- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Broadside Books; Reprint edition (June 25, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061985139
- ISBN-13: 978-0061985133
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 352 customer reviews
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Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph Paperback – June 25, 2013
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"This is a very wise book by a very wise America. It is probing, lively, comprehensive, and, rarest of all, it is filled with original insights and arguments. Dennis Prager changes intelligent people's minds."--Bill Bennett, Former US Secretary of Education, Bestselling Author, and Nationally Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host
"Occasionally, a person with rare vision can forsee the future through a deep understanding of the present. Using reason and facts, without rancor, Prager invites his readers to reason. If the world does not embrace American values, as brilliantly explained in this book, we are indeed doomed."--David Mamet, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross
As a member of Congress for more than thirty years, I have met, listened to, and read the greatest living American thinkers. Dennis Prager is one of these. If enough Americans read [this book], America will remain what Abraham Lincoln said it was: the last best hope of earth."--David Dreier, US Congressman (CA) and Chairman of the House Rules Committee
"Dennis Prager's book is sharp, succinct, and comprehensive. It admirably covers the global ground. I hope it is widely read, and I'm pretty sure it will be."--Paul Johnson, British Historian and Author of Modern Times
From the Back Cover
Dennis Prager contends that humanity confronts a monumental choice. The whole world must choose between American values and two oppositional alternatives: fundamentalist Islam and European-style democratic socialism. In this visionary book, Prager makes the case for the American values system as the most viable program ever devised to produce a good society.
Still the Best Hope deals with three major themes, each vital to America's future. The first is perhaps the most persuasive explanation for why Leftism has been and will always be a moral failure, despite its appeal to many people of goodwill. The second explains why fundamentalist Islam also cannot make a good society—though Prager holds out hope for an open and tolerant Islam. The third is a persuasive defense of what Prager calls the "American Trinity": liberty, values rooted in the Creator, and the melting-pot ideal.
Prager shows why these values can and must be adopted by every nation and culture in the world, why Americans must relearn and recommit to these values, and why the United States must vigorously export them.
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This "reading plan" has led me down many interesting paths, and I was amazed to find that Dennis Prager had been there before me, and summarized my own thoughts and speculations in a longish but very valuable book. Talk about "preaching to the choir!"
The book's overall thesis is simple: mankind is at a crossroads, where there are three paths to choose from: Leftism, Islamism, and Americanism. Prager's analysis of Leftism and Islamism is devastating, and his explanation of "Americanism" is quite enlightening; it will prove especially valuable for people in favor of the American way, but who get tongue-tied trying to explain what it is. Prager deftly solves that problem: "Liberty, In God We Trust, & E Pluribus Unum." Leftists, for example, continue to scream about income inequality, and rank that as more important than liberty. I for one (not Dennis Prager) feel like taking them by the ears and asking them if they have ever read history --- ever read the results of eliminating freedom in favor of some purple-unicorn equality! As Milton Friedman pointed out, "If you aim for liberty as your first value, you'll also get pretty good economic results. But if you aim for equality first, you are going to wind up with neither freedom nor equality." (Among hundreds of other books, consult Nomenklatura: The Soviet Ruling Class.)
The thesis may be simple, but obviously defending it requires a great effort. Dennis Prager does a very good job of defending it, and this book deserves a place on the bookshelf of every American. Hats off to the master!
Prager wrote this book with a sense of urgency, believing we stand at a crossroads offering us three incompatible religious and/or ideological options, devoting roughly one-third of the book to each: 1) Leftism; 2) Islamism; 3) Americanism. He explains: “The American value of ‘Liberty’ is at odds with a Sharia-based society and with the Leftist commitment to material equality; ‘E Pluribus Unum’ is at odds with the Leftist commitment to multiculturalism; and ‘In God We Trust’ conflicts with both the Leftist commitment to secularism and the Islamic ideal of a Sharia-based state” (p. 10). Though he certainly has read widely and thought deeply, Prager relies more on illustrations than scholarly studies, broad generalizations rather than meticulous documentation. This is not to discount his presentation but simply to make it clear he writes for the general public, not the academy.
Leftism, emerging in the French Revolution and thenceforth fueling scores of revolutionary movements around the world, is very much a religious movement, though of a secular sort. Energized by Karl Marx, it seeks to destroy Western Christian Culture and replace it with a scientifically-based, egalitarian society. Its religious nature was evident in Hillary Clinton’s touting “the politics of meaning”—granting primacy to this-worldly concerns, continually seeking to establish a heaven-on-earth through political orchestration. It dominates organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization of Women and the National Council of Churches. It rules the media (e.g. the New York Times and NBC) and most all liberal arts colleges and universities (e.g. Harvard, Columbia, UCLA and Occidental). Prager thinks “Western universities have become Left-wing seminaries” (p. 97). To soften and promote their ideological posture, Leftists usually call themselves “progressives” or “liberals” or “feminists” or “environmentalists”—much like denominations within a religion—but they share some core convictions. They seek to make America a thoroughly secular place, resembling the “social democracies” in Europe which have sought to shed their national distinctions by joining the European Union, and they want to transform America to make it more egalitarian via universal health care, a command economy, minimum wages, cradle-to-grave welfare programs, affirmative action, race-based college admission policies, etc.
Importantly, Leftists oppose traditional religions and seek to suppress, if not eliminate, their presence—their free expression—in the public square. Philosophically committed to materialism, they necessarily believe: “Man has supplanted the biblical God. ‘God is man,” said Marx. And man is God,’ said Engels” (p. 38). Though some of them may “believe” in a deity of some sort, they reject “the personal, morally judging, transcendent God of the Bible” (p. 40). What they really reject is special Revelation, with its clear-cut distinctions between good and evil. To Prager, who regularly teaches classes on the Hebrew Bible, “the dividing line is belief in divine scripture. Those who believe that God is the ultimate author of their scripture (the Old and New Testaments for Christians, the Torah for Jews) are rarely Leftist. On the other hand, those Christians and Jews who believe that the Bible is entirely man-made are far more likely to adopt Leftist values” (p. 40).
The Left believes, above all, in improving the world, making it a better place, creating a utopia of some sort. It thinks we should not seek to understand things as they are but to devise ways to change them, to even transform such basic things as human nature. As Robert F. Kennedy said: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were, and ask, ‘Why not?’” Or we’re urged to sing along with the Beatles’ John Lennon and Imagine a perfectly peaceful world cleansed of private property and freed from greed—a world where there’s “no heaven or hell” and “everyone lives for today” (p. 69). Thinking so makes it so! As “a famous dissident joke stated: ‘In the Soviet Union the future is known; it’s the past that is always changing’” (p. 209). Good intentions, not effective actions, qualify one for membership in the “inner ring” of the self-anointed saviors. “Because the Left relies heavily on feelings and intentions,” Prager says, “wisdom and preexisting moral value systems do not count for much” (p. 77). Consequently, there is an adulation and courting of young people and their tastes (e.g. clothes, slang and music).
Yet despite all their allegedly “good intentions”—despite all the propaganda circulating through the schools and media—“the Left’s moral record is among the worst of any organized group or idea in history” (p. 168). Almost everything it’s “touched has made it worse—morals, religion, art, education from elementary school to university, and the economic condition of the welfare sates it created” (p. 168). Most appalling is the number of innocents murdered by Stalin, Mao, Castro et al.—100 million, according to The Black Book of Communism. Softer versions of socialism, now evident throughout Europe and touted by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have established ultimately unsustainable welfare programs such as Britain’s National Health Service that slowly slide into faceless bureaucracies failing the very people they claim to serve. Though claiming to represent and care for ordinary people, “If the Left had its way, the citizens of the state would be told how to live in almost every way: what to drive and when; what lightbulbs to use; what temperature to keep their homes; what men would be permitted to say to women; what school textbooks must include; when God could be mentioned, and when not; how much of their earning people may keep; what art would be funded and what art would not; what food children could be fed; how enthusiastically to cheer girls’ sports teams; and much more. The list of Left-wing controls over our lives is ever expanding” (p. 208).
Turning to Islam, which along with Leftism is devoted to the destruction of Western Civilization, Prager admits he treads through a minefield wherein charges of “Islamophobia” are routinely ignited against anyone daring to find fault with any aspect of the faith. Yet we must fully understand—and dare to critique—an ideology mixing religion and politics which has for 1400 years threatened Western Civilization. One must of course try to distinguish between Islam and Islamism—the former a faith calling individuals to certain obligations, the latter a political movement promoting world domination. There are certainly decent Muslims with whom one may establish concord, but there are also legions of fanatical Islamists supporting terrorism. In fact, we must realize that Islam has historically allowed little personal freedom (whether religious, intellectual, or economic) and approves the militant establishment and expansion of its Caliphate. Thus, according to perhaps the greatest Muslim thinker, Ibn Khaldun, Islam “demands jihad, holy war” and “Muslims are therefore enjoined to wage jihad in order to make converts to Islam” (p. 251).
Islamic jihadists now seek to destroy Israel and America—primarily because they prevent “the expansion of Islamist rule” (p. 288). Though such aspirations now seem to lack the necessary economic and military strength needed to accomplish them, they must be understood in order to respond to the many acts of terrorism and aggression we now face. Prager responds to a variety of pro-Islamic arguments (e.g. the Koran contains inspiring verses; most Muslims are peace-loving; Muslim Spain enjoyed a “golden age” of religious tolerance; Muslims don’t impose Islam on conquered peoples), showing that partial truths do not validate an ideology whose negative aspects mandate its rejection.
Having evaluated America’s rivals, Prager turns to defending her and her “unique values,” the first of which is liberty (“the essence of the American idea”). Millions of immigrants, from 1607 onwards, have risked everything seeking various kinds of freedom (religious, political, economic) in this land. For example: “More black Africans have immigrated to the United States voluntarily—looking for freedom and opportunity—than came to the United States involuntarily as slaves” (p. 313). Prizing liberty, many generations of Americans favored limited government because personal “liberty exists in inverse proportion to the size of the state. The bigger the government/state, the less liberty the individual has. The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen” (p. 316). As a God-given right, liberty stands rooted in the very Being of God as revealed in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, and He is absolutely essential as the sustaining Source of all values. As John Adams insisted: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate the government of any other.” Explaining how these values earlier helped shape America, Prager provides scores of important illustrations regarding such things as individual responsibility, distinctions between good and evil, the sanctity of property, marriage and life.