The intrepid Carol Iannone (above) has been devoting no small portion of her cognitive horsepower to the vast conundrum of America, and has come to the conclusion that Our Great Nation can be viewed in two ways:
The first concept is that America is a proposition nation—dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal—and that she consists of ideas—freedom, equality, democracy, self-government—which are the entitlement of all men everywhere. This is the view of President Bush and Condoleezza Rice....What will it be, gentle reader? Do you hold with George W. Bush and Condi Rice that America instantiates the proposition that equality is the entitlement of all men everywhere? Or do you prefer William Bennett's more gemütlich vision of a concrete America, with a specific history, and a culture suited to that history, and a people suited to that culture?
The second concept is that America is indeed based on universal ideals, but that she is also a concrete nation, with a specific history that made these ideals manifest, a culture that is especially suited to the realization of these ideals, and a people that have been cultivated to their proper exercise. This view is reflected in William Bennett's article linked this week at NRO.
Before you answer, you'll want to consider these important philosophical implications of your choice:
Holders of the first view find that our universality is the basis of what they love about America. Ironically, this often has them focused on our flaws, since the universal rights have not been perfectly realized.You may think these views are so irreconcilable that the only way to settle the matter is with a new civil war. But that's only because you fail to realize that the universal propositions which entitle us to pursue concretely the cultivated exercise of fulfilling our lofty ideals will inevitably oblige Bushian propositionalists and Bennettian concretarians to lay down their daggers, and proclaim with one voice the transcendent truth that queers ain't normal, and shouldn't oughta get hitched.
Those who profess the second view will often gratefully focus on America as a concrete nation and the marvelous extent to which we have fulfilled these lofty ideals. They also express concern that the ideals can be lost if we do not trouble to preserve them and pass them on in a way that inspires our young people They hold with Ronald Reagan that "freedom is fragile and rare," and believe with Jefferson that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."
Granting that Phi Beta Cons is not exactly a hotbed of perspicacity, Iannone's colleagues are surely bright enough to understand that she's a blithering crazy person whose every utterance constitutes a menace to the orderly mind.
(Photo at top: "The Babbling Head," via RobotGroup.org. Click here to see it sing "What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?")