»  Taki's Magazine

October 20th, 2011

  Qualified Despair

Suicide of a Superpower
by Patrick J. Buchanan


One of the schoolmasters in charge of my Religious Instruction — Anglican, of course — used to say that a good hymn is one that leaves you feeling absolutely terrible.

I feel the same way about Pat Buchanan's books. By this measure, Suicide of a Superpower is a very good Buchanan book indeed. With chapter headings like "Demographic Winter," "The Triumph of Tribalism," and "The Long Retreat," you can practically hear the bugles calling from sad shires.

If you read Pat's books or columns (or mine for that matter: I'm quoted a generous four times in Suicide of a Superpower, way more gratifying than the one lousy passing mention I get in this fall's other nonfiction best-seller) you'll know the theme.

And so on. It's all true, of course. Is there any hope? Not much. Pat:

The crises that afflict us — culture wars, race division, record deficits, unpayable debt, waves of immigration, legal and illegal, of peoples never before assimilated, gridlock in the capital, and possible defeat in war — may prove too much for our democracy to cope with. They surely will, if we do not act now.

Then what must we do to be saved? Pat offers some suggestions, none of them surprising: Stop garrisoning the world, downsize the federal government, bring back the tariff, overhaul immigration.

Will any of this actually happen? I suppose some of it might, but only from sheer necessity; there is no will to make any of it happen.

It is possible that at some point, with gas at twelve hundred dollars a gallon, Hoovervilles on the Mall, and family pets vanishing into cooking pots, we shall draw down the 9,779 troops we have stationed in Italy, defund the NEA, and stop giving public assistance to illegal immigrants.

We shall have been forced to those dire extremes, though. Nobody of importance actually wants change on that terrifying scale. Of the politicians currently vying for the Republican presidential nomination next year, only Ron Paul has dared to propose such radical measures; and as everyone knows, Ron Paul is crazy.

In the matter of underlying causes, Pat is as bold as it is possible to be if you don't want to be relegated to the outermost fringes of the commentariat. A little bolder than that, even, perhaps: one of his chapters is titled "The End of White America." At age 72, Pat may be feeling the temptation to succumb to Elderly Tourette's Syndrome.

Even that limited degree of frankness is too much for the younger generation's delicate stomachs. Sean Hannity, interviewing Pat on his Fox News show, could barely summon up a vocabulary with which to discuss that particular chapter. "Are you saying," he stammered nervously, "that America is only a great country if it's white?"

Pat hedged nimbly. Sure, he said, blacks and Hispanics vote heavily Democrat; but so did Italians and Irish a hundred years ago. With an immigration moratorium, and a few decades of assimilation, we could be one nation again, with our old conservative ideals of self-support and patriotism revived.

Does Pat believe it? It would be impertinent to speculate. Certainly it is possible that he does. For real despair about the future of our civilization, you need to have a grasp of some science, most especially of biology, as applied to the history of our species. Pat's having none of that. Modern biology — "Darwinism" — is the work of Satan, he has told us elsewhere.

Pat is a great reactionary. He came of age in the late 1950s, the very peak of the U.S.A.'s Golden Age. In the world at large, our nation was undisputed Top Dog. Our navies patrolled the seas unhindered; our armies guarded the frontiers of what we unashamedly called — because it was — the free world; our nuclear forces threatened utter destruction to any challenger. Our culture, from movies and novels to pop songs and comic strips, was eagerly consumed everywhere it was allowed entry. When my family in provincial England acquired our first TV set in 1957, the very first thing to emerge from the screen snow, after half an hour of Dad's fiddling and muttered cursing, was an imported episode of Adventures of Superman — "truth, justice, and the American way!"

The U.S.A. herself was unified as never before. Thirty-five years of very limited immigration, mostly from Europe, with an assist from the shared hardships of depression and war, had thoroughly "cooked" us into a coherent nation with a single language and culture. Demographically we were 90 percent white, 10 percent black, and other races at trace-element levels. Racial persecution was declining fast, capable black citizens were rising into the middle class, and equality of opportunity seemed to be just over the horizon. There was well-paid work for anyone willing to punch a time clock.

It is hard enough for any of us to progress in outlook from the viewpoint of our salad days. How much harder for someone like Pat, whose social and political awareness emerged into the light of day at high noon in that glorious summer!

Alas, change and decay are the laws of existence. By hubris, folly, and a kind of crazed utopianism, we have expelled ourselves from that Eden. An angel with a flaming sword now guards its gate. We cannot go back; we must trudge forward into the unknowable future "with wand'ring steps and slow," our limbs no longer supple, our eyes no longer bright, our will no longer blithe. There is no use complaining; it's the way things are.