Let's face facts. Dystopian non-fiction can be a total buzzkill. People generally like happy endings in their summer reading. Most pessimistic interpretations of tomorrow don't have the kind of emotionally uplifting finale the paying customers are used to. In tales of the disasters to come, the reader doesn't often get the relief of a grand reversal of civilizational decline. The story's third act usually doesn't include a great reawakening where the citizenry regain their bearings and right the ship of state just in the nick of time. Instead, it's all pandemic death counts, epic societal collapse and lurid Thunderdome scenarios.
If one is going to travel deep into the territories of pessimism about the future, it helps if the tour guide is quick with the jokes as you pass by the scenic civilizational wreckage. In "After America", prominent conservative writer Mark Steyn employs his masterful satiric wit and playful use of language to craft the most laugh-out-loud funny postapocalyptic nightmare since his last piece of doom "America Alone".
In many ways "After America" is the logical extension of Steyn's older work. "Alone" was the author's reaction to the 9/11 attacks, the depopulation of Europe and the ascension of Islam in the West. It's main theme was that the demographic collapse of native Europeans was not going to occur in a vacuum, that the rise of Eurabia was going to have serious consequences on America's future. "After America", on the other hand, discusses a USA that doesn't have a future, at least not a future most Americans would want for their country.
What will be the cause of Old Glory's demise? Conservatives are familiar with many of the reasons: smothering bureaucracy, insane federal spending, the overwhelming arrogance of elected officials, the rise of the dependency state. What Steyn does so well is wrap his worrisome statistics and downward spiral trend lines in jaunty wit. If a little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down, a healthy shovelful of high fructose corn syrup makes the cure seem like laughing gas, even as the book goes from bleak to bleaker.
What is most bleak isn't the list of horribles Steyn recites. These are mere symptoms of the fatal disease. What really ails America? It's not all about the money or the dopey leaders we elect. It's the cultural rot that's killing us. Ponder this passage:
Incidentally, over half the illegal population supposedly came into America after September 11, 2001. That's to say, they broke into a country on Code Orange alert. Odd that. Even under the panoptic surveillance of the "security state", certain identity groups seem to be indulged by Big Government. In California one notices that the same regulatory leviathan that thinks nothing of sending in the heavies if a hardware store is offering complimentary coffee to its customers seems somewhat shyer of enforcing its bazillions of building code/food prep/environmental/health and safety rules against ad hoc mobile kitchens serving piping hot Mexican dishes up and down the highway...
This multicultural squeamishness is most instructive. Illegal immigrants are providing a model for survival in an impoverished statist America, and on the whole the state is
happy to let them do so.
On the surface, the issues wrapped up in illegal immigration involve hard tangible things like borders, fences and security architecture. Dig deeper and one sees the schizoid nature of a government too eager to punish the rule-abiders and too ready to ignore the rule-breakers. At the bottom however, it's about a society that's so confused it has trouble determining why it has laws or what it would mean to reform them.
Along the way, "After America" doesn't just point out the ideological incoherence of American life, it names names. The feckless Barack Obama and the smug incompetent Mike Bloomberg take much deserved lumps but appropriately for a book about culture, the author doesn't just stick it to our elected leaders. The whiny liberal thumbsucker Joe Klein and The New York Time's resident ChiCom fluffer Thomas Friedman--among others in the pantheon of American fail--take their hits in utterly enjoyable ways. It's one thing to take the bark off knee-jerk statist tools. It's quite another to break down the preening vanity of the cultural vanguard while having a hearty laugh at their expense.
Ultimately, Mark Steyn's "After America" hasn't just posited a future we must do everything in our power to avoid. Although it is a far different book in tone and subject matter, "After America" is just as critical as Mark Levin's "Liberty and Tyranny" if one seeks to understand the current trajectory of the Untied States. Most importantly, it gives readers an idea of how to pull away from the brink of disaster and retake their nation.