11 May 2012

Suicide of a Superpower by Patrick J. Buchanan

 I've discontinued "What I Read This Week." This might be temporary, but I think it's keeping me from doing regular reviews, which is what I wanted to do in the first place. If I can get better with those, then I'll cycle the WIRTW posts back in. To be honest, this was a WIRTW post, but then I talked too long and realized this should just be a review.

Have I mentioned that I hate politics? Because I hate politics. I hate them because they are so either/or and I just hate to be labeled, man. Peace out.
No, seriously. I do hate it. I can't be a Republican and I can't be a Democrat. I'm just a Christ follower, and sometimes that means I hop the political line. If I MUST label myself, I'd just say I'm a conservative, and that goes no further. That being said...

I read Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025 by Patrick J. Buchanan at the recommendation of my friend Trent: I'm terribly conflicted about how I feel about this book. For the record, I'm probably with him on the economic stuff. I'm definitely with him on the way the church has been treated. And I'm most likely with him on his theory that America will fall apart if we continue the way we are continuing (specifically more and more reliance on the government resulting in what he would call a "nanny state"...at least, I think he would call it that. I'm positive I didn't make that up). Now, ask me how I feel about that information. Go ahead. The answer is "so what?"

Now, don't hear me wrong, my conservative friends. I would consider myself a conservative and I love America. I mean, really love America. I consider myself a patriot and am more than a little annoyed at the people who think it makes them cool or elite to sneer at patriots. I am SO thankful that God placed me here! Do I think it's the best nation in the world? Yes, I do! Do I think that we are God's chosen land? No, I do not. So, when I hear of America falling apart (which let's face it...we've been a superpower MUCH longer than most nations who have risen and fallen in the past...God has been particularly gracious to allow us to thrive this long), it makes me very sad as an American citizen. As a believer it makes me say, "Well, God, you have a plan, and if this is what it includes, I want to thank you for giving us such a long time." Now, how this will result on election days is a little different. I will continue voting what I believe is right and what my conscience dictates. And yes, if it comes to voting for someone I don't particularly like/agree with, JUST to keep someone ELSE from getting the position, I will do this. But at the end of the day if the GOP withers away; if we're all on welfare; if all of our jobs are overseas; if we're ridiculously in debt we can never repay; if we change the definition of marriage; if Christianity is outlawed across the nation, I will say, "Thy will be done" and "I must obey God rather than man."

Mr. Buchanan's style was rather bothersome to me. I told friends I discussed the book with, it was like walking by an empty room where a conservative guy is stating his opinions loud and clear. If you agree with most of what he's saying (and I did) then you'll stop and listen and enjoy it. If you don't agree with what he's saying, you'll think he's ridiculous and move on. He used quite bombastic language that if you agreed with his conclusions (and I did), you'd either roll your eyes or maybe chuckle a little, but if you disagreed with (wouldn't help you be persuaded). All of this I could have put up with. The book was clearly a rallying cry for staunch conservatives to take up (intellectual) arms and fight the encroaching spread of liberalism. This is nothing new and it happens on both sides of the political spectrum. But what I couldn't let go of was the way he spoke about immigration and other races.

I've learned my lesson from reading Sarah Palin's memoir, so I tried to look up interviews with Mr. Buchanan where he explained his heart a little more. I've found a few and if I'm reading him correctly and giving him the benefit of the doubt, he doesn't dislike people of other races. Unfortunately that is not at all how he comes across in the book. A few things in particular stood out to me.

1. He pointed out how absurd people calling Joe Wilson (remember him? Of course you do) a racist for yelling, "You lie" to the President during an address the President was making to Congress. I agree. That is absurd. Yet on the very next page he assumes Kanye West's infamous interruption of Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech was racially motivated. Something felt a little off there.

2. This quote left me a little...well, uneasy is a mild word for it: "Perhaps some of us misremember the past. But the racial, religious, cultural, social, political, and economic divides today seem greater than they seemed even in the segregation cities some of us grew up in. Back then, black and white lived apart, went to different schools and churches, played on different playgrounds, and went to different restaurants, bars, theaters, and soda fountains. But we shared a country and a culture. We were one nation. We were Americans." Giving him the benefit of the doubt, what he might mean by this is he knows there was a time of segregation, but things seem worse between the races today. What it sounds like is, "Why can't we go back to the golden days when we didn't have to have black neighbors." Plus, I think the past is indeed being misremembered here. I doubt many black people at the time thought of themselves as "one" with the whites.

3. He defined "diversity" as an agenda and objected to the push toward this agenda. The way he saw this acted out was in things like Affirmative Action, those excited for "the death of white America," and people saying things like "Our diversity is our strength"like it's a mantra. He's right...that mantra doesn't actually make sense, but I don't think that necessarily means "our diversity is our weakness" is true either. It's just a thing. America is diverse. It just is.
As for people who are happy that white America is dying out, I too think they are absurd. Why would anyone who enjoyed diversity hate a certain group of people?
I also don't care for Affirmative Action. *ducks* Now, wait, my liberal bloggy friends. I'm a woman. I'm someone who potentially could "benefit" from this stupid thing. So, though I DO think it's ridiculous that we won't allow a white male to voice his opinion on this surely you will allow a woman to do so? Can I also drop in here that I am 1/4 Hispanic? Will that help? All I am saying is that if I was hired for a job or accepted into a school merely because I was a partially Hispanic woman and they needed to fill a quota, I would be irate! I want to actually be chosen because I'm good at what I'm applying for, or because I fulfilled the requirements. BUT I also don't agree with those who assume that ALL who benefit from Affirmative Action are unqualified or good at what they do. I want to give Mr. Buchanan credit here though for pointing out the words of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." On some levels, Affirmative Action IS judging people by "the color of their skin."
So, if you define diversity in this manner, yes, I think I'm on board, but I really wish Mr. Buchanan had found a different word. Because the reader was really left with the impression of: Diversity is bad. I can't sign onto this.

4. This last point is more my problem than Mr. Buchanan's. No, it's exclusively my problem, but both my grandfather and the man my grandmother recently married (after my grandfather died) are Hispanic-Americans. I have an emotional obstacle with being very objective on the immigration question. I can't, without being a hypocrite, sign on to Mr. Buchanan's immigration ideas. And I don't think I'll ever understand, as long as I live, how American citizens who are believers, only see these people as numbers or as a problem. I'm not trying to be a saint here, or even trying to rationalize my emotions. I'm just saying, I will never understand this. And I cannot get behind it.

There are a few others, but this post is already pretty long and this does make for two "dangerously close to political" posts in a row, and that's about all I can take. I think Mr. Buchanan has some good points. I'm fairly certain I agree with him overall.  I wish he chose to make his point in a more winsome manner, but I have a feeling I am just not the intended audience for such a book. I don't normally read that sort of book anyway. I feel like, just as our President on marriage, my thoughts have evolved over the course of writing this post (Ok ok...that was out of line). I think I didn't like it, but I don't regret reading it. I tend to be a gentle (read: often overly sensitive) person, and the style did not jive with me. I did learn from it though, and can now point to some scholarship that backs up what I have been thinking in the first place.

I would recommend this if you read this genre of book in the first place. There are some VERY interesting statistics and quotes from people that may surprise you. If you are a conservative anyway, it won't tell you anything you probably didn't believe or suspect before. But I bet you could use a healthy dose of psychological justification, right? If you are a liberal, you'll just find it annoying and it won't tell you anything about conservatives you didn't believe or suspect before. But I bet you could use a good laugh, right? 


Anonymous said...

Hmm. I don't think I'll be reading that book but I really appreciate your thoughts on the matter. Also, I'll miss reading your WIRTW posts. Perhaps you can keep them up with the books you don't choose to review?

Carrie said...

I like your WIRTW posts also. Just FYI. ;)

I used to LOVE Pat Buchanan. Like, seriously loved him. Big fan. But I think he's a little off now.

I love your conclusion here. Either which way this book would be interesting, but because I'm annoyed by politics in general at the moment, I think I would ultimately take a pass.

Have I mentioned that I love the books that you read? And that I unearthed my copy of 1984 and am planning to read it soon - just for you?

BerlinerinPoet said...

Hmmm, two people who liked the WIRTW posts. Maybe I should continue them and just...make myself review more. Being more motivated might also help. LOL

@Carrie: I too, am annoyed with politics. Hopefully my next post will be politics free!
Also, I had never even HEARD of Pat Buchanan. My friend, Trent, is apparently a big fan. I thought he was telling me to read a book by Pat Robertson, and I was thinking...huh???
You didn't tell me that you were going to read 1984! Hahaha! Looking forward to that review. P.S. Big disclaimer: I don't think it's a PLEASANT book at all.

@Both you ladies: I think it's a good idea to take a pass on this one. :-)

zilch said...

You're too young to remember this, but Pat Buchanan was adviser to Nixon and Reagan, and was a powerful voice against integration and interracial marriage. He's an old racist who has moderated his language to fit modern sensibilities, but I don't think he's changed his views.

BerlinerinPoet said...

@zilch: Ah yes, I am indeed too young to remember that. But I can't actually find anything online that supports this. I just see a bunch of people saying that he was against interracial marriage.
I find that in politics someone usually says something that (granted) sounds really really bad, but when you dig deeper into what they don't mean what you thought they meant.
I'd just feel more comfortable knowing he absolutely said "people of different races shouldn't marry" before I repeat what you said.

zilch said...

Heather- fair enough. I was repeating what I remember from thirty-odd years ago. Looking through the net now, I can't find any single quote where Buchanan comes out against interracial marriage in so many words. But if you read about his opposition to interracial dating at Bob Jones University, or to integration, or against immigration, the picture is still that of a racist. Check out these quotes.

But you are right to demand evidence, and I hereby withdraw my claim, until such time as I can find a direct quote. I appreciate your fairmindedness.

cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch.

BerlinerinPoet said...

@zilch: I was only saying that because I've done it before. Just been like, "Oh that Sarah Palin. She's just a ____" or "Well, you know Obama. All he is is a ____" I don't actually have words to fill in those blanks, but you know how people get reputations in the media that sometimes aren't double checked.

Those particular quotes though are pretty damning. And to be honest, he doesn't seem like anyone I'd ask to have a beer with. :-)

zilch said...

I'll drink to that, Heather. Have a good day.