Both of the books being reviewed this month were published a couple of years ago, but have been on my shelf as I covered other bases. As it turns out, however, this was a good time to read and comment on them as we begin the long slog through this election year, as they in several ways connect in highlighting the threats and choices we face. I recommend both of them as essentials.
After the Flight 93 Election: The Vote That Saved America and What We Still Have to Lose, by Michael Anton
Michael Anton, Lecturer in Politics and Research Fellow at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington D. C., begins his September 5, 2016 essay as follows: “2016 is the Flight 93 election–charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You–or the leader of your party–may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees. Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor–a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.” The essay was published under the nom de plume Publius Decius Mus in the Claremont Review of Books. There was no significant response to this provocation until Rush Limbaugh read the essay on the air in its 16-page entirety and the CRB website instantly crashed. The essay galvanized mostly conservative voters by highlighting the stakes ahead in the upcoming November 2016 election and was highly critical of the complacent elements of the right.
Needless to say this rhetoric and what followed as an articulate explanation of the threat Anton alleged we faced was highly controversial and produced a large volume of critique from a broad range of political opinion. Anton was a participant in many of these exchanges and exposed himself as the author in a follow up essay one week later.
Then, two years later, he published After the Flight 93 Election, a distillation of his thinking on Americanism and the West, laying out the foundational principles of the American and Western traditions, examining the major threats to their survival, and, as the subtitle suggests, underscores the necessity of continuing to defend them. This volume includes all of the distilled wisdom of the three pieces in less than 100 pages.
The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, by Douglas Murray
In a short essay for Prager University entitled “The Suicide of Europe”, Douglas Murray, Associate Editor of The Spectator, opens with this: “The civilization born of Judeo-Christian values, ancient Greek philosophy, and the discoveries of the Enlightenment is staring at the abyss, brought there by its own hand. To put it starkly, Europe is committing suicide”.
And, in answer to the question, how did this happen?, he offers two major causes: first, the mass movement of peoples into Europe, which has been going on steadily since the end of World War II but sped up massively in the migration crisis of 2015, when more than a million migrants poured into Europe from the Middle East, North Africa, and East Asia; and second, and probably most important when you get deep into his analysis, Europe lost faith in itself–its beliefs, its traditions, and even its very legitimacy.
The problem is spiritual–Europe has become post-Christian, we have “lost our foundational story”, as he puts it. We are weary of history and we have substituted various gods as replacements, among them relativisms of all types, but multiculturalism in particular, underwritten by Western guilt for the colonial sins of our fathers.
A key quote: “It is not possible for a society to survive if it routinely suppresses and otherwise fights against its own origins. Just as a nation could not thrive if it forbade any criticism of its past, so no nation can survive if it suppresses everything that is positive about its past”.
This book can be depressing and it makes me want to revisit and take seriously Michael Anton about the very similar suicide threats faced by America and his Flight 93 response to them.