Paperback Dimensions:0.50'' x 8.10'' x 5.20''
- 144 Paperback pages
Samuel Johnson once called patriotism "the last refuge of scoundrels." Was he right? Recent events, such as the bombing of federal buildings and the formations 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' "Making Patriots"is a stirring and provocative 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 21st 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.
Berns finds the best answers to his questions in the thoughts and words of Abraham Lincoln, who understood perhaps better than anyone what the principles of democracy meant and what price adhering to them may exact. The graves at Arlington and Gettysburg — and Omaha Beach in Normandy — bear witness to the fact that self-interested individuals can become patriots, and "Making Patriots" is a compelling exploration of how this was done and how it might be done again.
Walter Berns is a resident scholar at AEI.