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What's so Great About America by Dinesh D'Souza

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we heard a great deal about "why they hate us" and why America is so bad. In the meantime, we've endured lengthy lectures from multicultural activists about America's history of slavery. Leftists continue to fulminate about American foreign policy, which they blame for most of the evils in the world. Cultural pessimists, some of them conservative, deplore the materialism of American life and the excesses and degradation of American culture. Clearly, anti-Americanism doesn't just find support in cafes in Cairo, Tehran, and Paris; it is also a home-grown phenomenon. In the view of America's critics, both domestic and foreign, America can do no right.

This indictment has the effect of undermining the patriotism of Americans at a time when America's challenges in the world require the enduring patriotic attachment of its citizens. America's critics are aiming their assault on America's greatest weakness, which is not military vulnerability but a lack of moral self-confidence. Americans cannot effectively fight for their country without believing that their country is good and that they are fighting in a just cause. With Edmund Burke, Americans tend to believe that "to make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely."

Is America worthy of a reflective patriotism that doesn't mindlessly assert, "My country, right or wrong," but rather examines the criticisms of America and finds them wanting? As an immigrant who has chosen to become an American citizen, I believe that it is. Having studied the criticisms of America with care, my conclusion is that the critics have a narrow and distorted understanding of America. They exaggerate American faults, and they ignore what is good and even great about America.

The immigrant is in a good position to evaluate American society because he is able to apply a comparative perspective. Having grown up in a different society-in my case, Mumbai, India-I am able to identify aspects of America that are invisible to people who have always lived here. As a "person of color," I am competent to address such questions as what it is like to be a nonwhite person in America, what this country owes its minority citizens, and whether immigrants can expect to be granted full membership in this society. While I take seriously the issues raised by the critics of America, I have also developed an understanding of what makes America great, and I have seen the greatness of America reflected in my life. Unlike many of America's homegrown dissidents, I am also acutely conscious of the daily blessings that I enjoy in America.

Here, then, is my list of what makes America great.

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