Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pat Buchanan Speaks the Unspeakable

I didn't think it was possible for a major media pundit like PJB to say what he has written in his commentary upon a particular, vacuous upcoming movie:

Like the "Hitler's Pope" smear of Pius XII, a man who did more than any other to save the Jews in World War II, "The Da Vinci Code" is a Big Lie that, though readily refuted by the facts, will be believed.

But that it will be a box-office smash, that it is the subject of lavish praise in the press, that it is the best-selling novel of the 21st century, tells us we live not just in a post-Christian era, but in an anti-Catholic culture not worth defending or saving, for it is truly satanic.

On the occasions I feel like shocking people, I've sometimes adopted a cynical pose out of The Onion's news article "American People Declared Unfit to Rule." There is of course a great deal to dislike about my fellow Americans. In my more hypocritical moments I imagine more to dislike about them than to dislike about myself. Perhaps Buchanan could have reminded himself and the rest of us that we ourselves, sinners all, aren't particularly worth defending or saving either.

As for myself, in truth I have yet to apostasize from a basic respect and admiration for American culture. Even Hollywood has its bright spots in its preternaturally dim firmament.

Yet every time I venture into my spam folder and observe a subject heading advertising unspeakable violent prurience, there's a part in me that weeps. And before I am finished weeping the temptation to pull a Lancelot appears like the dagger before MacBeth: let us declare "we will not tolerate this age!" and traitoriously agitate for its destruction. At those grim times I'm most sympathetic to the aforementioned sentiments.

I hope the movie in question will just be another forgettable Kingdom of Heaven. However, the ease with which so many have enabled this mockery of God provokes self-aggrandizing comparisons to Noah in his old world's last days, or to Lot in Gommorrah. To my mind the most apt comparison is a line from another movie about the holy grail, the boyhood favorite Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. At a bookburning rally, Jones Senior turns to his son declaring "we are pilgrims in an unholy land."

In a tragic irony, Dan Brown's novel--the height of audacious novelistic "freethinking"--is in danger of giving bookburning a good name. Ennobled by breathless media treatments and backed by millions of dollars, Mammon's lackey is now in open attack upon Christ the Lord. It is now not a lack of true books, but a sea of false vanities masked by the verisimilitude of mass advertising and feel-good spirituality. Without truth, freedom is false and enslaving. Where's a Savonarola when we need one?

Buchanan has adopted the despondency usually delegated to the less widely-known paleocons. His quondam boss Ronald Reagan was known for his sunny disposition, his theme "It's Morning in America" playing far better than Jimmy Carter's "Malaise."

But just as pessimism is sometimes merely despair posing as profundity, sometimes optimism is only insipid auto-suggestion. Buchanan has weathered various storms of controversy, but by opening the question of cultural legitimacy--and by delivering the answer "illegitimate"--I think he's crossed a Rubicon. The jealous god of American nationalism might have just found its target of the hour.

Should he face the wrath of a people scorned, he could perhaps sing some lines from "Were You There When They Marketed My Lord?":

Were you there when they rewrote His True Life?
Were you there when they rewrote His True Life?
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they rewrote His True Life?

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