Over the next three centuries, the Pilgrims’ ancestors and others fought and bled to improve the “civil” world they fled. The Revolutionary War took nearly 4,500 lives. The Civil War, a half-million lives. The combined dead in World War I was more than 116,000, and World War II’s U.S. battle deaths to defeat Germany and Japan were close to 300,000. After all that, the United States became the foremost part of “the civil part of the world.” ~Daniel Henninger
Now we all make mistakes in writing, myself included, and sometimes they can be quite egregious, so I will go fairly easy on Mr. Henninger on this one (his copy editor, however, deserves a good thrashing!). Where Mr. Henninger said “Pilgrims’ ancestors,” he obviously must have meant “Pilgrims’ descendants.” That is clear to all.
But let’s not be too quick to criticise. It can be so easy to mix the two up when you have such reverence for the national heritage as the leading voice of open borders and the free movement of people has. Ancestors and descendants flow together in one unbroken continuity in a nation that was obviously not dedicated to a proposition in such a way that one might accidentally confuse one for the other. I can understand how the folks at The Wall Street Journal, ever that bastion of atavism and ancestral attachments (dangerously subversive attachments at that!), would be so overwhelmed by their deep appreciation for the Burkean contract between the dead, living and unborn that they would get ancestors and descendants all mixed up.
But, Mr. Henninger’s defenders will protest, these criticisms are valid only according to our limited non-Aymara conceptions of past and future! Lousy linear-time, teleological Western cultural imperialist that I am, I have failed to appreciate Mr. Henninger’s deeper insight here. Perhaps I have misunderstood Mr. Henninger entirely. Perhaps, like the Aymara, Mr. Henninger also has some unusual way of understanding time, in which my Puritan ancestors (and “others”–a nice ecumenical gesture to the vast majority of colonial Americans who had nothing to do with the Pilgrims and Puritans) are actually in some sense living ahead of their descendants–because they have lived in what we call the past, which as everyone knows is known and therefore stands before us while the unknown future lurks behind us. Our ancestors really are ahead of us, because they are in the past. Henninger here must conceive of what we think of as the past as the future and think of time in exactly the reverse way we do, so it must make some kind of sense to say that someone’s ancestors come after them, or are ahead of them, in time.
It must be meaningful that Daniel Henninger and Choquehuanca can see the world the same way! There is hope of greater understanding and cooperation between the hub of neoliberalism and the Bolivian Foreign Secretary. Already I feel the season of goodwill toward men breaking in upon us, and we have Mr. Henninger, ambassador of cross-cultural understanding, to thank for this.
What’s that, you say? You say that this was an article dedicated to defending the Bush Doctrine? Nonsense. I think it was an article dedicated to defending the Bush Doctrine’s antecedents, which are yet to come!
Update [11/27]: The article has finally been corrected to read “Pilgrims’ descendants.” So much for the great meeting of minds between Henninger and Choquehuanca–I was really looking forward to it!