Patriotism Defended: A Hero in an Un-Heroic Age: Walter Burns

Jeffrey Neuzil

Well-Known Member
Nov 30, 2007
Professor Berns: It is with no inconsiderable amount of trepidation and anxiety with which I write what I am going to write to you; for I am sure the my name is probably synonomous with some amount of infamy in "Straussian," circles—not all of whom, I am convinced, understand the teaching of that revered demi-god as philosopher. Revered by nobody more than me: For as a lover of the work of Leo Strauss, considering that I interpret him to have placed the value of the"Truth" above the value of men as such, I do not—as a matter of duty—have the luxury of being a "flatterer" of Dr. Strauss; I took, and take, Mr. Strauss seriously, deadly seriously, especially when he said that one must strive to understand a thinker as he understood himself—at this I have made a titanic effort, although at this stage I am willing to admit that in some ways I have gotten his teaching completely wrong; on the other hand (I still have two and would like to keep them), I think I have made a fundamental contribution (which I hope is not a sacrifice) to Strauss studies, for I assert, in the face of many a denier and much "noise" in my neighborhood, that Strauss' teaching was fundamentally linked to—which is not to say sympathetic to in all respects—that of Heidegger and Nietzsche, and that his teaching was that of a revolutionary, not a conservative simply: for as Strauss somewhere says, the conservative would have noting to conserve, if it were not for the radical ant-conservative who creates something to be conserved—it could not have been better stated, and this is where I clash with those who fail, through what I think is willful obscrantism, to acknowledge that Dr. Strauss was interested in "theology" in a way that some have not even dreamed could be true. Therefore, I assert that, as a philosopher in the eugenic tradition begun by Plato and Aristotle, continued by Maimonides, and culminated by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Strauss, Schmitt and Kojeve, that strauss' political philosophy has both a biological, eugenic component and a cosmological and cosmos altering component: simply stated He loved the "Clouds," and that involves the mushroom clouds of the Manhattan Project:—
Now I am become death destroyer of worlds, said Oppenheimer pardoxically?!
I find myself in somewhat of the position of Winston Smith of 1984 (a big year for Strauss, whether anyone chooses to admit it or not) wondering and wandering around our (hour) Great Tradition (Socratic in origin: leaving open the mystery of the identity of that divine daimonic Dionysian personage?) and trying to discover the meaning and content of the past; seeking to be "patriotic" but finding myself as devoid of knowledge of what the past was and is (if it is now what it once was?), and therefore trying desperately to answer a simple but complex question: What is Political Philosophy?—and, more fundamentally, how has it transformed our world? And which world, if there are morethan one, deserves to be defended: A philosophy of the past, or a philosophy of the future? No choice more fundamental exists, I submit: And none in this cave of politics is harder to make: It was today when I first got a chance to listen to portions of the book I heard you speak elequently about on Booknotes that it dawned on me what an extremely elequent defense you have made for a "fallen virtue"—for this alone, if I had the power to do so, I would inscribe your name on the tablets of eternity! America will not survive unless freedom is defended, and freedom cannot be defended, unless it exists and is believed in and cherished! Your passionate exhortation for us to rise and practice this virtue will be trumpeted by me as I seek to discover what it is to be America and urge others to the same query and quest. Long live our great republic and defenders of it like yourself in an age devoid of this "concern."
Sincerely yours,
Jeffrey Scott Neuzil