the bonds of culture, faith and tradition
What is the West?
Jay W. Cobb

Mr. Cobb, I read President Trump as referring to the patterns of life which foster familiarity, affection, and coherence in a community. The abstract idea of liberty that you accurately cite as the core of Western civilization is indeed the principle for which Western governments are supposed to stand; but these are the patterns that keep a country itself standing.

His comment called to mind Edmund Burke, who described England as a country bound together not only by government (top down, mechanistic), but by traditions of many kinds (bottom up, organic):

“We [in England] have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood, binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties, adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections, keeping inseparable and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities our state, our hearths, our sepulchres, and our altars” (Reflections on the Revolution in France, Hackett Edition, pg. 30).

Considered today, President Trump’s phrase might refer to traditions like the Dutch eating pickled herring, celebrating Sinterklaas, and ice-skating when the canals freeze over. Shared history, too, of resisting, collaborating, suffering under the Nazis during the Second World War. And before that, gaining independence from Spain. Shared institutions, like the Dutch monarchy.

In brief: Every nation has some unique combination of “culture, faith and tradition” that gives it definition. NB: Even in nations that embrace religious tolerance, there is, for good or ill, a history of religion within the country.

This is how I read him, and I think my interpretation is sound — especially since he was speaking in Europe, a highly culturally diverse place, filled with all kinds of traditions.

Thank you for a good article.

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