Berns considers the paradox of self-sacrificing patriots in the United States-a country founded on principles of freedom and individual autonomy. He describes how America's unique form of patriotism was created through public education and the influence of religion. He also contends that these two institutions have been undermined by the Supreme Court and by cultural relativism, leading to a decline in patriotism. Berns (emeritus, Georgetown U.) is a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute.
>From the Publisher
"Samuel Johnson once called patriotism "the last refuge of scoundrels." Was he right? Recent events, such as the bombing of federal buildings and the formation of threatening militias in the name of patriotism, suggest that he may have been on to something. But the United States has also seen its share of heroes: patriots who, over the course of history, have willingly put their lives at risk for this country and, especially, for its principles. This is even more remarkable given that the United States is founded on the concepts of equality and democracy - tenets that encourage individuality and autonomy far more readily than public spiritedness and self-sacrifice." "Walter Berns's Making Patriots is an essay on precisely this paradox. How is patriotism inculcated in a system that, some argue, is founded on self-interest? Expertly and intelligibly guiding the reader through the history and philosophy of patriotism in a republic, from the ancient Greeks through contemporary life, Berns considers the unique nature of patriotism in the United States and its precarious position as we enter the twenty-first century. He argues that while both public education and the influence of religion once helped to foster a public-minded citizenry, the very idea of patriotism is currently under attack."--BOOK JACKET.
>From the Critics
>From Library Journal
American patriotism means a love of the universal, philosophical principles of human equality and the inalienable natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, upon which the United States is founded, argues Berns (emeritus, Georgetown Univ.; Taking the Constitution Seriously). Patriotism implies a willingness to sacrifice for these principles, which imbue U.S. citizenship and democracy with much resonance. To ground his argument, Berns explains conceptions of patriotism held by the ancient Greeks, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and, most importantly, Locke, and he explores the relationship of patriotism to religion, education, economic competition, free speech, and private rights. His argument shines best in Chapters 5 and 6, when discussing how Americans, led by Abraham Lincoln, the poet of patriotism, and Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist patriot, enriched patriotism by destroying slavery and expanding citizenship and democracy. Berns engages readers, especially conservatives, to think critically about patriotism's core values. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
>From Publisher's Weekly - Publishers Weekly
In 1932, theologian and political philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr observed the ambiguous nature of patriotism as a virtue. Patriotism, he argued, requires an individual's self-sacrifice to the self-interest of a particular group and, as such, often results in horrific evils and conflicts. Berns (Freedom, Virtue, and the First Amendment), professor emeritus at Georgetown and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, acknowledges that the idea of patriotism in 21st-century America is indeed a paradoxical one. After all, in a country that elevates the self, to be a patriot requires one to give up one's self for something greater, most notably one's country. In his brief survey, Berns explores the meaning of patriotism in ancient times in Sparta, the changing idea of patriotism after the establishment of Christianity (when loyalties to church and state became divided) and the emergence of the American flag as the symbol of a republic to which Americans pledge their allegiance. He asserts that our contemporary educational system does not succeed in educating young people in the ways of patriotism and urges schools to rethink their ways of inculcating love of country in students. Finally, he elevates Lincoln to ""patriotism's poet," for the 16th president "promoted love of country, reminding us that as citizens we are bound to each other... by a cause we hold in common." Unfortunately, Berns's book offers no clear definition of patriotism, though his view of it appears narrow and sentimental. Although plenty of people will disagree with him, Berns comes to no startling new conclusions about patriotism; he merely recycles old ideas that will appeal to a limited readership. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
>From Kirkus Reviews
An inquiry into the nature and substance of American patriotism. First, Berns (Freedom, Virtue, and the First Amendment, not reviewed) lays down the groundwork: In the US, the Constitution frames our unalienable rights-our private rights-of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As soon as we agreed to be governed, however, and to enter into civil society, that self-interest was necessarily tempered. As the first nation in history to enshrine the rights of man, it has fallen as our lot to champion those rights, marking "a unique character of American patriotism: the devotion not only to country but also to its principles." Not blindly obedient like the Spartans, Americans have always envisioned theirs to be a thinking man's country, wherein the citizens are not simply subjects of authority but, rather, lovers of democracy and practitioners of self-restraint. But when the state no longer appears to be safeguarding our private rights, how will our liberty of conscience tell us to act? The Civil War provided one such example, and Vietnam another, and Berns doesn't prove that following the law is always in the best interest of the state-on the contrary, the state can be strengthened by dissent. But he arbitrarily conflates common law and divine law (they could just as easily be disentangled), and he engages in a rather hollow argument in an attempt to show that the founding fathers respected the humanity of African-Americans-after which he writes a trenchant chapter on the relative patriotism of Frederick Douglass. A thought-provoking essay.
Other books by Walter Berns:
After the People Vote: A Guide to the Electoral College
Walter Berns, Norman J. Ornstein, Martin Diamond
University Press of America
For Capital Punishment: Crime and the Morality of the Death Penalty
University Press of America
Taking the Constitution Seriously
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