Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

America as a mystery and scandal

Joe brought to our attention Bernard-Henry Levy’s new book, and quoted from some of his interviews. I have read Levy; parts, maybe all, of the book appeared in The Atlantic over the past year or so. What I read only turned out to be mildly interesting, to my regret. The book still might be worth reading, but let me warn you that it is a not an untypical attempt by a European to instruct us, rather than learn about us or from us. I have written on these matters (not all of it is yet published) and will continue to write and publish more, but here is a short essay that I happen to like from a few years ago, The Ugly European. Certainly, I don’t mean to suggest that it is the comprehensive and true writing on the matter, nor that it is as finespun as Levy’s stuff. But it does note one big point that Levy doesn’t seem to get. Levy says that the mystery and scandal of America is that it is not based on blood and soil. Interesting way of putting it, don’t you think? I’d like to see him push and shove this around a bit more. In fact, the universal creed of the country is a self-evident truth (or at least a proposition). This is a mystery? Let us be clear that everyone from the beginning (including George III, in his insane kind of way) understood this. They may have mocked it and thought it wrong, but they understood that this was indeed a new world, a new way of life, that these Americans were creating. And the offense taken (by even Frenchmen! think of how the Germans or the Russians or the Albanians....feel and think) is that this principle may well be applicable (as it really is) to them! Is the scandal the rolling together of the mystery, and will, as he calls it, for a person like Bernard-Henry Levy? America is in fact the only alternative to organic nations. Push on this for a bit, Mr. Levy, will you? Can you? The fact that Levy thinks in America Muslims (or any other nation, meant in the French sense of birth, that is, organic) are not asked to give up all aspects of their past identity (as they must in France) is the secondary point. That is, the nations are only asked to give up the most important--the critical--aspect of their former identity to become Americans and American citizens: Give up whatever allegiance you have had to foreign princes and potentates; the rest you can keep. Note that you choose to do this. You don’t grow into it, the way my mother loves palacsinta, or sheds tears on hearing Hungarian verse, or could take pride in Joe Namath throwing a football. That’s all fine. But it has nothing to do with the moral, the natural, the American thing. I am not sure whether Levy has learned anything from his travels. I’ll read the book, just in case. I don’t want to miss anything.

Discussions - 1 Comment

I wonder if Levy’s (excuse me, BHL’s) purchase on his little bit of truth is at least in part explained by his (at least residual) Judaism, which gives him the slightest distance from Frenchness.

I remember that when Mr. Bloom made his remark about the Jewish Question and the Final Solution, he and Levy entered into a longish colloquy in French, during which Levy turned to us and said, "pardon us, this is a family matter."

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