the process of Balkanization—one aspect of the deconstructionrnof the country, even perhaps an epiphenomenal response to arndissolution that was already occurring. The owl of Minervarntakes flight at dusk, and multiculturalism is, if anything, a laggingrnindicator of the country’s plight.rnThe theory of American nationhood responsible for this collapsernis the idea that America is an idea. On this view, Americansrnare not Americans by virtue of being born into the communityrnof Americans and thereafter shaped by Americanrnupbringing and culture. Indeed, it is commonly said that therernis no common American culture, still less an American ethnicity,rnto shape and unite them. Rather, Americans are defined byrntheir allegiance to a set of liberal polihcal principles, notablyrnliberty and equalit}-, outlined in the Declaration of Independencernand embodied in the Constitution.rnThus Edward Luttwak writes in The Endangered AmericanrnDream:rnAmericans have no shared national culture to unite themrnas the French or Italians have —there are many differentrncultures in our pluralist society. Nor can Americans relyrnon ethnic solidarity alone, as the Japanese say they can —rnwe have many different ethnic origins. What Americansrnhave in common are their shared beliefs, above all inrnequality of opportunity in the pursuit of affluence.rnRobert Hartley, the editor of the Wall Street Journal, recentiyrnwrote in National Review that “America is a nation-state unitedrnnot by ethnicity but by truths we assert to be self-evident.” AndrnMark FalcofF summed up this view in Commentary as follows:rn”Uniquely among nations, America is a ‘proposition country’; itrnhas no history and identity apart from certain eighteenth-centuryrnpolitical notions embodied in its Constitution and CommonrnLaw.”rnThe national question in thernUnited States is now veryrnevidently on the political agendathoughrnno politician will admitrnit openly.rnBut if your identit)’ is defined by a constitution, what happensrnwhen the constitution changes? A famous Punch cartoonrnshows an Englishman in a public library asking for a copy of thernFrench constitution. “I am sorr’, sir,” the librarian replies, “butrnwe do not stock periodicals.” Now, the French have resolvedrnany dilemma here with characteristic Gallic logic: their constitutionrnhas no influence on how France is governed. But inrnAmerica, the Constitution is held in reverence—which has enabledrnthe courts in particular, and the political system in general,rnto embark upon a re-shaping of American societ)’ and Americanrnnationhood. Thus, as Michael Lind reports in The NextrnAmerican Nation, the Office of Management and Budget inrn1973 promulgated Statistical Directive Number 13, which dividedrnAmericans into five ethnic groups for the purpose of allocatingrnbenefits and disadvantages under affirmative action.rnOver time, these have become the basis for everything fromrnracial preferences in college admissions to FBI statistics onrn”Hate Crimes” to the drawing of election districts under thernVoting Rights Act. And in multiculturalist theory, they are thernfirst faltering steps toward a vision of America as a federation ofrnethnic and national groups.rnIn short, the theory of America-as-an-idea is a Trojan horsernconcealing the concept of a multiculturalist America. If Americansrnare united not by a sense of common nationhood and arncommon culture but merely by liberal political ideas, thenrnthere is no reason why American culture should be privilegedrnas the culture of the entire people. It would merely be the cultiire,rnlanguage, customs, etc., of one ethnic group—one ethnicrngroup among many competing for attention and respect in thernpublic square. And all that would be required of another ethnicrnculture seeking equal recognition in schools, the votingrnbooth, and the workplace would be that it conform broadly tornthe liberal political ideas of the Declaration.rnBut what would happen to American ideas in the process?rnYou cannot sever philosophy from its surrounding culture andrnexpect it to develop along the lines of that culture. The ideas ofrnliberty and equality in the Declaration of Independence werernthe distilled essence of a much broader and richer culture includingrnsongs, stories, poems, customs, folkways, shared historicalrnexperience, and the mystic chords of memory. Americansrnwho had no interest in political ideas as such were nonethelessrnshaped by that culture—by the lived experience of a free life —rninto a different sort of people from the inhabitants of closed, traditional,rnor despotic societies. As Paul Johnson points out in hisrnrecent history of the American people, in the century up torn1776, a man might earn enough by his labor to buy a familyrnfarm and establish his independence. In these circumstances,rnLockean liberty and the words of the Declaration were simplyrnan eloquent statement of the common sense of ordinary Americans,rnand the U.S. Constitution constituted their standingrnorders.rnAll this would change in a political environment of multiculturalism.rnLiberal ideas would be increasingly deprived ofrnthe cultural soil in which they grew and which gave themrnmeaning in political debate, court decisions, and local customs.rnThey would develop new meanings, sometimes radicallyrnat odds with their old ones. They would be increasingly definedrnby the courts so as to reconcile them with new versions ofrncommon sense —namely, that all cultures have equal status exceptrnwhen one clashes with feminism, or that separation ofrnchurch and state means separation of religion and society, orrnthat political equality means different rights for different classesrnof people.rnIn the end, the ideas of the Declaration and the clauses of thernConstitution would conform to the tenets of multiculturalismrnrather than the other way around. The task of redefining America’srnideas would place enormous power in the hands of thosernwhose business is words and ideas. And here we come to thernthird underlying cause of America’s identity crisis: multiculturalismrnis more than merely a lagging response to a BalkanizedrnAmerica; it is also a political strategy employed by the New-rnClass of liberal social regulators to divide and rule other Americans.rn22/CHRONICLESrnrnrn