Sometime after the turn of the century, a change began to take place. You cannot mark it precisely. It became fashionable to plant Old World seeds. They grew in soft warm places, often in the gardens of the leisure rich, and flourished in academic soil generally. There appeared in the East an intellectual cult of disaffection, with a sneer in its mind for what it named 100 per cent Americanism and a pose of contempt for the wealth that supported it. Everything American was vulgar. Happy the expatriate who could live abroad with his dollars and forget where they came from.
Garet Garrett wrote this passage over eighty years ago describing a chapter in America’s history that he called “America’s Return to Europe.” Looking back on that moment, 1940 is multiple generations away and the whole world has changed and, in many ways, become completely unrecognizable. However, through all that, one thing has remained the same: Americans still find it oddly fashionable to plant these old-world seeds and see themselves as somewhat better by not affiliating with 100 percent Americanism. Americans still seem to glorify the very culture from which they once so proudly fled. We saw that in full swing on Thursday September 8th, when Queen Elizabeth died.
That night, the NFL season kicked off – nothing could be said to be more 100 percent Americanism t-han the reigning Super Bo-wl Champion playing this year’s likely challenger. But how did this moment of pure Americanism begin? In memory of Queen Elizabeth.
While I believe that human beings should be sad when another human being dies, the truth of the matter is that is simply not what is happening here. This is just another example of “America’s Return to Europe,” and this is just one of hundreds of examples. Major American talk shows were overtaken by this, social media was overtaken by this, everything was taken over by this. The entirety of American culture overwhelmingly returned to Europe during this moment. However, Garet Garrett goes on to explain that this Return to Europe has more impact than just cultural displays:
It was not only Europe’s culture that was preferred; her solutions also began to be admired. What followed was a new kind of exchange. Europe went on taking economic ideas from us while we, for the first time, were taking political and social ideas from her.
While the politics we are taking from Europe today are not identical to what they were then, the concept still holds true that we are pulling our politics from Europe. In every political debate we find ourselves compared to Europe in terms of gun control, socialized medicine, and universities, and recently in America’s COVID-19 response. This of course is the logical conclusion of not being able to move on from the cultural influences of Europe because – as Breitbart says – politics is downstream of culture. From here, Garrett addresses beyond politics what the true cost of all this is:
What we lost at that time cannot be computed. Not the cost of our war exertions. Not the illusions that went into our slogans. Our own center – that is what we lost. That sense of separate destiny on which we had been building departed from us, and we have never since recovered it.
Unfortunately, in the 82 years since this line was written, we have yet to recover it. In fact, only a week before the Queen’s passing, President Joe Biden delivered a speech in which the very issue with which he was struggling was “The Soul of Ame-rica.” Not only was this the topic, but also it was completely unanswered. He took the time to attack a large portion of the voting public as evil fascists in a supposed attempt to unify them because the soul of America was so inaccessible that he saw that as the appropriate way to address it. When we so glorify the leaders of other nations, we lose our own center.
Through all this, Garet Garrett left us with a simple question that is all that must be answered to address the problems left to us by the Return to Europe:
When shall we learn ag-ain that Europe is Europe, America is America, and these are two worlds? When shall we believe again that our destiny is unique, parallel to nothing?