My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hanson on Pericles and America

In the New Criterion, a wise, eloquent essay in which Victor Davis Hanson brings his rich knowledge of ancient history to bear on today's America and Americans, asking, in essence, what Pericles would make of us and our “presentism,” and what we would make of him and his “reverence for the past”:

The mark of a great leader and an even greater people is precisely such reverence for the past—not a vague past, but one of real people who lived, suffered, achieved, and died for others. In our age of presentism and pride in our high-tech affluence—in which Americans use the standards of the contemporary university to judge prior generations as inferior to our own sensibilities in terms of race, class, and gender equality—such blanket praise of our ancestors seems reactionary and illiberal. After all, the President of the United States has recently apologized for American behavior of a half-century earlier in Iran; for supposed past indifference to the Palestinian issue; for maltreatment of Native Americans, blacks, and other minorities; and for dropping the atomic bomb in World War II. Nowhere does Barack Obama hint that he himself—so unlike the anonymous of the past whom he easily castigates—might lack the physical stamina or bravery to withstand a bout with pre-antibiotic diphtheria, to drive a mule team in summer across the Utah desert, to survive a Banzai charge on Okinawa, or to retreat from the Yalu River in November 1950.

Hanson's conclusion:

The real lesson of the Periclean Oration is not merely that some Athenian values should be our own, but that in our place, according to our station, we too might have the imagination to articulate the singularity of our culture and the bravery to proclaim it without apology or qualification. To do otherwise, is to enjoy the unmatched bounty and freedom of the United States without gratitude to those of the past who bequeathed it, and without present awareness that what we enjoy makes us blessed beyond the comprehension of most of the six billion others on the planet.

In short, Pericles reminds Americans that, should a great culture not feel that its values and achievements are exceptional, then few others will as well—a fact injurious to a small and insignificant state, but fatal for a power with aspirations of global leadership. A leader who relentlessly reminds his countrymen of their shortcomings will naturally apologize abroad for them as well, and what starts as self-critique becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of national decline.


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