Paul Greenberg

You may suspect, as, as I did, that the game is fixed, that these news items can't be representative of British society. Or there wouldn't be much of a society left. Surely the quotes were selected for their scare value. In order to paint the dreariest picture possible of what has happened to the mother country. (Remember when Americans were allowed to refer to Britain as the mother country -- before the phrase was deemed too Anglocentric to be acceptable in the public prints? Now even the bust of Winston Churchill has been exiled from the White House.)

Unfortunately, Mr. Steyn has some statistics to back up the impression left by the headlines he chose. He notes that that the UK now has "the highest drug use in Europe, highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, highest number of single mothers," and that "marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims." The whole country seems to have become downwardly mobile. Britain now has become an example to beware, not emulate.

If the news from Britain is a preview of the American future, it's time for an immediate U-turn. Before it's too late. For, despite the emphasis on political and economic issues in recent presidential campaigns ("It's the economy, stupid!"), it's the culture that counts.

A country can rebound from economic difficulties and even political demoralization -- see the New Deal, or the Reagan Years -- but how restore the social fabric, the very culture of a country, once it's been allowed to deteriorate? The collapse of educational standards may be only the most pervasive and influential symptom of what ails us.

How turn it all around? It can be done, but not easily. And the longer the challenge is ignored, the greater it grows. Until a tipping point is reached, and then it may be too late. Which is what's so worrisome about Great Britain, where more than the pound is being devalued. A whole, distinctive culture is being lost. And if England is lost, as every English speaker in the world must know in his heart, the world is.

It is such visions of the American future that may explain the rise of the latest political phenomenon on this side of the pond--the Tea Party, a variegated collection of Americans who have only this much in common: Like Howard Beale in Network, they're mad as hell and they're not going to take this anymore! They're opening the nearest window and shouting their rage. Yes, they're reactionaries -- but they have much to react against. What intelligent observer wouldn't?

No, the Tea Partiers may not know what to do about the problem, but at least they know we've got one. And they're not going to be all nice and quiet about it.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


 


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