Victor Davis Hanson

Category Archives: California

Medieval America

By Victor Davis Hanson // Town Hall


Pessimists often compare today’s troubled America to a tottering late Rome or an insolvent and descending British Empire. But medieval Europe (roughly A.D. 500 to 1450) is the more apt comparison.

The medieval world was a nearly 1,000-year period of spectacular, if haphazard, human achievement — along with endemic insecurity, superstition and two, rather than three, classes.

The great medieval universities — at Bologna, Paris and Oxford — continued to make strides in science. They were not unlike the medical and engineering schools at Harvard and Stanford. But they were not centers of free thinking.

Instead, medieval speech codes were designed to ensure that no one questioned the authority of church doctrine. Culturally or politically incorrect literature of the classical past, from Aristophanes to Petronius, was censored as either subversive or hurtful. Read more →

From Greek tragedy to American therapy

From Greek tragedy to American therapy


The Greeks gave us tragedy — the idea that life is never fair. Terrible stuff for no reason tragically falls on good people. Life’s choices are sometimes only between the bad and the far worse.

In the plays of the ancient dramatists Aeschylus and Sophocles, heroism and nobility only arise out of tragedies.

The tragic hero refuses to blame the gods for his terrible fate. Instead, a Prometheus, Ajax or Oedipus prefers to fight against the odds. He thereby establishes a code of honor, even as defeat looms.

In contrast, modern Americans gave the world therapy.

Life must always be fair. If not, something or someone must be blamed. All good people deserve only a good life — or else.

A nation of victims soon becomes collectively paralyzed in fear of offending someone. Pay down the $20 trillion debt? Reform the unsustainable Social Security system? Ask the 47 percent of the population that pays no income tax to at least pay some?

Nope. Victims would allege that such belt-tightening is unfair and impossible — and hurtful to boot. So we do nothing as the rendezvous with financial collapse gets ever closer.

Does anyone think a culture of whiners can really build high-speed rail in California? Even its supporters want the noisy tracks built somewhere away from their homes.

Even animals get in on the new victimhood. To build a reservoir in drought-stricken California means oppressing the valley elderberry longhorn beetle or ignoring the feelings of the foothill yellow-legged frog.
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It’s not hard to find California Trump voters, if you know where to look

By Victor Davis Hanson // Los Angeles Times

About 18 million of California’s 40 million residents are registered to vote. Most polls show Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by between 20 and 25 percentage points. Trump will be lucky if he can do better in California than John McCain (36%) and Mitt Romney (37%) fared in the last two presidential elections.

Still, if polls represent the general — voting and nonvoting—population, then some 14 million Californians of all ages want Trump to win — a far greater number than found in most die-hard red states. They resemble Trump supporters elsewhere, but they seem even angrier, in part because they are an emasculated political minority.

As a man in a Prather foothills supermarket recently told me when I asked about his Make America Great Again cap, “They need to see that lots of us aren’t like them and don’t like what they’re doing.” “They” and “them” he could define in a lot of ways: state bureaucrats, California elites who never experience the consequences of their advocacies, or the open-border activists who damn the very culture they insist on joining.

It’s not hard to find Californians who feel this way — if you know the regions where to look.

Twentieth-first century “California” has become a misnomer. In truth, there are not one, but two quite different Californias, defined by both geography and mindset. Read more →

Imagine There’s No Border

A world without boundaries is a fantasy.
By Victor Davis Hanson // City Journal

Borders are in the news as never before. After millions of young, Muslim, and mostly male refugees flooded into the European Union last year from the war-torn Middle East, a popular revolt arose against the so-called Schengen Area agreements, which give free rights of movement within Europe. The concurrent suspension of most E.U. external controls on immigration and asylum rendered the open-borders pact suddenly unworkable. The European masses are not racists, but they now apparently wish to accept Middle Eastern immigrants only to the degree that these newcomers arrive legally and promise to become European in values and outlook—protocols that the E.U. essentially discarded decades ago as intolerant. Europeans are relearning that the continent’s external borders mark off very different approaches to culture and society from what prevails in North Africa or the Middle East.

A similar crisis plays out in the United States, where President Barack Obama has renounced his former opposition to open borders and executive-order amnesties. Since 2012, the U.S. has basically ceased policing its southern border. The populist pushback against the opening of the border with Mexico gave rise to the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump—predicated on the candidate’s promise to build an impenetrable border wall—much as the flood of migrants into Germany fueled opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Read more →

Diversity: History’s Pathway to Chaos

America’s successful melting pot should not be replaced with discredited salad-bowl separatism.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Will California Ever Thrive Again?

The state is sinking, and its wealthy class is full of hypocrites.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

The Nihilism of Sanctuary Cities

There are an estimated 300 or so jurisdictions — entire states, counties, cities, and municipalities — that since the early 1980s have enacted “sanctuary city” laws, forbidding full enforcement of federal immigration law within their jurisdictions.

Most of these entities are controlled by Democrats in general and liberals in particular. Sanctuary officials feel that federal enforcement of the southern border is either unnecessary or immoral, and thus they have decided that there is no real crime in entering and residing in the United States unlawfully. While the majority of illegal aliens are no doubt law-abiding and have avoided public dependence, the pool of unlawful immigrants is so large at over 11 million that even small percentages of lawbreakers can translate into hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens.

The liberal Migration Policy Institute conceded that there are over 800,000 illegal aliens with criminal records, nearly 700,000 of them with felony arrest records.
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21st Century California Reverts Back to the Wild West

By Victor Davis Hanson // Works and Days by PJ Media

I grew up listening to stories of turn-of-the-century rural Central California from my grandfather Rees Alonzo Davis (1890-1976). He was the third generation of the Davis family to have lived in my present house—great nephew of Daniel Rhoades, who had walked into the High Sierra in early 1847 as part of a party sent to help save the Donner Party. Years later, after a small strike in the Mother Lode, Rhoades became a land baron near the shores of the now dry Tulare Lake, in modern-day Lemoore (where his strange mausoleum is currently a California historical site). He died, I think, when Rees was five or six, but his Rhoades portrait still hangs in my stairwell.

Much of my grandfather’s lectures concerned the law and his appreciative sense of progress. Without law in the wild days of his preteen years, sometimes farmers, he lamented, shot it out to adjudicate competing claims over water rights from a common ditch. He referenced a land of early epidemics; his daughter, my aunt, caught a summer polio virus in 1921, and lived most of her life in the living room of my house (d.1980), courageously struggling against a disease that had left her scarcely able to move.
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The Weirdness of Illegal Immigration

By Victor Davis Hanson // Works and Days by PJ Media

Set aside for a moment all the controversies over illegal immigration—the wall, deportation, amnesty, Donald J. Trump, “comprehensive immigration reform,” etc. Instead, contemplate what happens in a social, cultural, and economic context when several million immigrants arrive from one of the poorest areas in the world (e.g., Oaxaca) to one of the most affluent (e.g., California). For guidance, think not of Jorge Ramos, but of the premodern/postmodern collision that is occurring in Germany, Austria, and Denmark.

The first casualty is the law. I am not referring to the collapse of federal immigration enforcement, but rather the ripples that must follow from it. When someone ignores a federal statute, then it is naturally easy to flout more. In Los Angeles, half the traffic accidents are hit-and-run collisions. I can attest first-hand that running from an accident or abandoning a wrecked vehicle is certainly a common occurrence in rural California. Last night on a rural road, a driver behind me (intoxicated? Malicious? Crazy?) apparently tried to rear-end me, then turned off his lights, sped up, and at the next stop sign pulled over swearing out the window in Spanish. In this age and in these environs, why would one call a sheriff for a minor everyday occurrence like that? The point is simply that when there is no federal law, no one has any idea how several million arrive in the U.S., much less what exactly they were doing before their illegal arrival. I note the latter consideration, because legal immigration does require some sort of personal history, and at the airport I am always asked by U.S Customs what exactly I was doing in Greece or Germany that prompted my trip.
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Lessons From California’s Drought

 By Victor Davis Hanson // Defining Ideas

Image credit: Barbara Kelley

By the end of 2015, it had begun raining and snowing throughout California after fifty months of drought.

Meteorologists had long forecasted that the cyclical return of the so-called El Niño Southern Oscillation—the episodic rise in temperature of a band of ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific—would end the drought.

The warmer Pacific alters winds, air temperature, and atmospheric pressures and thus tends to reroute northern storms to their proper course over the Western United States. If the current storm track persists through March, California’s drought may well come to an end.

Was California changed by the catastrophic drought—and did the country at large learn any lessons from it?
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