Let’s take a brief intermission

Let’s take a brief intermission in our consideration of Richard Evans’s book, “Lying About HItler.”
My oldest daugher (of three; would you be interested in joining my therapy group for fathers of three daughters? Just kidding, girls…) just graduated from Minnesota’s finest private high school. Her graduating class had 18 (out of a total of only 90 students) National Merit Semifinalists. The Minnesota high school with the next highest number had two or three, if I am not mistaken.
The school shares one trait in common with almost every other high school in the country: an emphasis on having the “correct” attitude to social issues. Whether the subject was homosexuality, abortion, racism, or “affirmative action,” in myriad ways both large and small the school made it apparent what the “correct” attitude was, and took a variety of actions to inculcate that attitude. One attitude the school demonstrated by its actions was “incorrect” is American patriotism. And insofar as politics was concerned, the analysis of every question turned on the identification of “victims” and “oppressors.”
Putting every other consideration to one side, one would think that the crashing boredom of this approach to every question would be sure to induce some adolescent rebellion among bright students whose souls naturally yearn for some higher understanding.
Wouldn’t it occur to these bright students in the context of any great goal: How may it best be achieved? Yet in the course of her entire high school education, my daughter never studied or discussed the subject of statesmanship as part of the curriculum. Another symptom of the problem I’m trying to describe is that the current Webster’s II New College Dictionary lacks even a definition of the term! And its primary definition of the related term that it does define (“statesman”) is “a national or international government leader.” That certainly clears it up!
Over the past week, National Review Online has carried a five-part serialization of Eliot Cohen’s analysis of Winston Churchill as a war leader, a chapter from Cohen’s new book “Supreme Command.” Each of the serialized excerpts presents a brilliant analysis of Churchill’s incomparable statesmanship leading Great Britain to survival and victory in WWII. Cohen conveys Churchill’s greatness as a war leader with something like Chuchill’s own perspective. Cohen’s book supposedly addresses the qualities of great war leadership in free societies and the virtues of appropriate civilian leadership. The Churchill excerpts available at NRO suggest that Cohen’s true subject is the highest political subject–the statesmanship of freedom. Fondly do we pray that President Bush rises to join the company of the heroes of Cohen’s study.


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