Our friendly neighborhood paleocon (and I do mean friendly) wonders whether the neocon Trotskyite internationalist lapdog (have I left any terms of opprobrium out?) Jonah Goldberg is beginning to see paleo reason.
Jonah can, of course, speak for himself. My own view is that a nation that defines itself in terms of the Declaration of Independence and celebrates a conscious act of founding (as we will tomorrow) can’t simply be a "normal" country. (Given its revolutionary heritage--at odds with certain of its other elements--I’m not sure France can be either.) There is no American ethnos, no sense of American autochthony. There are American principles (to which our most cosmopolitan fellow citizens--if we can still call them that--no longer subscribe) that we say are accessible to anyone anywhere. (I hasten to add that that doesn’t mean that we should impose them by force anywhere or that anyone anywhere will inevitably and/or immediately embrace them.) Anyone can become an American. Not just Europeans like my dad and mom, or my friend Peter Schramm, but also the Asian kids adopted into families I know and the myriad patriotic Japanese- and Chinese-Americans with whom I’m acquainted. And Dikembe Mutombo too. I don’t have to offer an exhaustive list for you to get my drift.
This is not to say that America doesn’t have a regime (in the Aristotelian sense) and that there doesn’t have to be an effort at civic education.
And, above all, that current conditions make educating citizens challenging. Let me just mention a few points in this connection. First, there’s much more mobility now--more traveling back and forth to the old country--than there was even a generation ago. People used to kiss their homes goodbye, to return maybe once or twice after many years in America. Now they are constantly returning, which makes it easier to keep up old habits and old allegiances, harder and less necessary to pick up new ones. Second, our elites have less confidence in America and the American way (the "habits of the heart" about which many have written) and hence they’re more reluctant to promote them. The only American principle they’ll admit is toleration of differences, upon which they have a hard time insisting in the face of the obdurate differences they say they respect and tolerate. (Well, that’s not entirely true: they’d be happy to marginalize religious conservatives, if only they could. But I digress.)
Finally, to the degree that we’re in a post-literate society with a diversity of non-verbal sources of information and "cultural niches" in which people can immerse themselves, it’s hard to inculcate anyone, whether native-born or immigrant. (Not impossible: every schoolchild appears to know lots about Martin Luther King, Jr. But, again, I digress.)
I propose this as the beginning of a list of differences between our current circumstances and, let’s say, the circumstances a century ago. What think and say you, gentle and not-so-gentle readers?