Her mother said she had been brainwashed.  Her daughter had never liked who she was and was always looking to become someone else.  Mother is quick to reassure reporters she is not prejudiced: “I’m not against Muslims.  I married one.”  Jihad Jamie, as the press has dubbed her, is only 31, but she has lived a troubled life, serving the needs of gangbangers and marrying, successively, three illegal Mexican immigrants who beat her.  Jamie Paulin-Ramirez is now “married” a fourth time to Algerian jihadist Ali Sharaf Damache, whom she met on the worldwide web, an institution that has replaced church socials and singles bars as the place to find your partner for life or for the duration of erotic interest.

Jamie was recruited by another dumb-blonde jihadist, Colleen LaRose, who dubbed herself Jihad Jane.  Miss LaRose, who also suffers from low self-esteem and bad judgment, made her first court appearance with her blond hair done up in corn rows.  She has apparently concluded that if some African-Americans join the Nation of Islam, all she has to do to become a Muslim is to adopt an Afro hairstyle.  After September 11 Miss LaRose is said to have cried death to all Muslims, though when she saw pictures of suffering Muslims on the web, she decided to devote her life to helping them—not, of course, by doing volunteer work in a Muslim nursing home, but by murdering a Swedish cartoonist who had blasphemed against a religion of which she was profoundly ignorant.

How did Jane and Jamie come to embrace Islam, a religion that should hold few attractions for women?  In Jamie’s case, her Muslim stepfather may have had something to do with legitimizing an alien religion.  He converted to Islam 40 years ago, but disclaims any responsibility for her conversion, insisting she does not realize that Islam is a religion of peace.  As he undoubtedly knows, Islam is a religion of war, and the prophet Muhammad practiced the violence he preached.  Both girls are lost souls, victims of public education and the collapse of American society that has come about after two generations of socialism.

The problem is not Muslims per se, who persist in their strange religion by force of habit.  Better by far to be a practicing Muslim than to become the secularized ex-Muslims that the State Department wishes to produce in the Middle East by exposing young Arabs to American fast food and fast sex.  American pop culture and education have destroyed the character of our people, and they hope it will do the same to Muslims.

Jane and Jamie, alas, show us all too well the real result of Americanization—the same bewilderment and demoralization that leads young women to grasp at any straw, whether the straw is offered by Mexican gangbangers or Algerian jihadists.  Most young American women are not converting to Islam, but how many of us, of either sex or any age, know who we are?  We are now on the second or third generation of Americans who have been raised as laboratory rats for the great experiment in diversity.

Liberalism has triumphed.  There is no American nation, no American people.  There is only the false identity manufactured by the opinion factories.  For the left, the old America was a concentration camp where blacks, Indians, women, and homosexuals were persecuted, while the America-to-come—always just a little beyond the horizon—is a Marxist paradise or multicultural university campus in which any human being’s desires are satisfied regardless of the quality of those desires or his willingness to work for them.

We have become strangers in our own land.  This experience is what intellectuals since Feuerbach have called “alienation.”  For Feuerbach, the culprit was the Christian God, through Whom man became estranged from his own nature; for Marx, it was capitalism that turned craftsmen into robots and alienated them from society; for Freud and his disciples, it was neurosis that alienated human beings from reality.  Whatever its sources and history, the feeling of alienation has been described and analyzed countless times by counselors and novelists.  In fiction, the alienated hero is the superior outsider, often Jewish or black, who sees through the shallowness and vanity of religion, class, tradition, and morality—inevitably “bourgeois morality.”

Alienation afflicted Europe long before the term was coined.  What was every intellectual movement since the Renaissance if not a revolution against the religion and morality, the political and social structure of ordinary people in everyday life?  Inevitably, those who fell prey to the theories of Voltaire and Rousseau, Marx and his classical-liberal enemies, felt alienated from all those dreadful conventional people who “as in the days that were before the flood . . . were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,” or Newton discovered the laws of motion, Voltaire debunked religion, Locke debunked monarchy, Marx debunked capitalism, John Stuart Mill debunked society and tradition, and Freud debunked morality.

Well, they have won.  They have completed their long march through the institutions, including for the most part the churches, and there is nothing left unsoiled by the revolution.  Even traditional Catholics, when they wish to discredit abortion, now resort to the revolutionary language of human rights and civil disobedience, or, when they attack socialism, employ the arguments of atheist classical liberals, or, if they are opposing atheist classical liberals, fall back on the language of Marx.  Now it is we who are strangers here in our own land, all of us old-fashioned Americans who do not hate our ancestors or our country’s traditions.

We are not the first people to become strangers in their own land.  Civilized Romans were still living in the aftermath of the barbarian takeover of Italy, Gaul, and Britain.  In the first generation or two, there were still men who believed in the civilization into which they had been born, but Romans of succeeding generations would be scarcely distinguishable from their German conquerors.  And they did not even have public schools or television!

The poor Romans, at least, did not lose their civilization without putting up a fight, nor, for the most part, did they voluntarily surrender their culture and their identity.  There was no Goth movement in Italy, even when it was ruled by Ostrogothic kings.  In fact civilized Romans in Italy and southern France preserved enough of their institutions—the Church, town life, marriage, civility—that within just a few centuries Europe was well on its way to the brilliant rebirth of civilization that took place between the Age of Charlemagne (about 800) and Dante some five centuries later.

Romanitas, as it had been known, was doomed to disappear from Gaul, though it was the language of the defeated Romans that produced the Romance dialect that evolved into French.  South of the Loire River, it is true, some remnants of Roman civilization persisted, and, even at the time of the Crusades, the South of France was a more Roman, more Mediterranean place than the North, but for all real purposes the Gallo-Romans had long since ceased to exist.

Nonetheless, not all was lost.  The Church replaced the empire as the guardian of civilization, and defenders of the Church—Saint Benedict, the Christian poet and bishop Venantius Fortunatus, Pope Gregory I—did not waste much time on the handwringing that American conservatives so much enjoy.  Benedict was too busy founding monasteries, while Gregory was writing his invaluable books, taking care of the poor, fighting off the Lombards, and sending missionaries to convert our Anglo-Saxon ancestors.  Venantius, who had been educated in Ravenna (which had retained its Roman identity), went to Francia, where he became a bishop.  The rest of his life was taken up with caring for his diocese, teaching the Franks how to lead Christian lives, and composing the poems that entered into the standard repertoire of Christian hymns.  American conservatives are fond of comparing our current degraded condition with the later Roman Empire.  They are quite wrong.  Since my teen years, I have been acutely aware that we are living some time after the collapse of the civilization my grandparents knew.  In some respects, of course, things are better today than they were in the last Dark Age.  We are vastly more comfortable and live longer.  We have fire departments and police protection (sort of), electricity and water, and an endless array of electronic toys to persuade us that everything is all right.

In other more important respects, things are vastly worse.  American barbarians are not, for the most part, Christian, nor are they sturdy and self-sufficient Goths.  Most of our barbarians are not even invading aliens—they are our friends and neighbors, our own children, if we are not very careful.  Daily life for some of us has become like something out of Don Siegel’s masterpiece Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  We watch as one by one our people turn into subhuman things who twitter their lives away, expressing their nothingness to other nobodies.

There is as much work to do today as there was in the sixth and seventh centuries.  Venantius Fortunatus and his friend Gregory of Tours had to deal with a more violent and more competent set of boors and louts than we have to face on the streets of Manhattan.  If such men as they—or Gregory the Great or Saint Austin, whom Gregory sent to convert the English—could hear the boohooing of disgruntled conservatives, they would tell us their tales of civilized men who had the courage to challenge the barbarians and, against all odds, convert and civilize them.