Proposition Nation

‘The Straussians refer with apparent admiration to a few iconic American figures, whom they like to call the Founders. To give them that name is to imply that America was a new creation, that it did not really exist until the Declaration and the Constitution were written. The Founders, as presented by leading Straussians, have no deep, substantial cultural roots. They are not portrayed as having the thick historical identity of essentially British Christians living on the East Coast of America. The Straussians like to present them instead with reference to specific ideas that they supposedly held—sometimes just single phrases they used—which are typically taken out of historical context, that is, made as abstract as possible, or taken out of their context in a particular document. It seems that Straussian interpreters have been concerned to empty these figures of their cultural distinctiveness, specifically, of their WASPishness, and to turn them into mere embodiments of or stand-ins for abstract, formulaic notions. Their iconic status attaches, then, not to their substantive minds, characters, and imaginations, including their historically formed ideas, but to ahistorical, putatively universal “principles.”

Is it frivolous to speculate that descendants of the late arrivals in America, not least the Catholic so-called ethnics, found it somehow pleasing to think with Hartz, Strauss, Jaffa, Bloom, and many others that America did not really originate with quasi-aristocratic WASPs but with abstract principles espoused by culturally almost vacuous, non-descript Founders? If America is thought of as an ideological cause rather than as the creative development of a thickly constituted and ancient historical heritage, then whoever embraces the same principles is as entitled to feeling American as any WASP. To measure up, you do not have to conform to the snobbish expectations of a WASP elite, but only need to repeat certain formulas. People with a social chip on their shoulder might, in other words, have felt a kinship with Straussian theorists who clothed alienation from the old Americans in a noble-sounding advocacy of universal principles.’

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2 thoughts on “Proposition Nation

  1. Pingback: Proposition Nation | Rifleman III Journal

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