Book Review: The Next American Civil War
The pushback against the all-encompassing state has its roots deep in the American tradition.
September 29, 2010 - 12:00 am
Patriotic Americans continue to unabashedly affirm their love of country, honor its historical defense and pursuit of freedom, and mourn its present day departure from the nation’s founding principles. This was evident at last month’s “Restore Honor” rally sponsored by Glenn Beck at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where American patriots gathered to demonstrate their commitment to preserving the American way of life, values, and traditions.
For their efforts, they suffered contemptuous sneers and were irresponsibly compared to terrorists by liberal elites and their media compatriots. Typical of leftists who, in the name of “tolerance,” officiously scorn America, acclaim their cut-above status as “citizens of the world,” and make common cause with jihadists and shariah law advocates. With a patina of moral superiority that sets them apart from the Judeo-Christian ethos-inspired masses, they have gone so far as to defy the sentiments of the overwhelming majority (71%) of their fellow countrymen who oppose a mosque at the gravesite of 3,000 American dead.
Liberal elites hold themselves above reproach as they mock America, pass judgment on loyal Americans, and disparage American foreign policy and history, while smugly embracing the loftier principles of transnationalism, world government, and secular humanism.
This deep divide between the liberal elite and American patriots and the revolt it has fostered is the basis for Lee Harris’ latest book, The Next American Civil War. With an in-depth historical and philosophical perspective found in his previous work, The Suicide of Reason, the author examines this critical juncture in American history and offers some back-to-basics advice on preserving our unprecedented spirit of liberty and exceptional national character.
Harris examines the antipathy that exists today between average Americans, “populist conservatives,” and the liberal elite. He argues that it stems from conservative mistrust of liberals for ostensibly unwise departures from well-worn traditions and for promotion of unnecessarily complex concepts that don’t conform to common sense and experience. The more educated, or perhaps more accurately, the more indoctrinated, liberal elitists fancy themselves enlightened apostles serving the interests of human progress. Their condescending attitudes assume that the benighted masses are gravely in need of their counsel and they use their supposed, superior knowledge and vantage point to amass and hold power. Populist opposition to an elite that is subverting tradition, denigrating America’s heritage, and engaging in unilateral decision-making contrary to popular American sentiment is at the crux of the current revolt.
In The Next American Civil War, Harris reminds the reader of the founding tradition of our government: to promote liberty and the general welfare. Populists view the traditional role of government as altruistic and beneficial, yet not unduly intrusive. The author attributes the initial move away from democracy in America to public education and an increased reliance on science and technology. Prior to the mid 19th century, he explains, Americans relied primarily on common sense and time-honored traditions to navigate their lives. Public education brought with it a move toward consensus building and adulation of brains and education as a superior route to success. In time, this shift away from tradition resulted in a sense of alienation between the average person and the power elite.
Harris cites colonial America to provide insight into our current dilemma and serve as a valuable source of inspiration to get us back on track. He describes the early colonists as “natural libertarians,” with their unique circumstances as creatures of the New World. The colonists had escaped the despotism and oppression of the Old World and came to America in search of liberty and control of their own destinies. They embraced the “cosmic script” of the Old Testament story of Exodus in which Jews escaped bondage and entered the Promised Land. The great challenges the colonists endured in the New World demanded independence and self-sufficiency. A seemingly endless frontier enabled them to fashion communities according to their needs and aspirations or move on to greener pastures when intrusive authorities usurped their freedom.