January 15, 2008

How do you handle a romance between a Europhile Yankee (from New York CITY, no less) who pines for the Habsburgs and a patriotic sorority girl from Texas? Gingerly, with generous quantities of wit and Belgian beer (though she prefers Lone Star).

The woman I love and I differ about a wide variety of things. We’re both orthodox Catholics who prefer the Latin Mass, and share the same (twisted) sense of humor, which is what has kept each of us sane throughout the decades. Those are the really important things. But we’ve got a fair bit to argue about, once you move to secondary and tertiary issues—and that keeps it all exciting.

You see, my intended is the daughter of the Founders, a direct descendant of Chief Justice John Marshall—whose life of George Washington I studied while co-writing a script on Col. Washington’s exploits in the French and Indian War (which young George personally STARTED, by the way) for “Gettysburg” director Ron Maxwell. On the other side, this lovely lady descends from prominent German-American journalists and doctors—including one friend of Mencken’s, and Louisiana’s first female professor of surgery—who was also one of the earliest opponents of Margaret Sanger. She married a brilliant editor who led the fight in print against Huey Long. And then her family moved to Texas—where the locals can’t decide whether they’re Americans or Texans first. Happily, there hasn’t been a conflict between the two identities since 1865. But if someone doesn’t do something about the Border soon, the subject of boundaries might come up again. (Non-Hispanic whites are now a minority in the state. Nothing against the other folks—except how they tend to VOTE.)

Anyway, this lady and I like to argue about our political allegiances. While I gladly acknowledge what I think is great about America, and pray with regularity for our soldiers off in combat, I am, I fear, guilty of dual loyalty: I treasure a deeper fealty to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy from which my grandparents came, which was home to perhaps the liveliest culture in Europe. Except for a few dark moments, it was more tolerant than Protestant England or Gallican France, and served as home to a glorious panoply of races and religions—all bound together, sometimes a little reluctantly, by a dynastic ideal that was the furthest thing from an ideology. It produced many of our civilization’s greatest thinkers, writers, artists and musicians—and when it was replaced, every inch of its territory was occupied first by Hitler, then by Stalin. Yeah, that was a real improvement. 

And I must admit I feel a certain resentment when I think of the man who decreed the destruction of that Empire—Woodrow Wilson. That messianic post-Protestant (as Pat Buchanan detailed in his latest book, Wilson informed the Paris peace conference in 1919 that he had come to complete the work of Jesus) made the dismantling of Austria Hungary one of his primary war aims, and intervened to prevent a peace proposed by Benedict XV and the Blessed Karl I. That delay claimed perhaps a million lives, let the Bolsheviks take power in Europe, and handed the Central Power for many months to the Reds. The Red terror led directly to the rise of the Freikorps and later the fascists.

For a wide variety of reasons, religious, aesthetic, and eccentric, I think of myself as a subject not of President George Bush, but of the man who should be king (and emperor), Otto von Habsburg. I have friends who’ve met him, but have never had the privilege. I would like to meet the man, bend the knee and kiss his hand. If he gave me an order that wasn’t sinful I would follow it. Period.

All of which leaves my Texas girlfriend pretty cold, as you might imagine. “That is so… weird,” she remarks. And I’ll admit it is. I have tried to transfer my sympathies completely to the U.S.—without success.  I’ve concentrated on the issues where she and I agree: We each think that the American experiment was exciting and worth a try. To establish a large, decentralized Republic where local liberties could flourish, the common man could hold onto his property and rise in the world, and the state would largely leave him alone. A place where power would mostly rest at the county level, a little more at the state, and least of all with the Feds. That model perfectly mirrors—of all things—the teaching of the Catholic Church called subsidiarity, which calls for such decentralism. The foreign policy laid out by George Washington seems modeled on Just War teaching. The separation of Church and State, while condemned by Catholics at first, in practice (until the court decisions of the 60s) did a good job of freeing the churches from corrupting dependence on the state—in some ways helping to recreate the independence of the Church which helped keep the Middle Ages so much freer than the Renaissance or the Endarkenment. Indeed, as Michael Davies (ruefully) observed, the Vatican’s teaching on religious liberty, enshrined at Vatican II, is American-inspired, and was pushed hardest by bishops from the U.S.

And so on. There’s a lot about this country’s history to love. She and I agree on that. That’s the reason each of us has been taking part in Ron Paul’s money bombs, to support the one prominent figure in our politics who actually supports the policies and principles upon which this country was founded.

That’s the America my beloved’s ancestors helped found, and while it may not be a benevolent, liberal Catholic monarchy, it’s a pretty good second choice. Or was, while it lasted. As Thomas DiLorenzo and others have documented, the Civil War spelled the end of real initiative on the state level. The artificial “crisis” of World War I, Robert Higgs explains in “Crisis and Leviathan,” helped nationalize large chunks of our economy—which were never given back. The same thing happened with each ensuring war. The income tax legalized a level of confiscation no feudal king would have attempted, and the draft made Everyman a pawn in the imperial games of presidents like Truman and Kennedy. How free are you, exactly, when the president can force you to go fight a proxy war in Korea or Vietnam, in the name of preserving “liberty” for the citizens of U.S-friendly dictatorships?

No, the America loved by my beloved is long gone, and too little lamented. In Ron Paul she and I each see the last flicker of hope for that old vision. And it’s a stirring sight, all the citizens who are turning out to work for him. But in the end, I fear it’s just another piece of nostalgia for an America that was killed in 1917, by the same man who destroyed my ancestral empire. Ron Paul is the rightful heir to that Republic, as Otto is for the Empire. And each has about the same chance of coming to power.

So my love can listen to her Texas waltz, while I’ll stick to the Viennese. We can each speak with piety of what we lost, and light little votive candles to our respective ancestral gods. There’s nothing really to fight about. We’re just a pair of dreamers.


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