OPINIONSrnAn American Bhagavadgitarnby James Hillrn’The United States of America —the greatest potential force,rnmaterial, moral, and spiritual, in the world.”rn—G. Lowes DickinsonrnA History of the American Peoplernby Paul JohnsonrnNew York: HarperCollins;rn1088 pp., $35.00rnFor Paul Johnson, American historv’rnwas a non-subject in his days at Oxfordrnand its School of Modern Histon,’ inrnthe 1940’s. “Nothing was said of America,rnexcept insofar as it lay on the marginsrnof English history,” Johnson writes. “1 dornnot recall any course of lectures onrnAmerican history, as such.” This, as itrnturned out, was actually to his advantage.rn”As a result of this lacuna in my education,rnI eventually came to American historyrncompletely fresh, with no schoolboyrnor student prejudices or antipathies.”rnHis critics will say he has picked uprnquite a few in the ensuing years, but letrnthat ride. The question one must ask is:rnHas this highly opinionated Englishmanrncontributed to Americans’ understandingrnof their history? The answer is yes,rnwith a few reservations. A greater questionrnmight be whether Americans willrnappreciate his judgments, and here Irnthink the odds are only so-so since we, asrna people, are plainly in the process of de-rnAmericanizing ourselves and our institutions.rnJohnson, while viewing this phenomenonrnwith concern, neverthelessrnconcludes his book on an optimisticrnnote: he is betting that the Americanrnpeople, ultimately, will arrest their longrnfree fall. I am not so sure.rnWhat, really, makes someone anrnAmerican? For most of the country’s recentrnhistory, at least, citizenship was thernJames Hill writes from Scottsdale,rnArizona.rndefining element: you take the oath, yournbecome an American. (An interestingrncuriosity, however, is that native-bornrnAmericans, as opposed to Native Americans,rncontinue to identify themselves asrnCalifornians, Virginians, Kansans, NewrnEnglanders, Westerners, or Southernersrnfirst, and as Americans second —proofrnthat the country remains less a “nation”rnthan a federation of states and regions,rneach with its own cultural, geographic,rnand economic peculiarities.) Today,rnhowever, one can be a “hyphenatedrnAmerican” without, in fact, being anrnAmerican at all. The test is in gettingrnover the border by whatever means possible,rnand the U.S. Constitution, as it hasrnbeen interpreted of late, takes over fromrnthere, conferring on you almost unlimitedrnprotections and benefits, includingrnthe right to vote. We are in danger of hyphenatingrnaway our nationhood, whilernthe political pandering to the hyphenatesrnthemselves risks undoing the 400 years ofrnnation-building and nationhood Johnsonrncelebrates.rnWorse, it risks destioying our ability torndevelop a coherent foreign policy in therncountry’s interest at a time when we findrnourselves the world’s only superpower,rnand too often the world’s policeman. Inrnthe post-World War II era, this liabilityrnhas manifested itself primarily in Washington’srnunquestioned support of Israelrn—a policy that is currently beingrnmodified by the power of the growingrnArab- and Islamic-American lobby. Thernnational interest is additionally compromisedrnby the Irish-American lobby, byrnCuban-American enemies of Fidel Castro,rnby Chinese-Americans fighting arndiplomatic war of liberation from Americanrnsoil, and by aggressive Mexican-rnAmericans seeking to replace Anglo-rnAmerican culture with their own,rn”Hispanic” one. Assimilation, on thernother hand, is usually a no-win proposition.rnTake the Serbs, a people who havernbeen in America in large numbers forrnmore than a century and who, despiterntheir continued adherence to OrthodoxrnChristianity, have gladly thrown themselvesrninto the melting pot. Marginalizedrnin the debate concerning Americanrnpolicy in the Balkans, they must endurerndaily the depiction of their people asrnracist murderers and rapists. Palestinian-rnAmericans, having spent years assimilatingrnbefore challenging finally America’srnreflexive support of Israel, know thernfeeling. So do German-Americans,rnJapanese-Americans, and others who,rnhaving committed themselves to the assimilationistrnideal, found themselves atrnone time or another on the wrong side ofrn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn