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.
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?"
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."