Kathleen Parker

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness ..." - Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

Remember when shopping, dining out and going to Disney World were proposed as patriotic acts? If we didn't do those things, we were told, the terrorists would win.

I don't know about you, but I tried to do my part. Half-heartedly at times; guiltily perhaps. How could I enjoy indulging myself - pursuing happiness - in a time of war?

That's a question many of us asked ourselves, and now Carl Cannon, White House correspondent for the National Journal, has answered it in a book - "The Pursuit of Happiness in Times of War" - that is not only scholarly, well-researched and delightfully readable, but possibly the best explanation yet for how and why we got here.

Not necessarily how we came to war, but how the pursuit of happiness - our singularly American unalienable right - has focused our policies, both internal and external, through 200 years of history. And why the pursuit of happiness is not only appropriate to wartime, but is the best weapon in our arsenal for the protection of liberty.

In a nutshell - and in perfect tune with Bush's imperative that we "get back to normal" - Cannon posits the Darwinian notion that the opportunity to pursue happiness is what fuels our drive and willingness to fight for and preserve liberty.

Being materialistic is, in other words, a good thing. Having stuff, living the good life - a cell phone in every pocket, a Weber grill on every deck - is what we enjoy and therefore part of what gives us purpose.

Writes Cannon: "Chasing dreams, pursuing happiness, and even achieving material success, are not embarrassing by-products of American freedom; they are the essence of American freedom."

It is also what our enemies, contemptuous of what they see as our self-indulgence, fail to comprehend. They see our material pursuits as a sign of weakness, when in fact, our materialism combined with our free market and other expressions of freedom - as well as our pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge - constitute our strengths.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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