Victor Davis Hanson weighs in on the Notre Dame Cathedral fire…brilliantly

Victor Davis Hanson is a well known conservative historian, academic, and author.  He contributes commentaries prolifically on the current political scene to a variety of publications.  He is a frequent guest commentator on the Fox News Channel.  When Dr. Hanson speaks, I listen.

On Fox News's The Ingraham Angle on Tuesday, April 16, Hanson appeared live from his home in California for a three-minute Q and A on the burning of Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral.  When a transcript of the program appeared online on Wednesday, I read his comments, which were as impressive as when I first heard them.

His comments totaled 362 words.  I can't think of anyone who can fit more substance and meaning into so few words.

Victor Davis Hanson, Life, Liberty & Levin, Fox News Channel Nov. 18, 2018.


Victor Davis Hanson in conversation with Laura Ingraham, The Ingraham Angle, Fox News Channel, Tuesday April 16, 2019:

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: Hundreds marched through the streets of Paris today to ask for the intercession of Notre Dame, Our Lady. The cathedral named in her honor was heavily damaged by fire yesterday, but it is structurally sound.  French President Macron vows it will be rebuilt as donations pour in from around the world. And amid the tragedy at Notre Dame, there is a lesson to be learned.

Joining me now is Victor Davis Hanson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Victor, you say there's an irony in the history here in the aftermath of this architectural tragedy, tragedy in terms of what we've lost in church history. What is the irony?

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, HOOVER INSTITUTION: After 800 years, we were the steward of this iconic representation of western civilization, Catholicism, Christendom. And of all the years, 2019, at the height of our sophistication and technology, I'm not blaming the French or anybody, but we were found wanting and we didn't protect this icon. And we don't build them anymore.

There's great churches and cathedrals that go up all over the world, but, Laura, they are in Poland. They are in Cairo. They are in the Ivory Coast, they're in Brazil, they're in India. It's almost as if the places that are less affluent without the technology of western Europe and the United States are like we used to be. They still believe in transcendence.  They still believe in something other than this world.

And so it's going to be very hard in our society to ever build a cathedral again, much less to repair them, because we don't believe in what they represented. And it's ironic, because we don't like the past. We are at war with the past. We tear down monuments. We don't build cathedrals. We erase names. We say to Father Serra or Christopher Columbus, you don't live up to our standards of race, class, and gender, moral superiority. Shame on you.

INGRAHAM: We'll wipe you out.

HANSON: And when you have that attitude, you don't have a reference. Yes, we are not good stewards of the inheritance that were bequeathed to us.

INGRAHAM: So Victor, in "Rolling Stone" today, this was what was written.  "Any rebuilding should be a reflection not of an old France or the France that never was, a non-secular, white European France, but a reflection of the France of today, a France that is currently in the making." So kind of an interfaith, very large gathering house, Victor, is that what the new cathedral will be?

HANSON: Yes, the person who said that of course, they could be at Verdun and say to the German army you shall not pass, and save French democracy from the Kaiser, or they could have been in the French resistance in World War II and say we're not going to let the Nazis take over the beauty and wonder of France. And this is the France of Madame Curie, and this is the France of the Enlightenment. So for this ignoramus to say that modern France is so much greater than its checkered past, he's a creation of French intellectual excellence and beauty and cultural superiority in many ways.

We owe – much of the world owes a lot to France, and that was embodied with the Notre Dame Cathedral. It's embodied in the Louvre, it's embodied in the French Academy. And he should be really ashamed of himself, because he's a pygmy, and he's really sitting on the shoulders of giants whose names we have forgotten in this period of intellectual and cultural arrogance.

INGRAHAM: Victor, we talk about this a lot. We are almost out of time.  But universities spend an enormous amount of time, students' time and energy and tuition dollars, tearing down western civilization. It wasn't so great, the music wasn't so great, architecture, history riddled with racism and classism and all these other things.

So all day long on colleges, we hear western civilization, bad. Then people cry when they see this spire collapse in the flames that can never be rebuilt as it was built. We don't have the wood. We don't have the artisans. It can be rebuilt, but it will never be what it was. But they spent all day trashing western civilization, and now people are rightly mourning it. But it's an imbalance. Final thoughts, real quick.

HANSON: Because they feel something. They feel there is a spiritual loss, there's a cultural loss. But they are too timid or cowardly to articulate it, because to articulate it would not be politically correct. But it's such beauty that transcends things. They can feel it. They just don't want to admit they feel it.

INGRAHAM: They don't want to admit the God thing. Victor, thank you so much. Great to see you, as always.

Peter Barry Chowka writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications. Peter's new website is  Follow him on Twitter at @pchowka.

If you experience technical problems, please write to