Back at the end of June, I shared the insights of French political philosopher Pierre Manent about the significance of Brexit (which he was for). Yesterday, the good folks at First Things posted a translation of a recent interview Manent gave to the Italian newspaper Il Foglio about the lessons of the recent Islamist attack on the French church.
There’s one especially arresting question and answer that sounds like it could apply with equal measure to the United States. As you read this, simply swap out “America” for every mention of “France” or “Europe,” and see if you don’t agree:
Il Foglio: France looks exhausted. … What are France’s mistakes, especially those of the elite media and intellectuals, and what is the nature of its malaise?
Pierre Manent: The French are exhausted, but they are first of all perplexed, lost. Things were not supposed to happen this way. … We had supposedly entered into the final stage of democracy where human rights would reign, ever more rights ever more rigorously observed. We had left behind the age of nations as well as that of religions, and we would henceforth be free individuals moving frictionless over the surface of the planet. … And now we see that religious affiliations and other collective attachments not only survive but return with a particular intensity. Everyone can see and feel this, but how can it be expressed when the only authorized language is that of individual rights? We have become supremely incapable of seeing what is right before our eyes. Meanwhile the ruling class, which is not a political but an ideological class, one that commands not what must be done but what must be said, goes on indefinitely about “values,” the “values of the republic,” the “values of democracy,” the “values of Europe.” This class has been largely discredited in the eyes of citizens, but it occupies all the positions of institutional responsibility, especially in the media, and nowhere does one find groups or individuals who give the impression of understanding what is happening or of being able to stand up to it. We have no more confidence in those who lead us than in ourselves. It is neither an excuse nor a consolation to say it, but the faults of the French are those of Europeans in general. . .
We invite catastrophe by falling for an ideological representation of the world such as the one that is ours today. We invite catastrophe by sincerely believing that the religious affiliation of a citizen has no political bearing or effect. We invite catastrophe by excluding from authorized debate on Turkey’s possible joining the European Union the fact that Turkey is a massively Muslim country. We invite catastrophe when we confuse the obligation to rescue a person who is drowning with that person’s right to become a citizen of our country. We invite catastrophe when, in the name of charity or mercy, we require old Christian nations to open their borders to all who wish to enter. (Emphasis added.)
Take it away, Donald Trump.