American Patriots, by Rick Santorum

January 5, 2013 at 11:04 (Book Reviews, Historical, Politics) (, , , )




The striking thing about this book (one of only two that Santorum has written) is its pithy and generally amoral tone. Santorum himself has some decidedly outspoken views, and is a divisive figure in American politics, but one would hardly know it from reading American Patriots. He is loath to make strong statements, instead cataloguing a series of second-rate personalities from a war distant enough to be non-controversial with a milquetoast, ingratiating sort of voice. He takes great care to include chapters on ethnic minorities, different religions and denominations,¬†and women; and on working-class men, merchants, and aristocrats–no matter how mundane their so-called achievements. Each chapter and each section is meticulously and clinically laid out to produce a disinfected and harshly scrubbed book that ought to appeal to any conscientious American voter. Santorum might not be seeking office right now, but he is plainly still a politician, and his ghostwriter (or writing persona) is much more of a sanitised middle-American than his more forceful image from the 2012 election.

“Having represented the state of Pennsylvania and the Cradle of Liberty–Philadelphia–as a United States senator for twelve years, I wanted to share what I was blessed to be exposed to there: the rich history of the American Revolution”

-American Patriots

It is with this general blandness in mind that the precise nature of the heroes Santorum chooses to venerate falls into sharp contrast. His scattering of “forgotten patriots” is a seething nest of pirates, liars, perjurers, murderers, blackguards, slavers, and traitors. The pages are soaked with blood, and provide a grizzly litany of prisoners-of-war shot and hanged in cold blood, men worked to death in the fields of masters who are held up as shining examples of benevolent slaveowners, knives flashed in the dark, and all sorts of other unsavoury actions. Beside these stories, preachers and statesmen are unironically compared, and the question has to be asked: does America have no more worthwhile heroes, or does Rick Santorum display a stark and confusing hypocrisy in his application of his Christian faith to history?

“Benjamin thought they should simply shoot them all. Not Nancy. Shooting was too good for these redcoats; she wanted them to hang. So they strung up the five remaining soldiers on a nearby tree.”

-American Patriots

This two-faced nature of Santorum’s compilation contributes significantly towards a lack of purpose in this book. There is neither a strong moral message, nor indeed a central exposition: only a seemingly-random series of various historical footnotes, stretched nearly to breaking point to scarcely fill out a hundred pages. Admittedly in spite of the bowdlerised and offensively inoffensive editorialising, the writing is smooth and constructed with care and skill, but the simplest answer to the problems in this book is that it is not really intended to be read. It is a very pretty book, with an excellent cover design and some fancy printing in the pages, but this is a book made to be gifted and displayed upon one’s bookshelf to announce a political worldview, and perhaps to be idly glanced at to pass time. To say that it is an empty book written by an empty writer would perhaps be calumnious; but it might at least be close to the mark.


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