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Conservatism is Un-American: And Other Self-Evident Truths Paperback – October 15, 2014
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Top Customer Reviews
Though this book did not cause me to question my ideology as a whole, since I am already a convert in that respect, it did cause me to rethink my ideas of what our country stands for, and made me feel just a little bit better about my heritage and my country.
The writing is brilliant, but more astounding is the tons of research that went into this book. Taking years to write, Jerome Nicolas has unearthed countless quotes, writings and evidence that show that the conservatives who have hijacked the word "patriotism" have absolutely everything backwards.
I was afraid when I first picked up the book that I would be intimidated by the sheer volume of information, but I was drawn in from the beginning. I saw an exciting view of early America that as a die hard liberal really needed to see.
Nicolas paints a picture of the founding fathers that makes far more sense than anything I have heard before. Radical revolutionaries who live to buck the system and challenge authority are the people we owe our heritage too, and I think too many of us have forgotten that. Many left Europe to escape aristocracy, and would balk at the conservative thought that has us returning to oligarchical rule.
As the title suggests, and the author reaffirms in the introduction, this is hardly a book that is setting out to cater to the conservative mindset and slowly coddle them to see the light, however if they were open to factual, reasoned arguments, despite the title, they are to be found here.
This book relies heavily on quotes and documentation, and even Jerome admits quoting the founding fathers needs to be carefully done. But this weakness is also a strength because he does indeed do it carefully, and he has good reason. He is not making unfounded claims and he wants to make it very clear that each and every point is founded on factual background, so he piles on evidence to back up all of his claims.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in history, liberal or conservative thought, or social justice. There are layers and layers of information and you are sure to get a great deal to think about out of it.
My appreciation extends to Nicolas's strong refutation of conservative vilification of the modern era and young people, who don't deserve the barrage of baseless disparagement right-wing (and some moderate and liberal enviers of rightist rhetoric) commentators and politicians regularly heap on the young. Too often, conservative advocacy requires whipping up fear against America's increasingly diverse younger generations. The groundless, racialized paranoia against youth is another of modern conservatism's most destructive manifestations that Nicolas convincingly refutes.
Rather than relegating the founders to a hateful, racist, colonialist, bellicose, anti-populist militants, this book establishes a strand of American founders (Paine, Madison, Franklin, and others) and great Americans (like Lincoln) as celebratory of democracy and equality in their broadest sense. Liberty and equality are put on the same footing, not as paradoxical concepts but as mutually constitutive ideas. Diversity — in its current usage — finds purchase in 18th and 19th century American political thought. The social safety net is placed in the context of the American revolutionary and 19th century American.
Conservative ideas are placed against the founders and found to be wanting in their pettiness and dislike of American culture. This book reveals the various strands of Ayn Rand: her hatred of all things Ronald Reagan, her affirmation of abortion rights, her love of atheism, her love of serial killers, and her love of everything selfish. The book also shows the gap between Rand and various Christian libertarians (like both of the Pauls), the connection between conservative luminaries and fascist ideology (as well as how Mussolini and Hitler made pro-business arguments in their days).
Finally, the most salient point of this book is its treasure trove of quotes. There is no shortage of quotes from conservatives, leftists, Democrats, academics, and the founders to make lucid and salient points — and all backed up with endnotes to documents that you can read in their original context in your local library or at home on the Internet. If George Seldes or George Orwell were still alive today, this would be the book he would write. It is a book written with depth affirming the radical democratic competence of all people, an affirmation that every cook can govern.