Canadian writer and political commentator Mark Steyn is awfully concerned about America’s future. He’s Hillsdale’s Eugene Pulliam Visiting Fellow in Journalism and will be teaching a two-week class “How to Write a Column.” He shared his thoughts on how much of a weirdo Rick Santorum is, what’s wrong with the Hunger Games, and why there is nothing like a good game of polo with a goat’s head.
PM: In a piece you wrote on Rick Santorum called “Weird Politics” you describe him as weird because he has traditional values. Are people who are traditional really considered weird today?
MS: It was interesting. Anytime I went into an ABC show all the people said, “How can Rick Santorum be a credible presidential candidate? He’s so weird.” Then I actually asked what’s weird about him. He’s weird because he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He’s weird because the family is the basic building block of society. In fact, it was non-weird for almost all of human history. What’s interesting to me is not Santorum’s weirdness, but the fact that so much of what he says is now presumed to be weird. I think he’s right on the basic issue, which is that the crisis America faces is not primarily an accounting problem or a bookkeeping problem. We’re broke for a reason. This country is the most broke nation in history because it is not the republic of limited government and self-reliant citizenry De Tocqueville observed two centuries ago. So he’s right in the extent that the [financial] brokenness is a symptom of the problem not the problem and in that sense I don’t find Santorum half as weird as 90 percent of his critics.
PM: You mention in that same piece that the economic situation here as well as Greece is a reflection of character.
MS: Yes, in the end you have to accept that. Nobody understands that the euro is an attempt to impose a currency in disregard of people’s character. In other words, the euro was invented in order to pretend that Greeks were no different from Germans. Greeks are profoundly different from Germans, and that is one reason Greece is insolvent. Every time that the Greeks go to Angela Merkel in Berlin and say, “We’d like another bailout; we spent the last bailout out; can you give us another bailout?” Angela Merkel understands that the problem is not the Greek finances. The problem is the Greek people, and the problem here is the American people, and the problem in the United Kingdom is the British people, and the problem in Italy is the Italian people. In that sense, I worry that Mitt Romney is looking at the problem too much as a kind of technocrat. We have a fundamentally deformed view not just of the role of the state but of the role of the citizen and we need to correct that.
PM: What are your thoughts on the Heritage Foundation’s World Freedom Index ranking of Canada ahead of America?
MS: I think it ought to be a great embarrassment to the United States that it’s actually slipping down that league table. How can it not be a mark of shame to any red-blooded American that the survey finds he’s less free than the Dominion of Canada. Every red-blooded American thinks Canada is just some pushover, big government, semi-socialist Scandinavian basket case that has wound up on the wrong continent. Why isn’t every American ashamed that he comes below Canada and Australia and these other places?
PM: What were your thoughts on the Hunger Games trilogy?
MS: It seems to me there is something empty about the Hunger Games. In the end the stakes aren’t big enough for it to quite work. There’s nothing primal at stake in the Hunger Games, in part because I assume the author doesn’t subscribe to any particular transcendent meaning to life. I think there is a kind of absence of that in the book.
PM: In your article“Rave on for Trayvon,” you highlighted the craziness of the protests around the Florida shooting. Beneath all of that do you see serious civil rights issues?
MS: If you mean by “serious civil rights issue,” do I think its 1962 in Selma, Alabama? Nobody does except Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Sorry, I should say the Reverend Al Sharpton or the Reverend Jesse Jackson. I don’t know quite how long it’s been since Reverend Jackson has been a practicing pastor at any church, but you’re obliged to call him that for all of eternity. These superannuated hucksters make their livings out of their cobwebbed grievance mongering. What’s interesting is that the rest of the world has moved on. There’s no real white guy involved in this. They want you to think it’s like a Klansman, this white racist. For starters, this guy is a registered democrat. He’s half hispanic, which is why the New York Times has had to invent the term “white-hispanic” hitherto unknown to American journalism. “White-hispanic” was a phrase constructed so that this guy could still be white enough to fit the narrative of the Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton super-annuated race huskers. It’s pathetic. What’s interesting about this story is that it shows America has moved on. None of us know the circumstances. Did this guy racially profile the black teenager in the hoodie and take action? Maybe the black teenager in the hoodie profiled the middle-aged hispanic man coming towards him and thought, “Oh what is this? A big Latino gangster? The idea that this fits some sort of Eisenhower template of Mr. and Mrs. White-Picket-Fence America being unable to get past their endemic racism -— it’s not at all.
PM: On a lighter note, what do you think of American sports?
MS: I’m the unassimilated immigrant in that respect. When I’m on Rush, I always have to be very careful because I’ll say, “Oh Joe DiMaggio, one of the greatest players in American football ever,” and it turns out the guy’s a basketball player or something.
I like the grace of baseball, but I’m not such a big fan of American football. I prefer rugby to American football. I played rugby for a while. I like the way you don’t play it with helmets and you get that old boot crushing into your skull without having to have shoulder pads in the way. I played cricket in Bermuda recently for the first time in many years and enjoyed it immensely. Although I’m not a big fan of Afghan social life in general, I’d like to have a go at bushcazi. It’s that thing that’s like polo that’s played with a cow’s or a goats’ head. It’s in pretty bad shape by the end of the match. The guys are on horses and they’re just thwacking this carcass around. I think they start off with most of the carcass but by the end just the head’s left. Most of the carcass falls away bit by bit.
On the whole, I prefer a good game of bushcazi to the Superbowl.