We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
It's a "best essay" because it is thought-provoking. The Claremont Institute has reposted Charles Kesler's 2005 The Crisis of American Identity in memory of Harvard's Samuel Huntington. One quote:
Huntington outlines two sources of national identity, a set of universal principles that (he argues) cannot serve to define a particular society; and a culture that can, but that is under withering attack from within and without. His account of culture is peculiar, narrowly focused on the English language and Anglo-Protestant religious traits, among which he counts "Christianity; religious commitment;…and dissenting Protestant values of individualism, the work ethic, and the belief that humans have the ability and the duty to try to create heaven on earth, a 'city on a hill.'" Leave aside the fact that John Winthrop hardly thought that he and his fellow Puritans were creating "heaven on earth." Is Huntington calling for the revival of all those regulations that sustained Winthrop's merely earthly city, including the strictures memorably detailed in The Scarlet Letter? Obviously not, but when fishing in the murky waters of Anglo-Protestant values, it is hard to tell what antediluvian monsters might emerge. If his object is to revive, or to call for the revival of, this culture, how will he distinguish its worthy from its unworthy parts?
Modern liberalism, beginning in the Progressive era, has done its best to strip natural rights and the Constitution out of the American creed. By emptying it of its proper moral content, thinkers and politicians like Woodrow Wilson prepared the creed to be filled by subsequent generations, who could pour their contemporary values into it and thus keep it in tune with the times. The "living constitution," as the new view of things came to be called, transformed the creed, once based on timeless or universal principles, into an evolving doctrine; turned it, in effect, into culture, which could be adjusted and reinterpreted in accordance with history's imperatives. Alternatively, one could say that 20th-century liberals turned their open-ended form of culturalism into a new American creed, the multicultural creed, which they have few scruples now about imposing on republican America, diversity be damned.
To his credit, Huntington abhors this development. Unfortunately, his Anglo-Protestant culturalism, like any merely cultural conservatism, is no match for its liberal opponents. He persists in thinking of liberals as devotees of the old American creed who push its universal principles too far, who rely on reason to the exclusion of a strong national culture. When they abjured individualism and natural rights decades ago, however, liberals broke with that creed, and did so proudly. When they abandoned nature as the ground of right, liberals broke as well with reason, understood as a natural capacity for seeking truth, in favor of reason as a servant of culture, history, fate, power, and finally nothingness. In short, Huntington fails to grasp that latter-day liberals attack American culture because they reject the American creed, around which that culture has formed and developed from the very beginning.