In 1897, troops from the greatest empire the world had ever seen marched down London’s mall for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. Seventy years later, Britain had government health care, a government-owned car industry, massive government housing, and it was a shriveled high-unemployment socialist basket-case living off the dwindling cultural capital of its glorious past. In 1945, America emerged from the Second World War as the preeminent power on earth. Seventy years later … Let’s not go there.
I had a faintly surreal conversation with two Hollywood liberal pals not so long ago: One moment they were bemoaning all those right-wing racists like Pat Buchanan who’d made such a big deal about the crowd cheering for the Mexican team and booing the Americans at a U.S.–Mexico soccer match in Pasadena, and deploring the way the U.S. goalie had complained that the post-match ceremony was conducted entirely in Spanish. Ten minutes later they were sighing that nothing in Los Angeles seemed to work quite as well as it did when they first came out west over 40 years ago. And it never occurred to them that these two conversational topics might somehow be connected.