21 Apr The Prophetic Voice in the Wilderness that is Mark Steyn
This past Saturday evening I enjoyed a two-fold benefit I will not soon forget: Not only did I hear Mark Steyn deliver the annual address at the 46th annual dinner of the Lincoln Club of Orange County (a prestigious and highly influential political group I am blessed to work with), but I also was privileged to sit with Mr. Steyn at the dinner, enjoying an unforgettable dialogue along the way. I have reviewed Mark Steyn’s masterpiece, America Alone, before, and I reiterate my deep admiration for his work in that book, and his editorial giftedness. I have no doubt that few, if any, political commentators today possess his wit, competence, and intellectual capability. I have no doubt whatsoever that no member of the op-ed community comes close to possessing his humor and rhetorical skill. All that Steyn has to offer is deeply needed. But allow me to expand …
I asked Mr. Steyn at dinner if he employed a research staff of sorts (virtual, volunteer, or otherwise), in his massive gathering of various follies he writes about covering the globe (readers familiar with Steyn know that he has an uncanny ability of reporting on various reduction ad absurdums prevalent in modern culture – particularly in Western Europe). Mark replied that he did, indeed, uncover all such anecdotes on his own, but that I need not be overly impressed with this work ethic and intelligence. “You see, David,” Mark said, “when merely reading the mainstream newspapers of Western Europe, finding preposterous stories illustrating Europe’s love affair with relativism and political correctness is like shooting fish in a barrel; it doesn’t take much.” Steyn represents a lot to me in the various issues he chooses to harp on week after week. I believe he is a true lover of America and the ideals that made her great. He is the most articulate writer out there of the utter evil it represents to simply bail out on Iraq. I strongly doubt any ivory tower intellectual understands the study of demography the way Mark does. He attacks political correctness and America-bashing and all sorts of annoyances like these with a rare blend of persuasiveness and mockery. And yet, if I had to pinpoint the underlying thesis of this man’s career, it is this: Mark Steyn is the [almost] lone prophet in the wilderness screaming for America to get the track she is on towards being Western Europe Part Deux. And I can not think of a more important calling in life than that …
Mark began his speech Saturday by telling the audience he was a legal immigrant from Canada, now living in New Hampshire. In reference to his status as a “legal immigrant”, he commented that he would “not make that mistake again”. When the audience was done roaring in laughter, he referenced President Bush’s line that illegal immigrants are doing the jobs Americans will not do (a sentiment I largely agree with). Steyn went on to say, though, that having read the LA Times cover-to-cover from his hotel room that morning, he had no idea one of the jobs Americans apparently refuse to do is write something like a readable newspaper in the the second largest media market in the country. Amen to that.
Much of his speech was given to the plethora of reasons to abhor a Barrack Obama Presidency. In quoting Obama’s sworn commitment to leaving Iraq, with no deference to the state of affairs on the ground there, Mark pointed out that Obama is either a fraud (in the event that he does follow the General’s advice and finish the matter at hand), or a buffoon (in the event that he actually does what he says he is going to do, and leave those people to suffer the fate the South Vietnamese and Cambodians suffered in 1974). Why, Mark wonders, would we even tolerate the choice between a fraud and a buffoon? While Mark is not a religion writer, one of the things I most enjoy in his work is the extraordinary sense of moral clarity with which he speaks and writes. The proposed all-in surrender of America in Iraq is not, for Mark, a political issue; it is one of pivotal moral importance (as he references the skull count of past countries we have abandoned prematurely after committing to building their stability). The Jeremiah Wright affair was not a funny case of a race-baiter, and charlatan who lives in a $1.6 million home in an all-white community (though he surely is both of those things); the Jeremiah Wright story is a classic case of a fraud, shamelessly telling people that sexual immorality and promiscuity are not the problem, but rather the conspiracies of the United States government. Steyn can mock with the best of them, but ultimately these are issues of tremendous ethical consequence to him. I wish that it were so with many professed religious leaders in today’s issue canvas.
Mark brilliantly dismantled the notion that big government pie-in-the-sky ought to be the solution to American ills. He expressed sheer confusion at the notion that we can cure all disease as a government, provide health insurance to every man, woman, and child as a government, keep every financially insolvent homeowner in their current residences as a government, and yet somehow, sit totally unable to build a fence along the southern border. As is always the case with liberals, their selectivity in determining what Uncle Sam can and can not do is remarkable.
Mark and I enjoyed an extensive talk about the state of much of the religious west in today’s scene. In particular, Mark is very astute in his commentary on the tragedy that is becoming the modern Episcopal church. The recent attempts of the archbishop, Rowan Williams, to encourage the alternate legal system of sharia in the midst of British jurisprudence became an instant target for Steyn’s devastating scorn. He emotionally pointed out to me that while Ugandan and Rwandan Anglicans are literally being butchered by the thousands at the hands of Islamic tyrants, the best mother England’s church has to offer them is more and more literature on the need for gay clergy. It is a despicable state of affairs, and one Mark surprised me with his mastery over. To further see his stellar critique at the Christian church’s ineptness in the modern age, read this concluding line from his latest back cover article in National Review.
“… the most effective strategy against the resurgence of Islam may be the oldest of all – an evangelizing Christianity. As I said, that’s the good news – if you’re so inclined. To the cowed accommodationist governments of a largely post-Christian Christendom, it no doubt sounds like the worst news of all.”
Ouch. And yet, painfully true.
Mark lamented in his speech that “the democrats are doing all they can to catch up to Western Europe; it does not give us Republicans the right to do everything we can to catch up to the democrats.” He is deeply bothered by the Republican’s default choice of John McCain as their nominee, yet also keenly aware of the disaster the alternative represents.
But through the humor, wit, and broad array of subjects Steyn covers, it is his fundamental pro-America, pro-individual, pro-morality, pro-freedom worldview that we see him so sharply contrasted to the elitist, humanist, relativist, statist flavors of the day. Steyn is plenty willing to be critical of deficit spending run amok, but expresses amazement at the reason most Americans are so bothered.
“This is not merely about the fact that we can not afford all of these government programs that have created the deficits we have today. Indeed, if Bill Gates wanted to write a check each and every day to help Uncle Sam pay for them, it does nothing to change the fact that these are still wrong programs. A society that learns to be this dependent on government is a society that weakens to the point of decay, and extinction.”
For Mark, this nanny-welfarism that has parasitically spread throughout the soul and body of Western Europe is why it is no impotent to defend itself against the ills that threaten it. Shrinking economies, upside-down family trees (four grandparents, two parents, and one child – the classic recipe for demographic extinction), and complete moral chaos, are merely the symptoms of what is plaguing the secularized Western bloc of our friends across the pond. What has done them in is a love affair with 30-hour work weeks, six-week vacations, and an unending retort of “just say yes” to the questions of what government ought to be doing in their society. Greece’s 25% of GDP pension costs are not the problem; they are the result that has stemmed from the real problem – nanny-welfarism run amok.
Steyn is like the prophet in the wilderness screaming to us Americans to pull it together, or face the same fate as the once great continent of Europe. The will of the American population is being severely tested, For me and my family, we will go down swinging at any attempt to Western-Europize our great country. For Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and today’s democratic party, the choice has already been made. Americans may not hear the truth regarding radical Islam, and dangerous demography, and nanny-welfarism in the mainstream press, or in the pews of their church. But fortunately, there are still folks like Mark Steyn humorously and powerfully delivering the truth. Theirs is a formidable opponent. We are wise to join them in the fight for the future of the American Way.