Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Americans, Drop What You're Doing!

If you live in America, or have access to American magazines, go out right now and pick up a copy of the 150th Anniversary issue of The Atlantic. There are a series of fifty essays by prominent American thinkers from diverse walks of life (artists, writers, politicians, judges, etc.) discussing the American Idea.

The Atlantic's website doesn't allow non-subscribers to read the articles online, but it does have some interesting (and conflicting) quotes. Among the better ones:

"We don't have to diminish the American idea in order to save it. Indeed, the only way to prevail in the struggle between freedom and fundamentalism is to enrich that idea in the face of threats."
-Senator Joe Biden

"We are not unique; our ideals are not exceptional; and, to everyone's good fortune, our ability to put those ideals into practice, however special it once may have been, has not remained so."
-Justice Stephen Breyer, US Supreme Court

"Ours are loyalties to an ideal, not to a revelation, and this must have been the reason, even if he was not conscious of it, why Lincoln referred to the American 'proposition.'"
-William F. Buckley

"America is now a nation of 300 million souls, wielding more influence than any people in human history—and yet 240 million of these souls apparently believe that Jesus will return someday and orchestrate the end of the world with his magic powers."
-Sam Harris

"The question is: Do we live to serve ourselves alone, or shall our lives bear witness to something larger?"
-T.D. Jakes

"America's uniqueness is based in the Christian consensus of the Founding Fathers, who penned documents guaranteeing religious and personal freedom for all."
-Tim La Haye (in counterpoint to Sam Harris)

"The American idea, as I understand it, is to trust people to know their own minds and to act in their own enlightened self-interest, with a necessary respect for others."
-John Updike

David Foster Wallace's piece has been reproduced in its entirety, and is definitely worth a read, even if you don't pick up a copy of the magazine. You can read it here.

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