This is an old re-post:
I stumbled onto this old Auster review on the View from the Right yesterday. He reviewed Brookhiser's The Way of the Wasp, (which I read when it came out in 1991, with the hope that I might understand myself a little better). America has been historically a WASP culture, in the best sense of the term, and that is why it is such a fine country. Does anyone doubt this? It's the culture that dares to interrogate itself.
One quote from Auster's piece:
In his account of the degeneration of this pattern of useful virtues into an opposite set of vices, Brookhiser illuminates our current disorder. Conscience, the monitor of the self, has given way to the untrammeled self, along with the attendant liberationisms; lower-class welfare mothers and upper-class S&L con artists are equally products of a culture that has thrown away the constraints of conscience. Instead of industry rewarded by success, we have ambition striving for gratification. Civic-mindedness has been displaced by the group-mindedness that now dominates our politics, while the objective test of use (which implies a moral standard derived from nature) has given way to diffidence: "[Things] are, therefore we defer to them"--a neat characterization of America's timorous response to every minority demand.
Consider reading the book, or at least Auster's review, whether WASP or not. It's the story of America's strength and freedom and traditions and manners, all based on stern Protestant moral codes of modesty, duty, sacrifice, self-sufficiency, courage, self-denial, integrity, work, respect, honor, and emotional restraint. With a strong, monitoring, rather punitive conscience to watch over it all. It is impossible to be a nation or a community without shared behavioral codes, and these are still the core of our culture, despite endless assaults upon them from a variety of directions. It's just too damn bad if these codes aren't always fun or instantly gratifying or ego-enhancing: They are for the grown-ups.