This book concludes by describing Americans' encounters with the First Amendment, which has inscribed its terms upon their minds, not in a linear fashion but rather in a layered experience in which competing ideas and the methods for characterizing those ideas struggled for salience and priority. Study of this collaborative exercise revealed two imperatives: the imperative of the state to mythologize its existence and the imperative of ordinary citizens to find concrete meaning in their political heritage. Ignoring the first risks the possibility that the people will lose sight of their civic identities. In such a world, private preferences dominate public debate and extinguish hope in mutuality. Forgetting the second invites natural advantages and disabilities to dictate who can influence governing ideals and what the terms of debate ought to be. The rule of law then disintegrates into rule by the strong.
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