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“The ideas he put forth aren’t really appropriate for national dialogue, much less the dialogue on MSNBC.” So decreed MSNBC President Phil Griffin about Patrick J. Buchanan’s grand historical synthesis, “Suicide of a Superpower: Will American Survive to 2025?” Mr. Griffin was justifying the booting from the network of one of the last authentic conservatives in mainstream media.
If I were not already persona non grata within the mainstream, I would be worried.
In an exchange with this writer, Mr. Buchanan had mentioned that his “18,000-word chapter on ethnonationalism and tribalism and the surge of both throughout the Third World – as well as our own declining world – tracks pretty much with what” I had written in my book, “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa,” published in May of 2011.
Buchanan’s towering text concludes as follows: “We were one nation. We spoke the same language, learned the same history, celebrated the same heroes, observed the same holy days and holidays … were taught the same truths about right and wrong, good and evil, God and country. We were a people then. That America is gone. Many grieve her passing. Many rejoice. But we are not a people anymore.” (Page 424.)
America, as Mr. Buchanan observes, was eaten away by the acid of the 1960s revolution, “with its repudiation of Christian morality and embrace of secularism and egalitarian ideology.”
South Africa was relatively unaffected by that revolution. It was a staunchly traditional Christian country. Stores closed on Sundays. Television came late to the place but so did pornography and the gay-rights movement. In South Africa, the influence of Christianity receded after the 1994 democratic transition.
Whereas “Americans are no longer a people,” by contrast, the Afrikaners, as illustrated in “Into the Cannibal’s Pot,” still linger as a people, clinging to what Barack Obama would indubitably deride as their Bibles, their guns and their bigotries.
Dubbed the white tribe of Africa, this organic nation has, however, ceased to exist as a nation-state, dissolved by democratic decree. The sundering of state sovereignty has, in turn, exposed Afrikaners to ethnic cleansing, a familiar feature of democracy a la Africa.
Despite the Afrikaner’s superior military prowess, they simply “surrendered without defeat.” Ferocious though it was, the South African Defense Force (SADF) ceded to the African National Congress and its representatives.
“You, me and our men can take this country in an afternoon,” said former chief of the SADF Gen. Contand Viljoen, famously, to the reigning chief, Gen. George Meiring. He uttered this comment as President de Klerk prepared to cave into ANC demands, forgoing all checks and balances for South Africa’s Boer, British and Zulu minorities. Yet, the very same Afrikaner people, in the same spirit, went on to peacefully dismantle the six nuclear devices they had built at Pelindaba, west of the capital, Pretoria.
Why did the mighty SADF capitulate to Mandela’s ragtag ANC? Why did the tough descendants of the trek Boers, who have 350 years of history on the continent of Africa – as long as their American cousins have been in North America – give up their birthright for a mess of pottage?
Since it all makes so little sense, my conclusions are more philosophical than factual.
Reconciling Pietism with Power
Some clues as to why WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) societies tend to wither from within are offered by W. de Klerk (no relation to the traitor president). In “The Puritans In Africa,” de Klerk devotes his authorial energies to fleshing out the archetypal Afrikaner with an almost forensic objectivity. The tragedy of the Afrikaner and the American – a function of a shared Calvinist-Puritan ancestry – is the struggle to reconcile Pietism with power:
“The basic dilemma of Western man is how to reconcile power with justice. … Those within the Calvinist-Puritan ethic, who secretly yearn for power, find it impossible to do so openly and unashamedly. … Naked power … is not possible for Western Christian man, especially of Calvinist-Puritan leanings. … For Puritan man, the quest for power – a quest very much alive – cannot be an open bid for supremacy,” but, rather, has to be “power acceptable in Christian terms”; it must be power driven by a devotion to a “great ideal.”
The Afrikaner’s “great ideal” was ineluctably tied to enduring as a biblically sanctified nation. However, if national endurance was to be accomplished, the exercise of power would be absolutely essential. Apartheid was the political superstructure within which the Volk sought safety for what they saw as their divinely ordained sovereignty.
But the “exceedingly tough” Puritan mind was crippled by a correspondingly “tender conscience.” This “great ideal” had turned the Boers into something they detested. The people who had fought imperial Britain in Africa’s first anti-colonial war were now lords and masters of their own satrapies: the African Bantustans.
Soon, the biblically blessed country became an Ishmael, an outcast. Charges of racism were especially difficult to withstand and rationalize. Petty perhaps, but no less intolerable for these South-African Spartans was their banishment from sparring in international sports. Patriots that they are, Afrikaners resented being expected to feel ashamed of their country. Puritans that they were, the resentment soon turned inward.
As an abstraction, the ostensive grand ideal of separate but equal development failed to reconcile power with justice. True to type, the Puritans of Africa relinquished the former to achieve the latter.
Upon the American mind, Puritanism has left a very different mark. While the Afrikaner’s “great ideal” turned him into an outcast, America’s messianic calling made it a crusader for democracy. The U.S.’s asserted exceptionalism gave imprimatur to its expansionism.
The American Puritanical toughness has manifested itself primarily in never-ending expeditions overseas. Its corresponding – and paradoxical – Puritanical “tenderness” has culminated in a national death wish: mandating multiculturalism and mass immigration at home, while pursuing a monoculturalist Manifest Destiny abroad. These are two sides of the same coin.
Thus has the United States become “an empire of liberty,” and a contradiction in terms. Thus has the U.S. been hoisted on its own petard, its “great ideal” harboring the seeds of its own destruction.
That the pygmy from MSNBC prefers not to speak about this reality does nothing to change it.