Curing Cultural Amnesia

Culture wars are curious things. When the left thinks it may lose, we are told ad nauseam that using politics to advance a cultural agenda is “divisive”—a distraction from matters of import, a ruse to snare working-class votes for plutocratic policies—and focuses on matters that respectable people never mention, much less use as a way of gaining and maintaining political power.

Since cultural divisions are often related to race, ethnicity, and religion, those topics are now treated as selective taboos throughout the West: perfectly fine when used in a critique intended to undermine Western civilization and the Christian religion that gave birth to it, but largely verboten to anyone hoping to maintain the dominance of Christianity and Western civilization in Europe, the United States, and all the other nations founded and settled by European Christians.

However, when consensus opinion discerns leftist victory in the culture war, the tune changes, and the stakes become existential and essential to human flourishing. Although having a variety of antecedents, the American culture war the left claims to have won began in earnest in the 1960s and saw its central, overarching purpose as ending the normative status of Western, Christian values and standards.

Nixon’s crushing 1972 landslide was, in essence, a referendum on what was then called “the counter culture” and should have buried it. But the GOP never did what was needed to effect that burial. A party whose leaders focus on enriching plutocrats for reasons of self-interest and whose apparatchiks do so as a matter of “principle” is ill-equipped to act with requisite ruthlessness against any project favored by at least some plutocrats, and in those days, it was the rich and powerful who were giving parties for Black Panthers, providing money and shelter to the Weathermen, and generally subsidizing what was then the Far Left and is now the Vital Center.

There is no doubt that wokeism has spread widely. My parents’ suburban parish recently put in the bulletin a parishioner’s reflections on her recent visit to Rome. The parishioner confessed that she never enjoyed herself because she kept thinking about all the poor slaves who had been exploited to build Caput Mundi. No normal person visits Rome and spends his time in the Eternal City wallowing in guilt for slavery as practiced in Imperial Rome. Decades of brainwashing have left many Americans incapable of thinking outside woke categories and without knowledge of anything good about the pre-woke West.

But wokeism’s triumph is not irreversible. Indeed, the necessary first step of subverting wokeism may well be the sufficient final step as well. The woke lady who got the vapors from visiting Rome clearly was in a state of deep cultural amnesia.

One easy way to cure cultural amnesia is to point out what non-Westerners actually think of Western civilization. All the Asian tourists our woke matron saw in Rome should have given her a clue: They regard it with awe, the appropriate response to the Forum, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon, not to mention St. Peter’s or even the neighborhood church, Santa Maria del Popolo, which I encountered on my first visit to Rome. Inside that building is a small chapel where one could deposit a coin to turn on the lights and then take in Caravaggio’s “Crucifixion of Saint Peter” on one side and his “Conversion of Saint Paul” on the other, two masterpieces painted for that very spot. That is Rome.

The final word goes to France, where 5,500 adults were baptized into the Catholic Church this Easter Vigil. On Easter Monday, The Times of London ran an article about an organization, SOS Calvaires, which has raised 250 large crucifixes in villages across France. The group is able to do this by refurbishing Stations of the Cross that have fallen out of use, not by erecting new ones. The former is allowed under French law; the latter is not. The article criticizes SOS Calvaires for accepting money from French Jewish politician Eric Zemmour, who has “promoted the conspiracy theory that white Catholics in France are being ‘replaced’ by Muslim immigrants.”

“Conspiracy theory” or no, the article notes that among 18- to 29-year-olds, Catholics barely outnumber Muslims. Rebuilding 250 French Calvaries is a way for these young French Catholics to remind themselves, and others, that theirs “is a Christian nation.”

After being indoctrinated in wokeness their whole lives, the young French Catholics who are doing the hard work of restoring broken down Stations of the Cross in rural France are very happy to bear this message. One of the leaders of the group says at the end of the article: “It’s not Faith we’re reawakening. I think it’s hope.”

May the nations of the West, in all their variety, find that hope. And may they remember that Christ instructed us to love our neighbor as ourselves, not to love our neighbor by hating ourselves.

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