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In a cover blurb for Making Patriots (University of Chicago Press, 2000), Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) calls a new book by Walter Berns "an extremely timely work." McCain's blurb, of course, was written before September 11.

Interested in patriotism before patriotism was cool, Berns, AM'51, PhD'53, is the John M. Olin university professor emeritus at Georgetown University and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He sees an inherent paradox in patriotism, with its principles of public-spiritedness and self-sacrifice, in a nation where individuality and autonomy are prized: "[W]hy should self-interested men believe it in their interest to give their lives for the idea or promise of their country?"

Indeed, in recent years, Berns writes, patriotism has gone out of style in the U.S.; nor has its prestige been helped by those who "bomb federal office buildings and claim patriotic motives for doing so." Yet, Berns argues, we must find ways to reverse the trend: "Ours is not a parochial patriotism; precisely because it comprises an attachment to principles that are universal, we cannot be indifferent to the welfare of others. To be indifferent, especially to the rights of others, would be un-American."
-M.R.Y.



  DECEMBER 2001

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