May 14, 2022

Victor Davis Hanson is one of the most respected historian/intellectuals of the conservative movement; I have been an enthusiast of his work going back to my first experience with his erudition and eloquence—The Western Way of War (1989, 2nd ed. 2000), an explanation of why citizen soldiers are so effective and why Western Armies have been so lethal.  Now he is past 24 books and hundreds if not thousands of essays as well as appearances regularly on TV that all provide sober, thought-provoking and insightful political commentary.  Any observer of VDH cannot help but be impressed with his solid and thoughtful analysis of political and social issues, probative and measured.

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 I reviewed Dr. Hanson’s book on WWII at American Thinker in 2018, but I am late to the party on his latest book The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America by Victor Davis Hanson  433 pages Kindle $17.99,  Hardcover  $21.37  ASIN ‏ :  B08W4ZZTTP ‎ (Basic Books 2021).  Two reviews have already appeared at American Thinker by Richard Baehr  and Terry Scambray that are excellent, but when I read the blurb by the distinguished Roger Kimball that named Dying Citizen Hanson’s magnum opus, I was compelled to make the pitch again to readers about the importance of Hanson and his compelling argument for good citizenship as the basis for western civilization and the western ideal of elective self-governance.

Dying Citizen  revisits The Western Way of War theme, the importance of the citizen in a western community/society.  The importance of the citizen as opposed to the role of subjects of a regime, king, prince, emperor, chief, or khan, and the advance of society that is made when citizens govern.  The beginning of Western Civilization is the city state citizen dominated political entities of Greece.

Dr. Hanson is a 3rd generation raisin grape farmer in Selma California, the Central Valley, just outside of Fresno. Classics trained at Stanford, he formed the Classics program at California State University Fresno and became an outstanding author, essayist and commentator as a fellow of the Hoover Institute of Stanford University.  He favored the presidency of Trump as a reinvigoration of American values and a rejection of dangerous elitist states and globalism. This book was written, I believe, to educate the reader on the unique nature of American citizenship and the importance of development of citizenship through history. 

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Chapter One is about peasants (think subjects) and the importance of a development in society of an influential middle class.  Without a vibrant middle class citizenship cannot develop because the society is composed of the noble/master/oligarch group dominating the serfs/peasants/proletariat.  He points out why the decimation of the middle class in America threatens the civic societal American unity.  Welfare statism and dominance by the ruling class elites takes the vitality out of a nation.

The Second Chapter borrows on the basis for one of Hanson’s other successful books, Mexifornia (2003) that warned of the destructive danger of unfettered immigration and the creation of a resident rather than citizen class because of immigrants who have no intention of assimilation and becoming loyal and contributing American Citizens.

Hanson raises the question: do these illegal and even legal immigrants have in mind becoming American citizens or are they just moving to a place that offers benefits and protections and looks better than where they came from?  Sure, people want a better life, but will they become good citizens or just parasites?

Moreover the open borders crowd sees the immigrant population as a political lever that will allow Democrats’ power with no end that fits with the non-assimilating parasitic nature of the immigration flood.  In fact Hanson points out the devolving situation of tribalism and ethnic/racial/religious divisions that will destroy the concept of American Citizenship and allow a growing group of people who refuse to become loyal and contributing citizens of their adopted country.  (Think of the Mexican crowd booing the American Soccer team in a Los Angeles stadium or the La Raza movement.)

The third chapter hits on the most serious threat to American Unity: tribalism and racism in the populace energized by Marxist ideologues. The content of the chapter traces the negative impact of tribalism through history and how it destroys national and societal unity and the spirit of effective citizenship. Hanson puts a deft touch on this discussion because of his deep and comprehensive erudition and his orientation in the foundations of self-governance, Classical Western History and the legacy of the Greeks and Romans.  But he also offers some examples of how things fall apart due to divisions created by nascent tribalism and racism. America is now in the squeeze created by tribalism and racism and Hanson properly exposes the elements of danger and the consequences of failing to extinguish the fires of division.

In this chapter, Hanson also provides an insightful look at the dangers of the modern “equity” political movement that is just reverse racism and allows state action to impose limits on individuals that should not exist in a free society.  Statism, collectivism, racism all act in concert to destroy the American Iconic Land of Opportunity.  Moreover the ideological tenets of the movement are founded in the assertion that America is evil and flawed and deserves nothing but condemnation and destruction—not a good foundation for promoting citizenship.