Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: The Queen’s Tears
Posted on 09/17/2001 10:03:30 AM PDT by Pokey78
The foreign leader who said it best last week was the Queen, though she didn't really say a word. I have met Her Majesty from time to time (I am one of her Canadian subjects), and to put it at its mildest, for those with a taste for American vernacular politics, she can be a little stiff: The Queen stands on ceremony and she has a lot of ceremony to stand on. But on Thursday, for the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, she ordered the Coldstream Guards to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" the first time a foreign anthem had been played at the ceremony. The following day something even more unprecedented happened: At Britain's memorial service for the war dead of last Tuesday, the first chords of "The Star-Spangled Banner" rumbled up from the great organ at St Paul's Cathedral, and the Queen did something she's never done before she sang a foreign national anthem, all the words. She doesn't sing her own obviously ("God Save Me"), but she's never sung "La Marseillaise" or anything else, either; her lips never move.
And at that same service she also sang "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic," for the second time in her life the first was at the funeral of her first prime minister, Winston Churchill. On Friday, she fought back tears. When she ascended the throne, Harry Truman was in the White House. The first president she got to know was Eisenhower, back in the war, when he'd come to the palace to brief her father. She is the head of state of most of the rest of the English-speaking world Queen of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Bahamas, Belize, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, etc. But she understands something that few other leaders of the West seem to that today the ultimate guarantor of the peace and liberty of her realms is the United States. If America falls, or is diminished, or retreats in on itself, there is no "free world." That's the meaning of the Queen's "Ich bin ein Amerikaaner" moment.
Don't ask me who else you can count on. The NATO declaration was impressive, but, even as the press release was coming off the photocopier, a big chunk of America's 18 allies were backsliding. Norway, Germany, and Italy said they had no intention of contributing planes, ships, or men. Even as purely political support, the invocation of Article Five was written in disappearing ink. The Italian foreign minister speaking for Europe's most conservative government said "the term 'war' is inappropriate." "We are not at war," said Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, his nation's signature on that NATO document notwithstanding. Belgium holds the current presidency of the EU and was last seen apologizing for slavery, colonialism, etc at Durban's recent U.N. Conference Against Whitey, Hymie, and Capitalism.
The Royal Air Force will be alongside the USAF. The Aussies will send something. The Canadians will manage a token rustbucket like HMCS Toronto, the ship we dispatched the last time things started heating up in the gulf. And New Zealand's recalcitrant prime minister may yet be forced by popular opinion into showing a bit more muscle. The British, whatever their other faults, have no fear of body bags and a tabloid press that loves a good war. Polls show 75% support for British participation in military action. If these are the only active participants, so be it: In a war about values, responsible government, the rule of law and individual liberty are essentially concepts of the English-speaking world that the rest of the West has only belatedly caught up to. Just a quarter-century ago, for example, most of southern Europe Portugal, Spain, Greece was run by dictators. These people are used to making their accommodations with history. That's why the danger in Colin Powell's "broad coalition" approach is that it will have the same effect as it had a decade ago acting as a brake on American purpose.
But more dangerous than open anti-Americanism abroad is the more slippery variety at home. In New Hampshire on Friday, the Union-Leader had a splendid picture special of patriotic Granite Staters Dawn Dupont of Pembroke holding her "Beep To Bomb Bin Laden" sign on Route 3, the "Live Free Or Die Against Terrorism" banner in Concord. But at the biggest daily paper in western New Hampshire attention was already wandering: While British, French, Canadian, German and Irish front pages were all devoted wholly to the aftermath of the massacres, the Valley News thought it was time to, in the Clintonian sense, "move on" and managed to find room on page one for an inconsequential story about one school district's high-school building options. The letters page had three long missives one arguing that the Second Amendment gives no individual right to bear arms, one about gays and the Boy Scouts, and one on Tuesday's events by Robert Daubenspeck of White River Junction, Vermont, who advised against retaliation. "Someone, someday, must have the courage not to hit back but to look them in the eye and say, 'I love you.'" It would be mean-spirited to regret that Mr. Daubenspeck was not given the opportunity to test his thesis with one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11. But the dreadful inert Valley News is enough to make me pine for Le Monde.
A couple of other examples: My friend's 16-year-old daughter came home with Tuesday's events put into context by her high-school history teacher, who wanted every pupil to remember that the Allies killed far more civilians when they bombed Dresden. On Sunday, I went to my local Baptist Church, where the interim pastor gave the most inadequate sermon I have ever heard. Her main point was that "even here in New Hampshire" those who look different from us "are facing threats to their lives." In a population of a quarter-billion, maybe two or three dozen have done something dumb driven their pick-up to the parking lot of a mosque and shouted something rude, smashed a window of an Arab-American business, shouted "Screw you, towelhead." The other 99.99999% have done nothing. Yet my pastor's principal concern was the ugliness of Americans.
Against that should be set the example of the local volunteer fire department, who hosted a town get-together on Sunday afternoon and offered up prayers that, compared to those of our trained professional preacher, were straightforward, inspiring, and spoke of God's will and our obligation to resist evil. But, to be honest, I'm a little rattled: For every high-flying flag, there's someone who wants to make this "tragedy" and "crisis" into the usual masturbatory grief wallow of empty Clintobabble "healing," "closure," and all the other guff. This stuff is far craftier than old-style pacifism or open anti-Americanism, and after a decade of self-indulgence it reaches deep into the American psyche. Its grip on churches and schools is particularly grim: Every part of the country has an example the vice-provost at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., who banned American flags "so non-Americans students would not feel uncomfortable"; the Boca Raton company and Texas grade-school that did the same thing for the same reason. This is what brought us to Tuesday morning: the western world's 30-year campaign of self-denigration, culminating in its ludicrous determination to apologize for Western Civilization to the massed ranks of gangsters and dictators (supported as always by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, President-for-Life of the Republic of Himself) at Durban, a week before the massacres. This is the start of a long war, with civilians in the front line. We will never win it if we are ashamed of ourselves, our culture, our history.
That's why I thank the queen, a non-American but, pace the vice-provost of Lehigh University, not one who's uncomfortable with the emblems of the great republic that overthrew her forebear. And so at St. Paul's symbol of British resistance during the Blitz she sang the words written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 on the last occasion the Eastern Seaboard came under sustained bombardment by the ships of the Royal Navy. Her Majesty gets it. I wish, back in America, my pastor, the high-school teachers, school boards, and vice-provosts did.
Mr. Steyn, the Lord works in mysterious ways. I believe He is telling you to find another Church.
Why yes, yes she does.
I only wish more here at FR "got it".
We are NOT the bad guys.
Thanks for posting this...it rings, unfortunately, too true as a goodly proportion of Americans still "don't get it".
Americans spend entirely too much time beating themselves up over relatively trivial things and take any criticism of their actions or inactions right on the jaw, while hardly ever taking any significant time to consider the positive impact our nation has had on the world.
No nation gets it "right" 100% of the time. Except for the past 8 years (of WJC), it was always hard to credibly impugn our motives in matters of world affairs. We believe in freedom and representative government, laws and individual rights. It pains me to say that I wonder if a preponderance of Americans today would voluntarily state that these beliefs are superior to those held by any other nation (excepting of course like-minded nations England, Australia among others).
When Americans refuse to recognize their moral and ideological superiority, and give credence to other inferior governmental systems, we will cease to be great...
God bless our British friends, and God save the Queen!
Me too. And when you consider the words to the song..."and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof to the night, that our flag was still there"....to have her sing those words (and I didn't see her reading any cheat sheets either!) was a sight to behold.
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