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Noemie Emery on the importance of a national character

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

In the Washington Examiner, Noemie Emery provides a good reminder of the importance of the American national character in celebration of Independence Day:

“Who are we?” ask Leon Kass, Amy Kass and Diana Schaub at the start of “What So Proudly We Hail,” their anthology of works about the American character.

“How do we identify ourselves? … What larger community and ideals are we willing to fight and to sacrifice? … What do we look up to and revere?” they ask.

She continues:

National character, says Michael Novak, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, makes a tangible entity out of a mob. “A mob is composed of a multitude of atomized individuals,” he tells us.

“A people is composed of persons who have social identity … a communion of souls” reaching back to antiquity, and looking ahead to the prospect of still greater things. This identity also has its own character….

Longings for freedom are indeed universal, but in 1776 they were embodied in a particular nation that fought for them in a particular war, embedded them in a unique form of government and fought for them in the last century in three brutal wars.

American exceptionalism does not mean Americans are better than others, that their record is spotless, that they never fail, falter or stray. It means Americans’ works in the interests of freedom are unique and unequaled. May they remain so.

Read the whole column.