Giuliani on American national identity
I’ve been looking through Rudolph Giuliani’s book Leadership. It brings out what I’ve always thought about him, that he is intelligent and driven and an admirable man in many ways. But it also brings out things about him that are unacceptable. Here is the closing passage of the book’s preface, which was adapted from his farewell message as mayor:
Abraham Lincoln used to say that the test of one’s Americanism was not one’s family tree; the test of one’s Americanism was how much one believed in America. Because we’re like a religion really. A secular religion. We believe in ideas and ideals. We’re not one race, we’re many; we’re not one ethnic group, we’re everyone; we’re not one language, we’re all of these people. So what ties us together? We’re tied together by our belief in political democracy, in religious freedom, in capitalism, a free economy where people make their own choices about the spending of their money. We’re tied together because we respect human life, and because we respect the rule of law.Let’s just look at one phrase: “we’re not one language, we’re all of these people.” So according to Giuliani, American identity has no particular connection with the English language. A person could speak only Farsi or Spanish, and he would be fully a part of this country, as long as he believed in … in what? In the idea that Americans don’t speak one language! The thing that makes you an American is the belief that there’s no such thing as America.
To clarify this point, see how he first lists the things that don’t make us Americans—not race, not ethnicity, not a common language, and not a common culture (because without a common language there obviously is no common culture). Then, having told us the things that don’t make us Americans, he tells us the things that do make us Americans: belief in democracy, freedom, capitalism, and rule of law. But other countries believe in those things too. So how is America different from those other countries? If a person in, say, India believes in democracy, freedom, capitalism, and rule of law, how is he any less an American than you or I or George Washington? And how are we any more American than that Indian? Giuliani has removed everything particular and concrete about America and defined America as a universal belief system, not a country.
Giuliani may not be as extreme in his attack on American particularity as Sen. McCain, who came right out and said that America is superior to other countries because it has no culture. But, given what Giuliani has said, can anyone believe that he will defend American culture from the forces that threaten it?
Ben W. writes:
Giuliani’s phrases—“Because we’re like a religion really. A secular religion”— are telling. In essence, he moves his vision of the American experience into the realm of transcendence thus investing it with universality.LA replies:
Very well said. For Giuliani to declare that America is “like a religion, really,” is a form of madness. It simultaneously makes America much more than a mere nation and much less than one. Its existence becomes entirely transcendent, no longer on this earth. It’s what David Gelernter said in his article in Commentary two years ago, that America is a “Judeo-Christian religion.” Gosh, instead of Giuliani being inspired by Gelernter and the other neocons, maybe Gelernter was inspired by Giuliani.Alan Roebuck comments:
When people say, apropos immigration,Swedish conservative writes:
The comments I’d like to write are normally too long and I never find the time to write them nowadays. But here is a short one. Hope you are doing fine!Bruce B. writes:
“We’re tied together because we respect human life”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 09, 2007 10:32 AM | Send