America is a uniquely blessed nation. In terms of natural resources, cultural diversity, and basic liberty, the United States has experienced a short yet rich life unparalleled by any other country throughout history. Many citizens see these blessings as something to share with other peoples, making real the “City on a Hill” first mentioned in 1630 by Puritan John Winthrop, one of the earliest orators to comment on America’s influential role.
Unfortunately, there are American citizens who have a difficult time seeing these blessings, and others who, though they may recognize them, are unable to articulate why it is that we find ourselves with such benefits. To address these groups, political commentator Dennis Prager penned Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. Published in 2012, the book documents Americans blessings by defining its core values and comparing those values to other competing worldviews.
The majority of the book contrasts the American value system with its two modern competitors: Leftism and Islamism. He also mentions in passing China’s Confucian-influenced Communist system as a possible fourth major worldview, but does not discuss it in detail because it currently lacks worldwide appeal, generally limited as it is to Chinese domestic society.
For Prager, Leftism is not a tired relic of a failed Soviet Union, but a living movement that is voracious in its appetite for the control of people’s lives and hearts. It is old-time Communism, gussied up in a form palatable to American tastes. It is also a religion of sorts, with communal utopia as its heaven, material inequality as its sin, taxes as its offerings, and the state as its god. Leftism believes that all people are basically good, and that external forces—specifically the economic disparities identified by Karl Marx—make them bad and destroy their lives. To restore goodness and fairness, Leftists must—to quote Barack Obama, an exemplar of Leftism from Prager’s perspective—do the work of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” (Quoted from an October 2008 campaign speech in Columbia, Missouri.) To accomplish this, Leftism must displace American values with its own values, by influence and legislation if possible, by force if necessary. As a warning against this latter Marx-approved method, Prager chronicles the moral failures of Leftism throughout the Twentieth Century, including its record of nearly 100 million deaths.
Prager moves on to Islamism, defining it as “holding the belief that not only should all mankind be converted to Islam, but that all Muslim societies be governed by Sharia.” He does separate this view from the more accepted forms of Islam in general. He also says that Islamism does not require, by definition, the use of violence or terrorism. Despite these qualifications, he does include a brief overview of Muslim history, with its sword-based expansion during the Middle Ages and its scriptural support for the subjugation of non-Muslims, all as a warning about Islam’s tendency to see its worldview as something to be imposed on all nations. As with Leftism, force has been an option in the spreading of the Islamic worldview, and the author documents such incidents, both long ago and in our era.
In the final section of the book, Prager formally defines the American values system by invoking the three phrases found on all United States coins: “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” and “E Pluribus Unum.” Liberty encompasses the freedoms of political, religious, and economic activities, assembly, speech, the press, and above all, freedom from an oppressive state. For the author, this requires a smaller government footprint, since larger governments historically have a tendency to abuse the power entrusted to them.
To reduce the temptation to anarchy that comes with great freedom, the author sees “In God We Trust” as a must. This is not a demand for a Christian nation—Prager is a Jew—but for the core of Judeo-Christian values, what he calls “ethical monotheism.” People are not good by nature, and morality must be inculcated, either by God or by the state. Prager recommends God.
Finally, he invokes “E Pluribus Unum” (“out of many, one”) as the third part of the “American Trinity” of values. As a melting pot, America promotes nationalism over racism—despite some missteps—with a rule that anyone of any background can be an equal citizen. People are accepted because they have value as people, and not because they are of a specific bloodline.
Prager is a master at breaking a worldview down into its most minute components, and then comparing those components across the spectrum of competing systems. He does this in a way that speaks to the common man instead of to Ivy-league philosophy types. The book uses numerous examples—too many, actually—to bolster points, and covers all of the modern hot-button topics, including terrorism, homophobia, global warming, education, mass media, homelessness, as well as less prominent issues such as swine flu, foul language, and anorexia.
In Still the Best Hope, the goal is liberty, a liberty can only be realized by those who believe in an objective God, and who put shared values before race. Leftists and Islamists hate such American liberty because it acts as a brake on their forward momentum. It offers freedom of thought and choice over dogmatic religious laws and capricious power grabs for self-appointed saviors. Prager calls American values the “Best Hope” for the future, but warns readers that Leftism and Islamism will work hard to keep that from happening.