What's So Great About America?

Thomas Sowell

5/30/2002 12:00:00 AM - Thomas Sowell

That is the provocative title of a new book by Dinesh D'Souza, a best-selling author who was born in India and who has now become an American citizen. Although many among the intelligentsia would have meant that question to be sarcastic, D'Souza proceeds to spell out just what is in fact great about his adopted country.

Perhaps it takes somebody from outside to truly appreciate all the blessings that too many native-born Americans take for granted. D'Souza understands how rare -- sometimes unique -- these blessings are. Some of this understanding comes from his own personal experience and some from a wide-ranging knowledge of history and a penetrating analysis of its lessons.

As not only an immigrant but also an immigrant "of color," Dinesh D'Souza says: "I am constantly surprised by how much I hear racism talked about and how little I actually see it." He points out other immigrants --West Indians, Nigerians, Haitians -- who "are darker than African-Americans, and yet white racism does not seem to stop them" from rising in American society.

This book is not mindless cheer-leading. D'Souza carefully lays out the criticisms of the United States from the Islamic world, from our domestic multiculturalist cults, from those who are seeking reparations for slavery, and from the intelligentsia around the world. Then he equally carefully examines these criticisms and exposes their fallacies and hypocrisies.

Despite the weighty issues discussed, D'Souza's writing is plain but profound -- a sharp contrast to the pretentious silliness which has become the norm for too many other writers. In an almost casual style, he packs a lot of history, logic, and insight into a small book of about 200 pages.

"What's So Great About America?" would make a perfect graduation gift for someone who has just gotten a degree from one of our many politically correct colleges. It could demolish four years of leftish propaganda like toppling a house of cards.

In contrast to those who say that we must seek to understand the "root causes" of the hatred of America in the Islamic world, in terms of things that we have done wrong, D'Souza sees the fundamental causes of that hatred in the envy and resentment of American success spawned by the Islamic world's own failures.

According to D'Souza, "the fundamentalists are a humiliated people who are seeking to recover ancestral greatness." Proud Muslims "find it hard to come to terms with their contemporary irrelevance." He asks: "When was the last time you opened the newspaper to read about a great Islamic discovery or invention?"

Yet "Islam was once one of the greatest and most powerful civilizations in the world." Hating the success of Americans is a lot easier than trying to recover their own long lost greatness.

D'Souza challenges one of the central premises of today's intelligentsia: The equality of all cultures. "If one begins with the multicultural premise that all cultures are equal, then the world as it is makes very little sense," he says. Some cultures have completely outperformed others in providing the things that all people seek -- health, food, housing, security and the amenities of life.

Immigrants "are walking refutations of cultural relativism," D'Souza says, because "they are voting with their feet in favor of the new culture" represented by America and the West. There is "a one-way movement from tribal, agrarian cultures toward modern, industrialized, American-style cultures." Why, he asks "would immigrants voluntarily uproot themselves and relocate to another society unless they were deeply convinced that, on balance, the new culture was better than the old culture?"

According to D'Souza, "the free society is not simply richer, more varied, and more fun: it is also morally superior." Millions of Americans "who live decent praiseworthy lives deserve our highest admiration because they have opted for the good when the good is not the only available option."

"America is the greatest, freest and most decent society in existence. It is an oasis of goodness in a desert of cynicism and barbarism. This country, once an experiment unique in the world, is now the last best hope for the world."

What's so great about this book? Get a copy and find out.