Our journey over ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’

 

“Le Pont de Saint Bénézet,” Dano/Flickr

On my recent tour of the South of France, just outside the walled city of Avignon, our tour guide pointed to an old stone bridge that extended only halfway across the Rhone River and said, “This bridge was built in the early 1200s.  Unfortunately, it was not well designed or constructed, thus was expensive to maintain.  Sections kept getting washed away, and they kept rebuilding it.  Until they finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  So they just left it.  Now it is known as the famous ‘Bridge to Nowhere.’”

I leaned over to the lady next to me on the tour bus and whispered, “That’s the most French thing I’ve ever seen.”  We both chuckled.  But that was before we learned about the city of Nimes.

Later that same day, on a tour of the magnificent aqueduct Pont du Gard (part of a once 31-mile aqueduct with a total drop of only 56 feet — now THAT is some engineering — Lordy — anyway…), the guide mentioned that the Romans built it to supply their new city of Nimes with water.  I had read a bit about the city’s history before our trip and asked, “Nimes was a wealthy city, and a long way from Rome.  How did the Romans conquer it?”

The guide responded, “The citizens of Nimes were wealthy and comfortable, thus scared of any threats to their pleasant existence.  A new disease started spreading across Europe, and they called the Romans for help in protecting them from this threat.  The Romans succeeded in protecting them from the disease, but then the people discovered that they were no longer citizens of Nimes, but rather subjects of Rome.”

Just kidding, of course.  She didn’t say that.  What the guide actually said was, “The citizens of Nimes were wealthy and comfortable, thus scared of any threats to their pleasant existence.  Hordes of barbarians started spreading across Europe, stealing whatever they could find, so Nimes called the Romans for help in protecting them from this threat.  The Romans succeeded in protecting them from the barbarians, but then the people discovered that they were no longer citizens of Nimes, but rather subjects of Rome.”

German soldiers parade on the Champs Élysées.(WikiMedia Commons)

Me:  “So Nimes invited the Romans to occupy them?

Guide:  “Correct.  It made sense at the time.  But in retrospect, that’s a decision that perhaps could have been made differently.

I leaned over and whispered to the same lady as before, “Okay, never mind the bridge.  THAT’S the most French thing I’ve ever heard.”  We both laughed out loud, and got the same look from our tour guide that I used to get from my 7th-grade teacher.  And for the same reason.  Perhaps I’ll grow up one day.  My 7th-grade teacher was not optimistic.  Neither was my tour guide.

Anyway, riding back to the hotel on the bus, I couldn’t stop thinking about those two events.  A formerly great bridge being abandoned.  A formerly great city being invaded with no resistance.

All this hit home a bit hard, because my youngest daughter just graduated from college a week ago.  Let me explain.

The commencement ceremony at Georgetown University had an opening prayer and a closing prayer, of course – it’s a Catholic university.

The opening prayer was given by a Jewish Rabbi.  The closing prayer was given by a Middle Eastern Muslim imam.  Their prayers both sounded more political than theological.  Both of them mentioned climate change, immigration, trans-sexual rights, gun control, racism, and Palestinian statehood.  The rabbi did not mention God.  The imam began and ended his speech with the plaintive singing imams use to call their followers to prayer in the Middle East, and he mentioned God a few times.  He didn’t specify which God, but it was clear who he meant, so I kept my “Amen” to myself.

The ceremony’s requisite honorary degree was given to a priest who was an illegal immigrant from San Salvador earlier in life.  The speaker who introduced him explained his criminal history like this:  “He entered his new home of America as a hard-working migrant who lacked sufficient paperwork to be validated as a true person, thus he lived in the shadows for years.

Incidentally, I think he was the only priest on stage.  Surely I’m wrong about that.  But I don’t think so.

Anyway, the former illegal immigrant gave a LONG speech bragging about his accomplishments and criticizing those who seek to hurt poor people by enforcing border laws.  He did not mention Georgetown University, the graduates seated in front of him, or the benefits of hard work and discipline.  It was all about him and his politics — it was not about the students who were graduating that day after years of study.  It was not a commencement address, it sounded like he was running for office.

The graduation stage was packed with deans and professors, with only two white men. Most of the rest were short white women with short hair, oversized blocky eyeglasses, and self-satisfied smirks.  All the rest were various minorities.

Interestingly, the short white women were underweight, and the minorities were overweight.  The diplomas were actually handed to the graduates by an overweight black woman with a shaved head and enormous gold earrings.  She didn’t shake their hands.  She gave them fist-bumps.

All this is to say that I left depressed.  It’s sad to watch a ceremony at a Catholic University which is no longer Catholic and is no longer a university.  Which means that the graduation ceremony is no longer a ceremony.  A bunch of narcissistic fools gave my brilliant daughter a degree in Computer Science during a political rally.  I found that hard to swallow.

So to celebrate her achievement, I take my family to France, to learn about one of the great civilizations in world history.  And I get depressed when I learn that it’s no longer great and it’s no longer even a civilization.

The French think that conserving French culture is not worth their time.  At least, not if it’s difficult.  Like, for example, maintaining their borders and expecting the residents of France to adopt French culture.  Who cares?  Eh, let’s sit in a café and drink coffee for four hours — that’s preserving French culture too, right?

I’m not being too hard on Georgetown.  That would be impossible.

I’m probably being a bit too hard on the French.  At least, the French of 2,000 years ago.  The citizens of Nimes were in a tough spot, and made a difficult decision.  Maybe they did the right thing.  It would be much harder to rationalize our recent relinquishment of our liberty due to COVID.  At least the barbarians were an obvious threat to everyone.

Portland protest, 8/29/2020. bgrocker/Shutterstock

But all this hit me pretty hard, as I watch the destruction of Western Civilization move beyond a few termites behind the drywall to a raging fire.  Western Civilization is no longer western, and it’s no longer a civilization.

The scraps will be left to the barbarians.  And we can’t call the Romans for help, like Nimes did.  Because we ARE the Romans.  At least, we were the Romans.  Just like the Romans used to be Romans.

(I mean this in terms of power, not in terms of imperialist goals, of course).

Things have been eating away at our foundation for years.  But the Trump conviction washed away part of our bridge last week.  And I suspect we’ve lost interest in repairing it.

We’ve been on the Bridge to Nowhere for some time.

But now, I suspect that we’ve arrived at our destination.

**********

Al Sharpton and Alvin Bragg, 4/10/2024. lev radin/Shutterstock

Hundreds of years from now, tourists will ask their tour guides why the wealthiest, most comfortable people the world has ever seen decided to actively destroy the civilization that had benefitted them so greatly.  What could that tour guide possibly say but:

It made sense at the time.  But in retrospect, that’s a decision that perhaps could have been made differently.”

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 61 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Gosh.  I just read that. 

    College graduations, ancient European bridge maintenance, Nazi invasions, tour busses, Muslim prayers, French cafes, illegal immigration, hordes of ancient barbarians, COVID policies, ugly eyeglasses, and I’m not sure what else.  Yikes.

    It’s been a long couple weeks for me, and lots of various experiences got my propeller spinning a bit too fast.  This made sense in my head.  But I’m so jet lagged that I just want to go to bed.  Which, I believe I will.

    I hope this essay makes sense.  I think it might.  If it doesn’t, I’d appreciate it if you could clarify if for me.  Even if the only clarification you can offer is, “Perhaps you should just go to bed…”

    Thank you, and good night.  Gosh I’m tired.

    • #1
  2. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Dr. Bastiat:  “He entered his new home of America as a hard-working migrant who lacked sufficient paperwork to be validated as a true person, thus he lived in the shadows for years.

    “Lacked paperwork”. What lies are concealed behind that curiously passive construction! And the liar is an academic, which is no surprise given the intellectual and moral corruption of academia.

    • #2
  3. Globalitarian Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    I thought it was one of your best.

    • #3
  4. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Gosh. I just read that.

    College graduations, ancient European bridge maintenance, Nazi invasions, tour busses, Muslim prayers, French cafes, illegal immigration, hordes of ancient barbarians, COVID policies, ugly eyeglasses, and I’m not sure what else. Yikes.

    It’s been a long couple weeks for me, and lots of various experiences got my propeller spinning a bit too fast. This made sense in my head. But I’m so jet lagged that I just want to go to bed. Which, I believe I will.

    I hope this essay makes sense. I think it might. If it doesn’t, I’d appreciate it if you could clarify if for me. Even if the only clarification you can offer is, “Perhaps you should just go to bed…”

    Thank you, and good night. Gosh I’m tired.

    Sadly it makes all too much sense. There are no new stories -civilizations have fallen before this one. It has to be nurtured and defended every single day. My current affairs example for the day is the notable and recurring water main break(s) in Atlanta. A home team that can’t be bothered with plumbing can’t be trusted with theology – they and other cities all over have been too busy giving money to their friends and relations to pay the rent and keep the utilities in good order. When failure is in sight people will go to extraordinary lengths to compromise to try to buy off the invader or threat.  It  – compromise or appeasement or otherwise denying reality -never works. We expect more of this.
    Don’t fight jet lag – it ain’t worth it. Drink a lot of water, sleep when you want and don’t eat junk for a day for every 3 time zones. Don’t try to think deep thoughts or solve difficult problems for a day or two. Then you will be better.

    • #4
  5. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Gosh. I just read that.

    College graduations, ancient European bridge maintenance, Nazi invasions, tour busses, Muslim prayers, French cafes, illegal immigration, hordes of ancient barbarians, COVID policies, ugly eyeglasses, and I’m not sure what else. Yikes.

    It’s been a long couple weeks for me, and lots of various experiences got my propeller spinning a bit too fast. This made sense in my head. But I’m so jet lagged that I just want to go to bed. Which, I believe I will.

    I hope this essay makes sense. I think it might. If it doesn’t, I’d appreciate it if you could clarify if for me. Even if the only clarification you can offer is, “Perhaps you should just go to bed…”

    Thank you, and good night. Gosh I’m tired.

    It makes sense. Thanks for it. Sleep well.

    • #5
  6. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Dr. Bastiat: “This bridge was built in the early 1200’s.  Unfortunately, it was not well designed or constructed, thus was expensive to maintain.  Sections kept getting washed away, and they kept rebuilding it.  Until they finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  So they just left it.  Now it is known as the famous “Bridge to Nowhere”.

    I’d probably just say it’s a pier and call it a day.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: “This bridge was built in the early 1200’s. Unfortunately, it was not well designed or constructed, thus was expensive to maintain. Sections kept getting washed away, and they kept rebuilding it. Until they finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort. So they just left it. Now it is known as the famous “Bridge to Nowhere”.

    I’d probably just say it’s a pier and call it a day.

    It is overbuilt for a pier. Way too high.

    • #7
  8. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    This is one of the reasons I write on Torah. I believe that civilization must find itself in order to find a reason to perpetuate its existence and grow. 

    The United States is founded on core ideals that come straight from the Torah.

    But the Torah is not widely read anymore, and, IMHO, almost nobody tries to actually read it carefully. So I hope that I can be a part of revitalizing the world. It is one of my callings.

    • #8
  9. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Percival (View Comment):

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: “This bridge was built in the early 1200’s. Unfortunately, it was not well designed or constructed, thus was expensive to maintain. Sections kept getting washed away, and they kept rebuilding it. Until they finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort. So they just left it. Now it is known as the famous “Bridge to Nowhere”.

    I’d probably just say it’s a pier and call it a day.

    It is overbuilt for a pier. Way too high.

    I’d say overbuilt pier is less embarrassing than useless bridge.

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: “This bridge was built in the early 1200’s. Unfortunately, it was not well designed or constructed, thus was expensive to maintain. Sections kept getting washed away, and they kept rebuilding it. Until they finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort. So they just left it. Now it is known as the famous “Bridge to Nowhere”.

    I’d probably just say it’s a pier and call it a day.

    It is overbuilt for a pier. Way too high.

    I’d say overbuilt pier is less embarrassing than useless bridge.

    Until someone pulls up expecting to use it as a pier.

    “It says ‘pier’ on the chart. It’s 20-25′ above my deck if it’s an inch! How am I supposed to unload on that pile?”

    • #10
  11. Joker Member
    Joker
    @Joker

    The virtue signaling has reached full parody level.

    I wonder how many priests, rabbis and pastors are presenting at Saudi commencements. They may be a few steps behind in modernity, but they are proud of who they are. And want to keep it that way.

    • #11
  12. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I appreciate that you keep your sense of humor through The Fall, Doc. The digs at the French are hilarious. My French ancestry allows me to say that.

    • #12
  13. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: “He entered his new home of America as a hard-working migrant who lacked sufficient paperwork to be validated as a true person, thus he lived in the shadows for years.

    “Lacked paperwork”. What lies are concealed behind that curiously passive construction! And the liar is an academic, which is no surprise given the intellectual and moral corruption of academia.

    I’m waiting for the crime of bank robbery to be renamed “made an undocumented withdrawal” so as not to hurt the feelings of bank robbers.

    • #13
  14. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    I just took a nap.  I feel better.  Not great, but better.

    I also re-read the essay.  It makes more sense to me now.  Apparently, in my altered state this morning, I could sort of write, but I couldn’t read.  Or something.

    I can’t wait until the jet lag wears off.  Which takes longer, the older I get.

    • #14
  15. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I appreciate that you keep your sense of humor through The Fall, Doc. The digs at the French are hilarious. My French ancestry allows me to say that.

    The French are easy targets.  But one of my points was that Americans really shouldn’t be laughing at the French anymore.  Especially not after the Trump conviction.

    This is embarrassing. 

    • #15
  16. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Joker (View Comment):
    I wonder how many priests, rabbis and pastors are presenting at Saudi commencements.

    That was my exact thought during the Muslim prayer at Georgetown’s commencement.  

    I don’t know where you’re from, buddy, but I’ll bet the university there doesn’t have a rabbi speaking at their commencement ceremony.”

    • #16
  17. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: “He entered his new home of America as a hard-working migrant who lacked sufficient paperwork to be validated as a true person, thus he lived in the shadows for years.

    “Lacked paperwork”. What lies are concealed behind that curiously passive construction! And the liar is an academic, which is no surprise given the intellectual and moral corruption of academia.

    I’m waiting for the crime of bank robbery to be renamed “made an undocumented withdrawal” so as not to hurt the feelings of bank robbers.

    How about replacing “offender” with “justice-impacted individual”? The Illinois legislature is doing that for convicted criminals being diverted from prison to community-based “rehabilitation” programs.

    • #17
  18. MikeMcCarthy Coolidge
    MikeMcCarthy
    @MikeMcCarthy

    We’ve been on the Bridge to Nowhere for some time. 

    But now, I suspect that we’ve arrived at our destination.

    Sadly not yet.

    Great post… Have you tried melatonin for the jet lag?

    • #18
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Dr. Bastiat: (I mean this in terms of power, not in terms of imperialist goals, of course).

    Well, Ukraine at least seems to be an American vassal state.

    Not that the Russian invasion is ok. But it is what it is, and it’s a vassal state, right?

    So . . . maybe we’re Romans in more ways than one.

    • #19
  20. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: (I mean this in terms of power, not in terms of imperialist goals, of course).

    Well, Ukraine at least seems to be an American vassal state.

    Not that the Russian invasion is ok. But it is what it is, and it’s a vassal state, right?

    So . . . maybe we’re Romans in more ways than one.

    After WWII, America could have taken over most of the world.  We didn’t. 

    Even the countries we defeated & occupied, like Germany & Japan, we spent enormous resources, helped them get back on their feet, and we left.  We did not install an American governor to rule Germany in perpetuity, sending the colony’s revenue to Washington. 

    America has some parallels to the Roman Empire, like a dominant military and extraordinary wealth.  But when it comes to imperialism and colonialism, America clearly has very different goals than the ancient Romans did. 

    But that wasn’t my point.  I was using my recent experiences to point out that America appears to be destroying itself, and that we are not the first great civilization to do so. 

    • #20
  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    After WWII, America could have taken over most of the world.  We didn’t.

    Indeed.

    Is Ukraine as a vassal state a rare exception?  Or part of a new trend?  Or is Ukraine not actually a vassal state?

    • #21
  22. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    After WWII, America could have taken over most of the world. We didn’t.

    Indeed.

    Is Ukraine as a vassal state a rare exception? Or part of a new trend? Or is Ukraine not actually a vassal state?

    I think our actions there are more about Russia then they are about Ukraine. 

    But again, let’s leave that discussion for another thread. 

    • #22
  23. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    I am so sorry your daughter’s graduation was marked by such a travesty. Too bad you couldn’t have had another graduate from Duke and hear Jerry Seinfeld. 

    I am about to start reading VDH’s latest book. I may need to make sure I have enough alcohol available in order to read it. 

    • #23
  24. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    MikeMcCarthy (View Comment):

    We’ve been on the Bridge to Nowhere for some time.

    But now, I suspect that we’ve arrived at our destination.

    Sadly not yet.

    Great post… Have you tried melatonin for the jet lag?

    It gave me terrifying nightmares filled with paranoia. 

    • #24
  25. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Percival (View Comment):

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: “This bridge was built in the early 1200’s. Unfortunately, it was not well designed or constructed, thus was expensive to maintain. Sections kept getting washed away, and they kept rebuilding it. Until they finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort. So they just left it. Now it is known as the famous “Bridge to Nowhere”.

    I’d probably just say it’s a pier and call it a day.

    It is overbuilt for a pier. Way too high.

    I’d say overbuilt pier is less embarrassing than useless bridge.

    Until someone pulls up expecting to use it as a pier.

    “It says ‘pier’ on the chart. It’s 20-25′ above my deck if it’s an inch! How am I supposed to unload on that pile?”

    They’re gonna need a bigger boat. 

    • #25
  26. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I appreciate that you keep your sense of humor through The Fall, Doc. The digs at the French are hilarious. My French ancestry allows me to say that.

    I wasn’t aware that I needed credentials to laugh at the French. Not like they’re going to be able to build a bridge at me or anything. 

    • #26
  27. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    After WWII, America could have taken over most of the world. We didn’t.

    Indeed.

    Is Ukraine as a vassal state a rare exception? Or part of a new trend? Or is Ukraine not actually a vassal state?

    I saw that Biden was saying that Ukraine could launch strikes into Russia so I think they must be. 

    • #27
  28. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    EODmom (View Comment):

    MikeMcCarthy (View Comment):

    We’ve been on the Bridge to Nowhere for some time.

    But now, I suspect that we’ve arrived at our destination.

    Sadly not yet.

    Great post… Have you tried melatonin for the jet lag?

    It gave me terrifying nightmares filled with paranoia.

    I’ve already got those so it’s probably fine for me.

    • #28
  29. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    EODmom (View Comment):

    MikeMcCarthy (View Comment):

    We’ve been on the Bridge to Nowhere for some time.

    But now, I suspect that we’ve arrived at our destination.

    Sadly not yet.

    Great post… Have you tried melatonin for the jet lag?

    It gave me terrifying nightmares filled with paranoia.

    Wow. I find it gentle to the point of not being very effective.

    The way I dealt with jet lag (as a person in his early 20s who flew all over the world) was to fight to stay awake in the arrival location until it was plausible to go to bed. Then I would be fine the next day. Giving in to sleep in daytime was deadly.

    Staying awake was a challenge. At my current advanced age, I’m not sure I could do that.

    • #29
  30. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Forty years ago, Cardinal O’Boyle (smart, tough man who desegregated DC Catholic schools in 1947) was reportedly considering removing Georgetown’s designation as a Catholic institution. The lobbying in Rome and elsewhere was surely intense. Eventually, he backed off. I think the reasoning was that there was still enough of a vestigial presence to justify the designation (Kinda like what might have happened if Abraham had managed to find ten non-wicked men in Sodom and Gomorrah).

    My father attended Georgetown in an era when Jesuit brothers would roust students from the dorm to attend morning mass.  I attended on the GI bill in the seventies. It was different but the old connections were still respected if not mandatory nor widely practiced. The original Jesuit legacy of intellectual rigor in service to vibrant faith has seemed to devolve into a pathetic desire to be seen as intellectually trendy.

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.