Before reading Samuel P. Huntington’s book, Who Are We? The Cultural Core of American National Identity, I read several reviews of it, some of which were highly critical of what they characterized as his tones of racism, xenophobia, and cultural elitism. These focused almost entirely on the aspects of the book that describe the massive wave of post-1965 U. S. immigration from Hispanic, primarily Mexican, sources. And it is the case that Huntington spends a lot of space describing his concern with the very different nature of this most recent phase of immigration to this country and what it means for our values, our culture, and our future national identity. But the book is much more than that. In fact, it is a grand survey of American cultural roots, the exceptionalism of its founding as an Anglo-Protestant settlement, and the tangled relationship of these attributes with what Huntington calls the American Creed. I have long been interested in the question of whether America is primarily a “culture” or an “idea”, and this book speaks to this issue as well as anything I have read. It is also cautionary in many ways. Huntington (who, incidentally, identifies himself as a liberal Democrat) outlines in great detail the powerful forces among American elites that have mounted a sustained effort over the past several decades to “deconstruct” American national identity, he makes it very clear that the overwhelming bulk of the American people do not support this effort, and he offers the alternatives we have in shaping our future. Although he doesn’t say it, the strong suggestion is that we had better decide soon if the deconstructed vision of our future is the one we want before we find ourselves strangers in a country we don’t recognize.
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