up for the Europe he loved, but what could he do? “I am not a warrior, but who is?” he shrugged. “I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.”
Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. If you don’t understand that there are times when you’ll have to fight for it, you won’t enjoy it for long. That’s what a lot of Keith Reade’s laundry list — “gun-totin’,” “military-lovin’” — boils down to. As for “gay-loathin,’” it’s Oscar van den Boogaard’s famously tolerant Amsterdam where gay-bashing is resurgent: the editor of the American gay paper the Washington Blade got beaten up in the streets on his last visit to the Netherlands.
God and guns. Maybe one day a viable society will find a magic cure-all that can do without both, but Big Government isn’t it. And even complacent liberal Democrats ought to be able to cast an eye across the ocean and see that. But then he did give the speech in San Francisco, a city demographically declining at a rate that qualifies it for EU membership. When it comes to parochial simpletons, you don’t need to go to Kansas.
© 2008 Mark Steyn