Nationalism vs patriotism

  • Was the idea of white supremacy built within the prism of nationalism?

George Orwell’s famous statement, “nationalism is ‘the worst enemy of peace’ is reflected in many a nation’s policies bringing wars, interventions of direct and indirect nature, and related negative cascading effects globally. Orwell saw nationalism as a feeling of superiority by one nation over another or many others while patriotism for Orwell was admiration for one’s national culture or many ethnicities within making up the whole complimented by different lifestyles and values.

Nationalists’ focus on their positive points and tend to disregard the deficiencies taking any suggestion of improvement as an insult. Whereas patriots will try to learn from an opposing view. They will not just focus on valuing loyalty, they will also focus on valuing responsibilities. Whereas patriotism will try to review past mistakes and learn from them, nationalism will justify them on various pretexts.

Patriotism does not aim to force its values and lifestyle on others; it is ‘defensive’ in nature. Nationalism reflects in policies of a nation with self-righteousness and a conviction that only their way of doing things is right.

Is USA being increasingly isolated on the global front by Trump’s acting on “America First” by withdrawing from Tans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal and the Global Climate Agreement vacating the chair long occupied by US at the global center stage?

Hitler has used the term “Mein Kampf” throughout in his book where his view is of a rigid, closed ethnic nation formed around an ethnic core in order to unite the nation against internal and external threats. (Smith A. Myths and Memories of the Nation, p. 13.) He had a grand vision of German Reich having an absolute control over Europe for at least a thousand years and with this purpose in mind his aim was to infuse the youth with his dose of nationalism via mass education.

The modern nation having strong streaks of nationalism is interestingly USA. Sociologists Paul DiMaggio of New York University and Bart Bonikowski of Harvard co-authored an interesting paper carried by American Sociological Review, titled, “Varieties of American Popular Nationalism”. The sample taken in the research throws up different kinds of American Nationalists.

The smallest group was of those who were disengaged with deep rooted feelings of identity, taking pride in state institutions and did not endorse strong nationalist beliefs. This group comprised only 17pc of the whole.

The group that feels very close to America is what Bart Bonikowski and Paul DiMaggio calls the “ardent nationalists” comprising 24pc of their research sample. They consider agnostics, Muslims, Jews, naturalised citizens not “true Americans”. They are the most fiercely “proud” nationalists feeling great pride in anything in their opinion one can take pride in, actual or potential.

There is another group of nationalists. Open minded and believing in certain creeds and principles rooted in liberalism for example rule of law, democracy and universalism. They compose 22pc of the sample. Their pride in America is based on enviable values that are broad based and conceptually not restricted to US alone.

The largest group in the sample is defined as the Restrictive Nationalists. This was at 38pc of the total sample. An interesting group; they are not as staunch as the Ardent Nationalists in drawing a line as to who is a “real American”. Their feelings of having national pride may be somewhere two extremes but on certain exclusionary ways they are claimed as being “true” Americans. They are as strong though as the Ardent Nationalist in making a final determination as to who is and who is not a “True American”. This conflict of thoughts coming together forms an interesting contradiction.

The killings at Charlottesville, Virginia not long ago had Trump in a quandary, by “Calling out the racist group for what it is seemed to be one of his hardest challenges yet,” in an article titled, “White Nationalism is now ‘State-Sanctioned’ under Donald Trump, Experts say.” (Chris Riotta)

But was the idea of white supremacy built within the prism of nationalism not present before Trump won elections? The Ku-Klux Clan and the Neo-Nazis had fully been with Trump during his presidential election season hoping Trump once becoming president will both expel minorities and at other levels diminish them re-establishing the yoke of white supremacy.

Trump does feel, as reflected in his policies and speeches, that America is on a downward spiral and must be put back on track by someone (read Trump) who understands this. This can only be done by a leader who understands who the “Real Americans” are. This kind of approach by Trump and his supporters does reflect a limited or restrictive approach towards their nation. First by excluding certain ethnic and religious groups from being “American”, and then if they are not part of the exclusive “real Americans” that can help America be “great” again, the rejected group becomes automatically part of the problem. So the slogan “Make America Great Again” is applied at two levels academically speaking. First on the domestic front and second at the international front. Internationally, too, putting diplomacy at a shelf and bulldozing the way through with an attitude, “My way or the High Way,” is not winning him any brownie points, nor respect to USA. With his approach of “America First” Trump has turned the American foreign policy on its head. The repercussions of the policy by treating allies and other nations as “less” offering “less” respect and “more America First” would mean pushing them away to the other super power-or super power- in waiting.

As we see happening already.

Is USA being increasingly isolated on the global front by Trump’s acting on “America First” by withdrawing from Tans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal and the Global Climate Agreement vacating the chair long occupied by US at the global center stage?

Is the slogan “America First” even understood in its proper context by Trump? Going by this slogan, Trump reduced foreign aids to various nations. Foreign assistance programs have bipartisan support for many reasons. Ingram explained that support crosses party lines because it, “advances three fundamental US interests: it keeps us safe, it meets a moral imperative, and it builds economic prosperity.” (Brookings July 27, 2017)

Combating terrorism by military ops and other civil means for smaller states struggling with a myriad of issues is expensive. Aid helps these smaller nations fight the bigger state’s war so to speak.

End Note: “Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind.”

Albert Einstein