Goldman responds to commentators who believe that Americans must return to some overarching identity and purpose. He argues that this task is difficult when the conditions that allowed previous unity no longer exist. Moreover, nationalists do not reasonably explain programs that could reignite a meaningful shared identity.
The Christmas story doesn’t tell us how to reconcile the virtues and the vices of universal cosmopolitanism and local loyalty. But it suggests that we can somehow try to be true to both ideals: to be loyal members of our nations, our families, our tribes—and at the same time to reach out to the broader human community of which we are also a part.
Renewed debates over history reveal the narratives that conservatives and progressives employ to justify or decry American history. One narrative insists on lionizing historical figures, the other on demonizing them—yet both distract from the ongoing pursuit of the American ideals of justice, liberty, and equality.