"We have frequently printed the word Democracy, yet I cannot too often repeat that it is a word the real gist of which still sleeps, quite unawakened, not withstanding the resonance and the many angry tempests out of which its syllables have come, from pen or tongue. It is a great word, whose history, I suppose, remains unwritten, because that history has yet to be enacted."

— Walt Whitman in Democratic Vistas (1871)

Cornel West, the brilliant and prolific African-American public intellectual, takes a hard look at the waning of the United States' energies under the umbrella of "an ugly imperialism that has been aided by an unholy alliance of the plutocratic elites and the Christian Right." Furthermore, democracy is threatened by three anti-democratic dogmas:

1. Free-market fundamentalism animated by a corporate-dominated political economy
2. Aggressive militarism with the most and biggest weapons
3. Escalating authoritarianism.

West calls upon American citizens to speak out against the amoral corruption of plutocratic forces with the three moral pillars of Socratic questioning, prophetic witness, and tragicomic hope. These values and visions can then be applied to counter the continued toxins of nihilism in the U.S. and the destructive forging of Jewish and Islamic violence. They will also be helpful when engaging with youth culture.