Thursday, September 30, 2004
The Real America

Mark Steyn writes a brilliantly incisive piece (as per usual) on 9/11 and conservativism, specifically focusing on why pundits outside the US seem to constantly get the country wrong: because they don't understand that America is largely conservative:

But in America large swaths of the nation are still robustly conservative. Not all of them, of course, and, because Fleet Street correspondents are disproportionately concentrated in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, it?s easy for them to get the impression that there?s not all that many conservatives ? just a few isolated communities in the Bible Belt and a couple of survivalist militias up in the Rockies. This leads to the careless assumptions of so many in the European media about John Kerry?s election prospects and the inevitable tears on the morning of 3 November. But the way Kerry?s campaigning on cultural issues gives you the real clue to the dominant forces in American life: he talks up his Catholicism; on abortion, he says he ?personally believes? life begins at conception, it?s just that as a Democrat he can?t find it in him to legislate according to his principles; everywhere he goes he gets photographed brandishing guns, even guns that he, as an effete Massachusetts panty-waist, has voted to ban; he boasts to hunting magazines about his favourite assault rifle ? at least until the legality of his ownership of such a weapon is called into question. This is how a big-government, anti-globalisation, socialised-healthcare, Francophiliac Democrat has to campaign in America: pro-guns, pro-God, deeply evasive on abortion. In almost any other Western nation, none of these things would matter.
Steyn goes on to argue that America's conservatism is what makes it one of very few places on the planet where a person can live as a "citizen" rather than a "subject," and he has a convincing point. But this reminds me of a recent discussion I had with a few (other) Canadian friends, in which they couldn't fathom the notion that America is still largely Christian - the primary evidence of this dissonance, for them, was the anti-Christian bias (anti-religious bias) that is soaked through such media outlets as the NYTimes, CNN, ABC/CBS/NBC, etc. Like Steyn points out, if you only get information from a source that resides primarily in a heavily liberal urban center, then your view of the country at large is going to be heavily skewed.

Why do Europeans, Canadians, and most other groups of outside spectators consistently get America wrong? Because they aren't getting a taste of 'America.' They are getting a taste of how a few people, with the resources to get their messages out, view America.
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