Approximately 9,000 years ago England and France were joined by a fragile land bridge. Then an ice dammed glacial lake burst and rising sea levels created a Biblical cataract that ripped into the soft chalky limestone of this river valley and created the English Channel, cleaving Britain from Continental Europe and forever changing history. The white cliffs of Dover were left standing 26 miles from their sister bluffs in Calais.
We owe much to this distant event. It isolated and provided a measure of protection for the inhabitants of Albion from their European cousins. Even though the Channel was an imperfect barrier and the Britons suffered successful invasions by the Romans, the Saxons themselves, the Vikings and the Normans, their relative insularity enabled the development of a novel culture.
The security provided by their island nation surely contributed to the drafting of the Magna Carta by the rebel barons and Church of England enshrining certain rights and protections for those groups and establishing limits on the centralized power and divine right of the king. It is difficult to imagine a similar occurrence on the Continent in the thirteenth century. Their island status at the edge of Europe helped to turn English attention to global exploration, colonial settlements and the spread of the English speaking peoples.
Then came the Treaty of Rome in 1957, forming the European Economic Community and Maastricht in 1992, and then creating the European Union. These were large scale social experiments driven by the arrogance of the political class and its technocrats that sacrificed national sovereignty and representative democracy on the altar of a centralized administrative tyranny. Like all such utopian pursuits since the Enlightenment, which aimed at a perfected society, it was destined to do great harm and end badly.
The European peoples were asked and agreed to abandon religion, national identity, self-government and freedom for the apparent peace, security and prosperity of the supra-national administrative state. As is always the case when people trade freedom for security, they got neither.
Europe is not more secure, more peaceful or more prosperous in relative terms now than it was in 1990, before the European Union. To the contrary, it stands helpless before a new invasion of immigrants, many of whom are essentially enemy combatants determined to overthrow the existing cultural order.
Having ceded effective power to a cosmopolitan elite and its propaganda ministries in the media, Europeans live in a twilight zone of politically correct ideology, afraid to speak the name of their enemy and defenseless against its onslaught. They are paralyzed by self-imposed fear, doubt and guilt about their own history, culture and values. The European peoples are committing demographic suicide and seem incapable of changing course, unable to save themselves from themselves.
When people surrender all power to the state they become dependent and incapable of self-initiative.
I recently attended a medical research meeting in Toronto shortly before the British referendum on the EU. There were several English physicians and business executives present, and I engaged some of them in discussions about the vote. They were uniformly for “Remain.” When I inquired about their reasons they provided shallow but consistent responses.
Never were the words national identity, sovereignty, self-government or freedom mentioned. To a person they focused on the “types” of people who were for leaving the EU and characterized them as a nasty and brutish bunch. They gave as a representative example, Thomas Mair, who assassinated Jo Cox, the pro-remain Labour MP. Although the killer had a long history of mental illness, his loose association with pro-apartheid and neo-Nazi groups was a closed case argument in their minds for the type of individual who would vote “Leave.”
At least this small group of scientific and business elites seemed content to decide this great matter on the basis of class and educational identities. The fundamental values of freedom, liberty and representative democracy did not intrude on their analysis. These individuals identify with their elite colleagues across national boundaries far more than they identify with their scruffy countrymen for whom they have ill-disguised contempt. And they are representative of the leadership of most European countries. As Americans, we can recognize these same tropes in our own political and cultural debates and must sense with great trepidation that we are following in Europe’s footsteps driven by the anti-democratic left and its media allies.
And so we return to Great Britain and its momentous referendum to remain in or leave the European Union. This was an existential moment for Britain and represented its last chance to diverge from the path of submersion and disappearance, to preserve its sovereignty and national identity and to protect the freedom and liberties of its citizens. All Americans, regardless of ethnic or national background, owe a great debt to Britain and have a rooting interest in its future and welfare.
The British experiment is foundational to the American experiment. Together, we represent essential moral and political values which must form the cornerstone of a happy future for mankind. Together we stand for the sanctity and unalienable rights of the individual against the state and the forces of tyranny.
Britain’s loss to the tyranny of the supra-national administrative state would have been a great blow to America and to the future. Against all odds, the people of ancient Albion turned the tide against these forces and declared their independence and continued existence. Against all odds, the British people ratified the act of God that separated it from Europe and created an island nation some 9,000 years ago.
Dr. Seymour Fein is a member of the MRC board of directors.