In Poland last week, Donald Trump posed the question no other Western leader dares ask: “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilisation in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”
In Krasinski Square, near the site of the 1944 Warsaw uprising against the Nazis, Trump spoke to a nation which knew terrible suffering under both Nazis and communists. “I am here today not just to visit an old ally, but to hold it up as an example for others who seek freedom and who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilisation”.
Significantly, he identified Christianity as the core of that civilisation, that it was Christianity that was crucial to Poland’s survival and its stand against Soviet oppression, and pointed out that the West has to reaffirm its Christian values in order to survive.
The Left’s reaction was immediate. According to The Guardian, “Donald Trump’s warning about ‘western civilisation’ evokes holy war”. The Today programme questioned the existence of a coherent Western civilisation.
To American liberals the speech was clearly racist in intent. In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart pointed out: “Donald Trump referred 10 times to ‘the West’ and five times to ‘our civilisation.’ His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too. The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white.”
This is how opinion formers on the contemporary mainstream left regard anyone cherishing and defending Western civilisation. Trump does not interpret Western civilisation in crude racial terms; they do. They insist on waging culture war against the culture that has given them the freedom to criticise, and then stigmatise traditionalists for being racist.
We could wish for a more suitable spokesman for faith and family than a thrice married man whose church attendance is sporadic at best, but his character does not negate the truth of what he said. Traditionalists in the West should give three hearty cheers for Trump. He points the way forward. It is not enough for those of us who cherish Western culture to say what we’re against. We also have to be for something.
What we term the West consists of those nations and peoples shaped by the confluence of Greek philosophy, Roman law and Christian faith. Within Western culture there is great diversity but our religion, arts, law and civic values identify us and set us apart from other civilisations.
Race is irrelevant in defining the West, culture is what matters. Any person tracing their ancestry to Africa or Asia who generally accepts Western civilisation is a Westerner. The opening bars of Louis Armstrong’s West End Blues and Robert Burn’s A man’s a man for a’ that are equally stirring works of genius emerging from the West.
How is Trump’s speech controversial? The leader of the free world spoke to a people whose Christian faith kept its spirit vibrant during fearful oppression and emphasised the importance of faith and family. Trump stood in the capital of a nation which within living memory suffered the tyranny of Nazi and Communist control, vile ideologies which tried to eradicate its culture, and made a speech defending that culture.
That saying these things is controversial indicates how decadent we have become.
Other Western leaders don’t ask the question. Blind to reality they are in thrall to the progressive Panglossian illusion that today in the West everything is fine and dandy and we move forward to best of all possible worlds.
Trump recognises reality. Led by those who should be its principal defenders, Western culture is being displaced. Our elites embrace oikophobia, the fear of the familiar, in this case the beliefs and customs that created the West. We have a society where millennia-old virtues, which have shaped our nations are derided and held in disdain. A society where division is celebrated and special interest groups tyrannise into submission the views of the majority.
Once commonly held cohering ideals of faith and nation no longer shape the West. Having rejected the legacy of the past the Western progressive establishment required a source of legitimacy and a narrative they could accept and control. They found it in multiculturalism; an ideology where the State becomes the protector of diverse identities and cultures, and apologises for our older values.
Pope Benedict XVI said “Multiculturalism, which is so passionately promoted, can sometimes amount to an abandonment and denial, a flight from one’s own things.” Ours is a civilisation where the influx of immigrants who refuse to assimilate is welcomed because we have lost the ability to criticise the other, whether in terms of sexuality, origins or culture. Although multiculturalism is being recognised as a failure, even by proponents like Angela Merkel, our elites are afraid to draw the logical conclusion.
Reinhold Niebuhr said, “We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilisation.” Trump did just that earlier when in January he said: “We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”