The Case for The American Cause

It is no exaggeration to conclude that the political landscape of the United States is one of chaos borne of ignorance and outright disdain for our nation's founding principles and values.

Over 60 million people voted for a sloganeering dilettante from the Daley machine about whom nary a critique could be levied without hysterical screams of racism and prejudice. The frightening cult of messianic personality surrounding him remains as his ignorant supporters cheer while the cesspool from whence he came is drained and dumped in the Potomac.

The principal perpetrators and abettors of the housing finance disaster not only got away clean, but had the temerity to accuse those who tried to prevent such a disaster of creating it as a confused citizenry stood idly by.

Open Senate seats in Illinois and New York are for sale or thought to be a birthright. In Minnesota, a two-bit clown has downloaded Gore2000 in an attempt to steal a seat in plain sight and nobody seems to care.

Larry Arnn, the heroic president of the indispensable Hillsdale College, argues persuasively in the December edition of Imprimis that our citizenry has lost touch with the art of constitutionalism. The rot of our public schools and the systematic excoriation of the "dead white men" who established this republic have indeed severed the mystic chords of memory that once bound Americans to those of the past. Reestablishing these ties will take work, but there is a book that can do just that: Russell Kirk's  The American Cause. There is perhaps no book that so succinctly and accessibly explains and defines our roots and our purpose.

American ignorance of American principles is by no means novel. In fact, such circumstances surrounded Kirk's writing of the book to begin with. As Gleaves Whitney - who lightly edited and wrote the introduction to the most recent edition - points out, the book was written shortly after the dawn of the Cold War when it was especially essential that citizens understood the American cause, its differences and advantages over Communism, and why the cause must be defended. Kirk learned that American POWs in Korea were easy marks for Communist propagandists; those Communists reported that even American university graduates had little to no knowledge of their own history, political philosophy, and the function of federalism. Because Kirk correctly concluded that "Good natured ignorance is a luxury none of us can afford," he crafted this book, which was reissued in the wake of the outrage of September 11, 2001.

The American Cause is decidedly not a conservative primer or argument, nor is it jingoistic propaganda. Rather, it is a restatement and explanation of the set of principles upon which our nation was founded: Order, Justice, and Freedom. In clear language, Kirk discusses the necessity of principles in relation to the true nature of man (as opposed to what those selling utopia would have us believe). Kirk writes of ordered liberty, the true relationship between church and state, and free economics. Helpfully, Kirk offers answers to anti-American claims from abroad, which are tellingly similar now as when the book was first written, and warns of the dangers of armed ideology - again on the march in the world. Chillingly, Kirk writes "Thinking in slogans ends with thinking in bullets."

Kirk concludes "this little book" by declaring "That our elaborate civilization and our delicate civil social order may not fall victims to the revolutionary movements at home and abroad: this is the end to which American policy is directed. And if Americans have valor in them still, theirs will not be a losing cause."

Despite the maniacal efforts of the American establishment media, we have seen and heard about the valor of which Kirk speaks. We have seen it in the streets of Fallujah, the mountains of Afghanistan, and the skies above Shanksville. But this valor has gone missing among great swaths of the population, millions upon millions who do not understand or simply do not respect the limitations deliberately placed upon government that created the most successful example of self-government the world has yet seen. As Arnn writes, when citizens appreciate the principles in the founding documents and the ways in which they must underlie self-government, "the citizen becomes again an intelligent lover of it."

If we are to recall those principles and again respect, revere, and observe them, we must rededicate ourselves as students of our nation so that we may again become truly informed citizens. It may be fairly said that the essential document in helping us relearn  and reclaim the American cause is The American Cause.

Matthew May welcomes comments at matthewtmay@yahoo.com
It is no exaggeration to conclude that the political landscape of the United States is one of chaos borne of ignorance and outright disdain for our nation's founding principles and values.

Over 60 million people voted for a sloganeering dilettante from the Daley machine about whom nary a critique could be levied without hysterical screams of racism and prejudice. The frightening cult of messianic personality surrounding him remains as his ignorant supporters cheer while the cesspool from whence he came is drained and dumped in the Potomac.

The principal perpetrators and abettors of the housing finance disaster not only got away clean, but had the temerity to accuse those who tried to prevent such a disaster of creating it as a confused citizenry stood idly by.

Open Senate seats in Illinois and New York are for sale or thought to be a birthright. In Minnesota, a two-bit clown has downloaded Gore2000 in an attempt to steal a seat in plain sight and nobody seems to care.

Larry Arnn, the heroic president of the indispensable Hillsdale College, argues persuasively in the December edition of Imprimis that our citizenry has lost touch with the art of constitutionalism. The rot of our public schools and the systematic excoriation of the "dead white men" who established this republic have indeed severed the mystic chords of memory that once bound Americans to those of the past. Reestablishing these ties will take work, but there is a book that can do just that: Russell Kirk's  The American Cause. There is perhaps no book that so succinctly and accessibly explains and defines our roots and our purpose.

American ignorance of American principles is by no means novel. In fact, such circumstances surrounded Kirk's writing of the book to begin with. As Gleaves Whitney - who lightly edited and wrote the introduction to the most recent edition - points out, the book was written shortly after the dawn of the Cold War when it was especially essential that citizens understood the American cause, its differences and advantages over Communism, and why the cause must be defended. Kirk learned that American POWs in Korea were easy marks for Communist propagandists; those Communists reported that even American university graduates had little to no knowledge of their own history, political philosophy, and the function of federalism. Because Kirk correctly concluded that "Good natured ignorance is a luxury none of us can afford," he crafted this book, which was reissued in the wake of the outrage of September 11, 2001.

The American Cause is decidedly not a conservative primer or argument, nor is it jingoistic propaganda. Rather, it is a restatement and explanation of the set of principles upon which our nation was founded: Order, Justice, and Freedom. In clear language, Kirk discusses the necessity of principles in relation to the true nature of man (as opposed to what those selling utopia would have us believe). Kirk writes of ordered liberty, the true relationship between church and state, and free economics. Helpfully, Kirk offers answers to anti-American claims from abroad, which are tellingly similar now as when the book was first written, and warns of the dangers of armed ideology - again on the march in the world. Chillingly, Kirk writes "Thinking in slogans ends with thinking in bullets."

Kirk concludes "this little book" by declaring "That our elaborate civilization and our delicate civil social order may not fall victims to the revolutionary movements at home and abroad: this is the end to which American policy is directed. And if Americans have valor in them still, theirs will not be a losing cause."

Despite the maniacal efforts of the American establishment media, we have seen and heard about the valor of which Kirk speaks. We have seen it in the streets of Fallujah, the mountains of Afghanistan, and the skies above Shanksville. But this valor has gone missing among great swaths of the population, millions upon millions who do not understand or simply do not respect the limitations deliberately placed upon government that created the most successful example of self-government the world has yet seen. As Arnn writes, when citizens appreciate the principles in the founding documents and the ways in which they must underlie self-government, "the citizen becomes again an intelligent lover of it."

If we are to recall those principles and again respect, revere, and observe them, we must rededicate ourselves as students of our nation so that we may again become truly informed citizens. It may be fairly said that the essential document in helping us relearn  and reclaim the American cause is The American Cause.

Matthew May welcomes comments at matthewtmay@yahoo.com