Jonah Goldberg

The British have not lost all of their steel. The Daily Mail reported this week that police tracked down and nearly arrested an 11-year-old boy for calling a 10-year-old boy "gay" in an e-mail. This was considered a "very serious homophobic crime" requiring the full attention of police. The article explained that this sort of thing happens quite a bit. Last October, the coppers fingerprinted and threw a 14-year-old girl into jail for the crime of racism. Her underlying offense stemmed from the fact that she refused to join a class discussion with some fellow students because they were Asian and didn't speak English.

The same day The Daily Mail reported the tale of the homophobic 11-year-old, it also reported that schools across the country have been dropping discussion of the Holocaust in the classroom for fear of offending Muslim students.

In his brilliant 1999 book "The Abolition of Britain," Peter Hitchens chronicles how the British have slowly effaced the patriotism that made the British arguably the most consequential nation in history and an engine for so much that is right and good in the world, in order to become more "European" and about as bland as 2 percent milk as a result. The British used to be the great source of civilizational confidence, telling us, in the words of Margaret Thatcher, not to "go wobbly."

My favorite anecdote in this regard is of the British general Charles James Napier. When assigned to British-run India, he was informed that he just didn't understand Indian customs. He couldn't ban the practice of wife-burning, he was told, because it was an ancient and valued tradition in India. He said he understood and appreciated that. It was just that "my country also has a custom," he explained. "We hang people who burn women." His custom won out. I somehow doubt General Napier would look kindly on Holocaust denying-by-censorship.

Perhaps I'm just being prematurely defensive, as I suspect my upcoming debate is something of a setup, but maybe lamenting the existence of America is the rational thing to do when you've decided to lament the existence of Britain as well.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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