Will Wilkinson says that Americans aren’t "a people” in the sense that the Japanese, the Kurds, or the Jews are a people."
I agree with respect to the Japanese, but I think he’s almost perfectly wrong with respect to Jews.
He goes on:
The usual idea is that American identity is creedal, or organized around a distinctively American set of ideas and value.s Even the State Department says so! . . .
The trouble is that even when there is widespread agreement on nominally common values, conceptions of those values vary wildly.
My experience with Judaism is limited to having a wife who was raised Jewish (her dad is Jewish her mom is not) and to reading a bunch of history books about the Jews.
But, from this limited perspective, the description of the American identity as creedal with lots of disagreements sounds a lot like Judaism to me. There is lots of ethnic division within the Jewish people. There is obviously a creed, but there is a lot of disagreement about "conceptions of those values." I fail to see the differences that seem so obvious to Wilkinson.
Finally, Wilkinson concludes with:
But any conception of the American creed sufficiently general to encompass most widespread American conceptions of individual freedom, equality, tolerance and so on is going to be so general that it will do very little to distinguish American identity from, say, Canadian identity. And that’s clearly not what Glenn Beck or the staff of National Review have in mind when they talk about American values, promote a conception of American identity, or encourage Americans to see themselves as a people.
Unfortunately, this is precisely wrong (the Right would be so awesome if it was what leftists thought it was). Beck’s version of American identity encompasses virtually everyone – the more diverse the better!
I would love it if we could all agree that the American identity encompassed Canadians but not Kenyan albino traffickers, for example. For some reason, that seems to be too exclusive for Wilkinson.