Belmont Club

They stand there like a stone

A copy of Geert Wilders speech, given at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, on September 25, 2008 was sent to me by a reader. Here’s a link online. It’s titled “America as the Last Man Standing”. In it Wilders suggests that Europe has significantly changed, and will continue to change beyond recognition, due to the demographic changes.

I come to America with a mission. All is not well in the old world. There is a tremendous danger looming, and it is very difficult to be optimistic. We might be in the final stages of the Islamization of Europe. This not only is a clear and present danger to the future of Europe itself, it is a threat to America and the sheer survival of the West. The danger I see looming is the scenario of America as the last man standing. The United States as the last bastion of Western civilization, facing an Islamic Europe. In a generation or two, the US will ask itself: who lost Europe?

There is already a certain quaintness to the Wilders’ speech, as if it were given in a place far, far away in a time long, long ago. The speech at the Four Seasons expresses ideas from before the financial meltdown. We have other concerns now.  Quoting the Strategy Page, Glenn Reynolds writes that the war in Iraq is over, but nobody cares. It won’t be long before some argue that the unsung, almost by-the-way victory in Iraq can be taken as proof that it was unnecessary in the first place, because how can one have something and not notice that one has it?

But that’s the way of most things. Many might have taken prosperity and jobs for granted just two or three months ago. Work was just a daily hassle to some who may count themselves lucky to have it in the near future. In one respect Wilder’s speech is evergreen, speaking as it does to the universal experience of experiencing the loss of things we’ve long taken for granted. The aging understand: the teeth, eyesight and hair.  But what of freedom? Wilders writes:

My generation never had to fight for this freedom, it was offered to us on a silver platter, by people who fought for it with their lives. All throughout Europe American cemeteries remind us of the young boys who never made it home, and whose memory we cherish. My generation does not own this freedom; we are merely its custodians. We can only hand over this hard won liberty to Europe’s children in the same state in which it was offered to us. We cannot strike a deal with mullahs and imams. Future generations would never forgive us. We cannot squander our liberties. We simply do not have the right to do so.

Yet in this I think, Wilders is wrong. Generations can bequeath things to each other. Abstract ideas can be transmitted through print, the visual arts and electronic storage. Even the consequences of freedom are transmittable through our institutions. But freedom itself can never be bequeathed because it always involves an exercise of will by the living man. It cannot be passively consumed. It is new to each of us, though it was there from the foundations of the world. Whether you’re hunched behind the ramp on the first landing craft to hit Omaha Beach; or deciding with your wife to have a child with Down’s Syndrome, or standing with a hood over your head awaiting a beheading deciding whether to passively await your end and eke out a few more seconds of life or snatch the cover off your head to yell I’ll show you how an Italian dies!”, that moment was made for you and you alone. Europe and America will meet such fates as they choose. However long they’ve lived in liberty; however ancient their constitutional guarantees, they can choose unfreedom in a moment. One day they may decide they have a right to choose dependency; to choose slavery. No regrets now.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above
Enjoy such liberty