ADVOCATING FOR AMERICANISM

Washington Times on April 13, 2012 published a review of Dennis Prager’s new book“Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (Broadside Books, 448 pages). Excerpts of the review below:

Mr. Prager argues that three incompatible value systems are competing in the world: leftism, Americanism and Islamism.

It is important to define leftism, Mr. Prager says, because it is what might be called a “stealth religion” (not his phrase) that receives much of its support because the media and academics present leftism as the normal and accepted way to think, challenged only by “rightists” or “conservatives.”

Another reason Mr. Prager needs to define leftism is that it usually is not presented as an overall ideology – normally speaking more about goals than about values.

It is even more important, Mr. Prager says, to define and advocate Americanism because many people who believe in its values do not articulate or teach them. No other country advocates for American values, and in the United States, leftists who don’t share American values dominate the press, the universities and the educational system.

The trinity that summarizes American values, according to Mr. Prager, is stated on American coins: “liberty,” “In God we trust,” and “e pluribus unum” (from many one). Leftists, he asserts, are more concerned with equality of results than with liberty – that is, personal freedom – which Mr. Prager says explains why much of the left has been so tolerant of leftist dictators – from Stalin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez – as well as Islamist tyrants.

A central leftist value, even for religious leftists, is to exclude religious values and any recognition of God from public discussion. Americans traditionally, back to our founding generation, have believed that some kind of religion is essential to America’s well-being. In his book “Americanism,” David Gelernter goes further, arguing that Americanism is a religion replacing Puritanism and that the United States is a biblical republic.

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E pluribus unum, which originally referred to the federal principle of the United States, Mr. Prager uses to stand for the principle of welcoming all kinds of individuals to join in the “unum” of the American community. Leftism, Mr. Prager says, divides us by its emphasis on dealing with people as members of separate categories defined by gender, race and class, rather than as individuals. It also rejects the idea that our “unum” has any special virtue or any special responsibility to the world.

Mr. Prager also argues that the traditional American understanding that “right and left share the same ends and … differ only in their ways to achieve that vision” is no longer true. Right and left, Mr. Prager says, “differ in their vision of America.” Therefore, America can be united “only when the great majority affirm either left-wing or conservative values.” If this radical view is correct, it is a great challenge to the American political system and it may be part of the explanation for the polarization of politics and intellectual discussion observed in recent years.

Mr. Prager carefully states that he does not think leftists are unpatriotic. Mostly they love America but think it should be, in President Obama’s words in his 2008 campaign, “fundamentally transformed.”

“Still the Best Hope” makes an important contribution by encouraging believers in Americanism to stand up for their values and helping them understand the ideological challenge they face.

The reviewer of this book is Max Singer. He was a founder with Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute and was its president until 1973. He is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and at the BESA Institute of Bar Ilan University in Israel

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