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Ever since around the end of World War I, our culture has been leery of heroes. We crave them and we need them, but once we’ve got them we obsessively dissect them, like biology students with frogs, or the English with William Wallace, and the heroes don’t come out much better than the frogs or Wallace once the operation is done. (Come to think of it, “Wallace” is a pretty respect-free name today too.)
C. S. Lewis, in “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” quotes an unnamed English politician who said, “A democracy does not want great men.” It wasn’t always that way. The original dream of the American founders — and of all classical liberals — was the vision of a world where every man would be a philosopher and an artist and a warrior. But people are lazy. We’ve discovered — to our immense relief — that equality is much easier to achieve through just cutting the big men off at the knees.
From Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to “Spamalot,” we’ve taken a lot of pleasure in reducing our heroes to the level of their faults. “We’re just exposing hypocrisy,” we say. “If these so-called ‘heroes’ were really all they’d been advertised to be, we wouldn’t be able to find flaws in them.”
Strangely enough, though, we rarely subject ourselves to that kind of scrutiny. The wonderful thing about having no ideals is that you can never fall short.
Legend says that Alfred came in for a little of this kind of treatment in his own lifetime. He’s supposed to have hidden in a peasant cottage while on the run from the Danes, and the peasant’s wife is supposed to have scolded him after he agreed to watch some cakes baking, and absentmindedly let them burn. With the magnanimity that goes with greatness, he did not murder the old lady. He had Danes to fight.
And fight them he did. He successfully resisted having his kingdom overrun by a foreign people, thereby preserving English culture, religion and language.
Come to think of it, I’m not surprised he gets no respect today.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?