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Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism (American Empire Project)

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Bill Kauffman

"Here begins the effort to restore a principled conservatism after the havoc wreaked by George W. Bush. Bill Kauffman is a terrific writer and Ain't My America is a terrific—and essential—book."—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The New American … see full wiki

Author: Bill Kauffman
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
1 review about Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History...

Awesome apologetic and manifesto

  • May 29, 2008
When I look over my old reviews on Amazon.com, I notice that I've given a lot of books four or five stars. On the one hand, it makes sense -- if a book's no good, I'm seldom inclined even to finish it, let alone write a review of it. But this creates the problem of what do I do when a book comes along that really merits the highest possible rating? So let me say here that the only reason I am giving "Ain't My America" five stars is because I can't give it six or even seven.

I wish I'd written this book.

"Ain't My America" is not simply one of the number of books coming out these days calling on the GOP to resuscitate its ancient dedication to peace, economy, and small government. Admirable as those books are, "Ain't My America" has a much larger scope, and Bill Kauffman a much more ambitious brief: the dismantling of empire, the rediscovery of community, and the rebirth of the patriotism of home, family, and locality.

It's, frankly, an unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable message. As the son of a navy family, I found myself strangely moved by Kauffman's description of the toll the unrooted military-family lifestyle has on marriages and children -- and while I admit to never having quite thought of it this way before, I find myself in absolute agreement with his contention that "family-values conservatives" should be the strongest opponents of war and militarism, precisely because of the impact those forces have on families and children. Once you accept that, it's hard to deny the author's contention that George W. Bush "is, by policy, the most antifamily president in American history" (p. 216).

And that's just one of the powerful arguments Kauffman presents. It definitely makes we want to track down his other books at the earliest opportunity. So too does his impressive skill as a writer. I particularly enjoyed his facility with the unusual vocabulary word -- though I noted with some disappointment that the flair for this he showed in the introduction and early chapters dissipated somewhat as the book progressed. Souvenirs I carry with me from the first few pages alone include "nescience," "temerarious," "gleet," "omnifariousness," "atrabilious," and "mingy," plus "fossicking about in tramontane sinkholes" and the frankly delightful "the dashing if dotty Samuel F.B. Morse."

As "conservative" pundits and politicians bang the war drums and sing songs in praise of empire, I've been wondering more and more if they would still love America if we weren't a -- even the -- global powerhouse. I suspect they would not, and that Bill Kauffman's vision of a "little America" is one they not only couldn't accept, they might not even be able to imagine it. It ain't their America. But more and more, "unrooted" as I admit to being, I'm coming to think it's mine.

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