In his syndicated Newhouse column, James Lileks takes a snapshot of the country on the eve of a midterm election:
Pick any era, and you’ll find doubt and worry about the world we leave to our children — if it’s not women demanding the right to vote and smoke, it’s perpetual stagflation and global cooling.
Somehow we muddle through. The muddling seems tougher now because of those Deep National Divisions you hear about daily, like Coke vs. Pepsi. Mutual distrust has never been greater. The left believes the right would build Heathen Conversion Processing Centers in every state if it could. The right believes the left wants to declare the Boy Scouts a hate group if they don’t offer a merit badge for presiding over a gay marriage.
Boil it all down, though, and you get two different views of the future that differ from the sort of disputation we’ve had before. One is based in the virtues America held in the past: hard-workin’, church-goin’, gummint outta my hair. The other is based in the virtues Europe displays today: the warm bath of socialism, the bromides of multiculturalism, the distaste for nationalism, and an icky-icky revulsion toward landing a fist on the jaw of the barbarians.
If the left gains power again, it had best seek its roots in the virtues the right has professed, because the example the left loves fares poorly. The end result of European multiculturalism is the burned bus in a Paris suburb; the end result of European socialism is structural unemployment, the dole, and the belief that an eight-week vacation walking around a Spanish beach in a Speedo is a natural right of man; the end result of European secularism is empty churches, shrinking populations and the sincere belief that the culture of resurgent Islam can be mollified by writing a check and assuming the fetal position.
The end result of European experience with war is a defense apparatus that couldn’t fight Operation Paper Bag; the end result of European nationalism is the belief that bureaucrats in Belgium must be vested with the power to regulate cheese. It’s quite lovely, except when it has to defend itself or stand for something.
The end result is a population that regards the theoretical possibility of polar bears dropping through thin ice as a greater threat to humanism than an Iranian bomb dropping on Tel Aviv. If the EU decreed that for the sake of Gaia the living Earth, crematoria should be used to decrease the surplus population, they wouldn’t have to shove people on the trains; millions of enervated Europeans would clamber aboard as volunteers. Save the bears!
It takes concerted effort over time to reshape a culture, and in this sense we’re way behind. One midterm election won’t change the world. As Europe has shown us, it takes 40 years to sap a culture of its strength and self-confidence. On the other hand, we have their good example; we could probably cut that down to 20.
Update: Lileks’ latest Quirk is devoted to his preferred method of voting:
There are several methods of voting. 1: the touch-screen machine, which I hate. Never used one, but I don’t like the idea — and besides, wouldn’t you see hundreds of fingerprints over the button for the most popular candidate? Wouldn’t this be a form of campaigning, in an odd way? 2: the big fill-in-the-ovals-neatly ballot, which I don’t like for two reasons: the plastic booths are always flimsy, and I feel like I’m voting in a Port-A-John that’s been married to a TV dinner tray. The fill-in-the-oval requirement brings back Iowa Basics test anxiety, too.
No, I prefer the old giant mechanical booths. You closed a curtain behind you, and beheld a row of switches; you felt as though you could control the giant flaming head of Oz from there. When you pulled the lever — Ca-CANK — you could feel your vote shooting off to the great tabulation brain in City Hall. Now an optical reader whisks away your ballot with prissy haste, as though you’ve soiled it.
Could we vote on bringing the old machines back?
Got my vote–I much prefer those machines as well. They were in use in the southern New Jersey town I grew up in until I left the area in the mid-1990s; I wonder if they still are.