“There’s a specific political struggle going on now over health insurance for a relatively small…
Roy Murray

Thanks for your excellent riposte. I’m sure we mostly agree on policies that would be more worthy of a supposedly great nation. What we seem to disagree about is social and historical epistemology. I would call your approach “essentialist,” namely that you believe, a priori, that something like a nation has a true, if hidden, essence, in the same way a human being has a more-or-less fixed personality. I things like nations or societies are very loose concepts, handy in some context (e.g., constitution, law, military forces — all of which are expressly predicated on there being a real nation) and not in others. I think a term like “national character” is at least as misleading as “racial character.” And that’s why I objected to the top poster’s use of a generalization like “Americans are a cruel and unhappy people.” It’s a terribly misleading generalization; I cited a few handy statistics, but there are truckloads of information I could have thrown at it. Americans are a very diverse people, compared to most nations. If we celebrate that diversity as a badge of honor and a source of strength, then it seems to me we have to keep it in sight when discussing broad issues of national import. (Is my use of “national” in the last sentence consistent with what I’ve said?)

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