Patriotism v. Nationalism

Do you remember Sydney Harris? He was a syndicated columnist who died in 1986. I used to love his column.

Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest,” but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is. — Sydney J. Harris

I’ve been struggling with ideas about patriotism v. nationalism. And then I looked in Bartlett’s Quotations and rediscovered Sydney Harris.

The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.

I miss Sydney Harris. But here’s another good quote on patriotism and nationalism, from some other guy:

Patriotism is a lively sense of collective responsibility. Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on its own dunghill and calling for larger spurs and brighter beaks. I fear that nationalism is one of England’s many spurious gifts to the world. — Richard Aldington

“Responsibility” seems to be a common theme:

What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility … a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. — Adlai Stevenson

I’m sure by now you see where I’m going with this: Righties are not patriots, but nationalists. And I’m arguing that one of the basic differences between a patriot and a nationalist is that patriots value responsibility. This includes the citizen’s responsibility to his country, a country’s responsibility to its citizens, and the responsibility of a country and its citizens to the rest of the world.

Nationalists, on the other hand, do not value responsibility. They value loyalty, and their loyalty is a type of tribalism. The loyalty may not necessarily be to one’s fellow citizens, but only to members of their tribe. You know the righties feel absolutely no loyalty to us lefties, for example, even though we are fellow-citizens.

The right Americans are the right Americans because they’re not like the wrong Americans, who are not really Americans. — Eric J. Hobsbawm (b. 1917), British historian

Further, nationalists feel no sense of responsibility for the actions of their country. No matter what the country does, the nationalist will either justify it or deny it. Just speaking of the wrongdoing of one’s country is “disloyal” to a nationalist.

Cal Thomas is a nationalist, not a patriot. Recently he wrote,

Last Sunday, Gore spoke to the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia. … Gore told his audience, many of whom have been educated at American universities, that after 9/11 Arabs in the United States were “indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable.” … Gore also claimed there were “terrible abuses” of the detainees, but he failed to provide any examples, and media calls to his office produced none.

Thomas should have called the U.S. Department of Justice. In June 2003 the Justice Department’s inspector general issued a report of the results of an internal, but independent investigation. The report reveals that the FBI and immigration authorities seized hundreds of Arabs and South Asians after 9/11 and subjected them to severe prison conditions with barely a nod to due process. A summary of the report is here. The complete report, in PDF format, is here.

Amazing what three minutes of googling will turn up, isn’t it? You’d think a “journalist” like Cal Thomas would figure these things out. Anyway, Thomas continues,

For Gore to make his anti-American remarks in Saudi Arabia is at least as bad as what Nazi sympathizers said in this country and abroad leading up to and during World War II.

One definition of “treason” at is: Violation of allegiance toward one’s country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one’s country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies. By any objective standard, Gore’s remarks in Saudi Arabia appear to fit the definition.

Does Thomas not realize an audience of U.S-educated Saudis must have known already about the rights violations detailed in the Justice Department report? Or does he think simple brown natives won’t find such things out unless we tell them? (Puh-leeze … )

What really ticked off Thomas was that, in his eyes, Gore’s admission to a pack of foreigners that America had done something wrong was an act of disloyalty. But acknowledging wrongdoing is an act of taking responsibility. Taking responsibility is what patriots do. Denying that one’s country is ever at fault is what nationalists do.

And if you really want to find an American aiding America’s enemies, Cal, take a look at the Oval Office.

Seems to me that the easiest way to tell a patriot from a nationalist is to apply the “responsibility” test. When the U.S. is at fault, a patriot considers it a duty to speak up and say so. But where a patriot sees responsibility, a nationalist just sees disloyalty. The nationalist will say something like “why are you tearing down your country? Why don’t you talk about this bad thing another country did?” I’m sure you’ve heard speeches like that, many times. And the answer is, because I’m not responsible for that other country. I’m responsible for my country. Nationalists don’t get that.

[Update: The Poor Man finds an example.]

This is from the late, great Erich Fromm:

Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. “Patriotism” is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by “patriotism” I mean that attitude which puts the own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one’s own nation, which is the concern with the nation’s spiritual as much as with its material welfare–never with its power over other nations. Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.

Fromm puts patriotism in quotation marks; I assume he is using the word in an ironic sense. But speaking of idolatrous worship, last Thursday Dave Neiwert posted about “The Conservative faith” at Orcinus. Responding to Glenn Greenwald’s must-read post “Do Bush followers have a political ideology?” Dave argues that what passes for current “conservatism” is a kind of political religion, a critter defined this way by Wikipedia:

In the terminology of some scholars working in sociology, a political religion is a political ideology with cultural and political power equivalent to those of a religion, and often having many sociological and ideological similarities with religion. Quintessential examples are Marxism and Nazism, but totalitarianism is not a requirement (for example neo-liberalism can be analysed as a political religion).

… The term political religion is a sociological one, drawing on the sociological aspects of religion which can be often be found in certain secular ideologies. A political religion occupies much the same psychological and sociological space as a theistic religion, and as a result it often displaces or coopts existing religious organisations and beliefs; this is described as a “sacralisation” of politics. However, although a political religion may coopt existing religious structures or symbolism, it does not itself have any independent spiritual or theocratic elements – it is essentially secular, using religion only for political purposes, if it does not reject religious faith outright.

Dave Neiwert continues to present, IMO, a solid case that current contemporary “conservatism” is more a nascent political religion than a political philosophy. And this explains much about the righties’ attitude toward American non-righties. We are not just the political opposition; we are apostate. We are blasphemers. We are heretics.

One of the most maddening traits of righties is that they cannot wrap their heads around the simple truth that those of us who oppose the Bush Administration have lots of reasons for doing so. How many times has a critic of Bush policy been dismissed as “just a Bush hater”? It doesn’t matter what facts or documentation the critic presents. It’s all swept away with the simple explanation — Bush hater. Or liberal. Which takes us back to Glenn Greenwald’s observation that anyone who criticises the Bush Regime becomes a “liberal” in the minds of righties, no matter if that individual is as politically conservative as cheesy eagle art. Glenn writes,

People who self-identify as “conservatives” and have always been considered to be conservatives become liberal heathens the moment they dissent, even on the most non-ideological grounds, from a Bush decree. That’s because “conservatism” is now a term used to describe personal loyalty to the leader (just as “liberal” is used to describe disloyalty to that leader), and no longer refers to a set of beliefs about government.

If you understand Bush cultism as a religious faith, then the behavior of Bush supporters becomes, if not understandable, at least recognizable. In their minds, whatever we say is blasphemy; through us, Satan himself speaks. The righteous must plug their ears and refuse to listen.

Religion and nationalism do tend to get mixed up together into the same toxic, warmongering soup. This is precisely what is going on in the Muslim world; Islam as nationalism. You can find examples of enmity sorting itself into religious/ethnic camps in many parts of Africa, Asia, and around the globe. Perhaps as nation-states become more multiethnic and religiously pluralistic, the urge to form enemies and make war is being driven out of the hands of governments and into the hands of charismatic religious/ethnic leaders, like Osama bin Laden. We should note that even though encyclopedias still define the word nationalism as “loyalty to a nation-state,” which would certainly apply to most 20th-century nationalist movements, nationalists can defy existing political boundaries and organize themselves around an ideal of “nation” that excludes existing borders and governments. But that’s a topic a bit too ambitious for Sunday morning.

Let’s go back to Cal Thomas for a moment. Last week Citizen K of DKos wrote a post called “Cal Thomas: the republican call for Leninism and blasphemy” in which the Citizen argued that righties like Thomas “illustrates the takeover of American discourse by Leninist ideology.” Citizen K quotes Lenin saying that anyone who vacillates from the positions worked out by Soviet political leaders “objectively can have only one result … helping the imperialists to provoke the Russian Soviet Republic into a battle that will obviously be to its disadvantage ….” And Citizen K compares this to Thomas’s “By any objective standard, Al Gore’s remarks in Saudi Arabia appear to fit the definition [of treason].” Citizen K concludes,

Because Lenin (and Cal Thomas) are omniscient, anyone who disagrees with them is “objectively” treasonous. The use of this language by Thomas is no coincidence – the neo-cons are a movement of Leninists. The essence of Leninism is Power. Lenin was happy to switch back and forth from capitalism (NEP) to communism, from elections to bullets, from a strong war policy to surrender as long as he retained and built power. The US leninists have the same flexibility. For them, political positions are simply valuable propaganda or not. Balanced budget/unbalanced budgets, gun control/gun banning, anti-choice/”moderation”, gay marriage bans/hiring Cheney’s daughter for gay/lesbian outreach and so on. The suckers who kept trying to find high minded socialism in Lenin were no more or less gullible than the “conservatives” who look for some “conservatism” in Bush/Cheney’s policies. The only consistency is Power.

In the Soviet Union, loyalty to the Communist Party and its leaders largely replaced religion. We aren’t anywhere close to that point here, of course. I do think it can be argued that, in America, the conservative political religion has largely co-opted (and corrupted) Christianity for its own purposes. And I think it can be argued that much of what passes for “Christianity” in America is a political-religious mythos that is Christian on the surface but something else entirely in its heart. But that’s another topic a bit too ambitious for Sunday morning.

Later, today or tomorrow, I plan to post something about politics and psychopathology that ties into this post. But I’ve gone on long enough for now.

Let’s close with some more quotes:

Nationalism is militant hatred. It is not love of our countrymen: that, which denotes good citizenship,
philanthropy, practical religion, should go by the name of patriotism. Nationalism is passionate xenophobia. It is
fanatical, as all forms of idol-worship are bound to be. And fanaticism…obliterates or reverses the distinction
between good and evil. Patriotism, the desire to work for the common weal, can be, must be, reasonable: “My
country, may she be right!” Nationalism spurns reason: “Right or wrong, my country.” –Albert L. Guerard

Nationalism … is the worship of the collective power of a local human community. Unlike the faith in progress through science, nationalism is not a new religion; it is a revival of an old one. This was the religion of the city-states of the pre-Christian Greco-Roman world. It was resuscitated in the West at the Renaissance, and this resuscitation of the Greco-Roman political religion has been far more effective than the resuscitation of the Greco-Roman style of literature, visual art, and architecture. Modern Western nationalism, inspired by Greco-Roman political ideals and institutions, has inherited the dynamism and fanaticism of Christianity. Translated into practice in the American and French Revolutions, it proved to be highly infectious. Today, fanatical nationalism is perhaps 90 percent of the religion of perhaps 90 percent of mankind. — A.J. Toynbee


Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception. — George Orwell

Update: See Digby, “Political Religion.

46 thoughts on “Patriotism v. Nationalism

  1. Mary Matalin on “Meet The Press” now defending Cheney shooting Harry Whittington. Her story is such a croc. It’s been reported before that she has breakfast every Saturday at Karl Rove’s along with 2 others for what Karl called “eggies”. I’m sure that he told her what to say last week about the story. It also looks like Mary may have had a little surgery performed. What’s with the big flower pin–way too big.

  2. Excellent post, Maha.

    I just don’t understand it all. How can any American think our government is always right. Impossible. And to let mistakes happen or bad policy to be implemented without our speaking out is just plain wrong.

    Was Clinton perfect, or Kennedy or Lincoln. Not at all. Is shrub? Hahaha. Silly question. The fact is we must question. It is “our” country and not shrub’s only.

    We are THE super power…right now. There is an obligation there to do our best to be an example to the world. I’m not impressed with the example we’re setting right now.

    I’m no child. I’ve been around the block a few times. At this point the US is acting exactly like the former Soviet Union and doing the same things we feared and hated about that regime. You feel free now? You are STUPID!

  3. When talk of nationalism v patriotism emerges, I have always turned to the Orwell essay. Unfortunately, I have found all too often that many of the religious “nationalists” in this country just do not understand the difference between nationalism and patriotism, even after reading the essay. In several global dissucsion groups I was involved in at the time, Orwell’s essay came up during the early Afghan war and again during the early invasions of Iraq. And then it is quickly dropped.

    Nationalism v patriotism has not been sufficiently pointed out, in my opinion. It seems to be buried each time people like Cal Thomas are confronted with actual history of nationalism and patriotism during the last century and the parallels in the US today.

    Perhaps, as you get this discussion restarted, it might catch on, or at least go a little further than I have seen it go in the past.

  4. I just gave your post a cursory precoffee reading and it appears you’re going to strike a nerve with your unamericanism and blasphemy of eagle art.. Oh, you’re in trouble now, girl.

    I will re-read it and try to post a sober’ve put a lot on the plate.

  5. Lynne (and everybody) — for more along the lines of the Simon Jenkins Sunday Times article, read “Are We Safer?” by David Cole in The New York Review of Books. ‘Twill probably be the subject of a future post.

  6. A few years ago, in college, I rented a room in my apartment to a Jordanian Arab post graduate student. It was during the first Iraq war and we had numerous discussions during this uncomfortable time. Ahmed stated that Islam and the Islamic (future, in his mind) state were inseparable in the view of Muslims, at least in the Middle East. I admit to having trouble wrapping my mind around this idea, having grown up with American ideals of separation.

    It appears to me that Islam and the pan-Arab state are one and the same, thus binding nationalism and religion in the minds of millions.
    I realize that this is not the only example and that we have ample numbers here at home with the same goals, only the religion is different!

  7. Now that the issue is defined, who will teach the masses how to turn a Nationalist into Patriot? Jim

  8. maha – I agree with no. 2 comment – Great Post.

    I posted my comment no 1 before I read the post as I just had to vent. Now that I’ve read completely and read all the posts, I should have said that Mary Matalin was talking Nationalism again. The pink pin comment that I made was “catty”. However, Dick the Dick was wearing a “Pink” tie when he spoke in Wyoming last Friday. I don’t think it was a coincidence that she was wearing pink also.

    I also agree with spiiderweb last paragraph – comment no 2 that the “U.S. is acting like former Soviet Union”. I can remember learning in school that the Soviet people were being fed propaganda. We are definitely being “fed” now.

    You are so correct, maha, “religion and nationalism do tend to get mixed up together in same toxic soup”. Who ever gave the Republicans the right to hijack the word, “Patriotic” in the “Patriotic Act”. They have given a negative spin to the word.

    Swami’s number 5 comment is correct – you better watch out maha. There will be no more “private” phone conversations for you girl.

  9. Excellent post, Maha.

    If you can, check out Olivia Ward’s article, “Still the Enemy”, published in today’s Toronto Star (Feb. 19) .

    The introduction says, “Three years after the invasion of Iraq and more than five years since 9/11, real dissent in the United States is next to impossible. People who speak out against George W. Bush and his administration are paying a steep personal price…”

    It’s an excellent companion article to your post, and clearly highlights the struggle of American “patriots” (your meaning of the word) who are attempting to stand up to the nationalistic Bush administration.

    It also dovetails well with your post on why you hate the Democrats:

    “Poll ratings [for Bush] are skidding, scandals are on the upswing, the “i” word…is fluttering on the horizon…

    But are his [Bush’s] opponents declaring victory?…


    On the contrary, those who have famously trumpeted their critical views of Bush are still in the political doghouse…Even as the tide of public opinion turns, critics of American policy since 9/11 continue to pay a damaging price for their opinions.”

  10. How about some Al Franken?

    “They (conservatives) don’t get it. We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America the way a four-year old loves her mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a four-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world. That’s why we liberals want America to do the right thing. We know America is the hope of the world, and we love it and want it to do well. We also want it to do good.”

  11. Barbara,

    Thanks for giving us something to teethe on this Sunday. I read you faithfully every day and appreciate you taking the time to write. Unlike you, I don’t get a chance to interact on an intellectual level with adults on an everyday basis; my usual exchanges are with 6-9 year olds. I am very much a seeker after the truth and not afraid to make a fool of myself in order to learn something.

  12. Good post. Explains how you see Americans who are so “proud” they fly their flag on their car(till its filthy) but cannot pickup the trash in their own yard. Or patriots who cannot see the need to support their country by supporting their neighborhood, their city or their fellow citizens…

  13. Bush tries to push Nationalism on every issue including environment. Read today’s edition of The New York Times. See the article written by Michael Janofsky, “Bush’s Chat with Novelist Alarms Environmentalists”.

  14. The eagle art was a nice touch! (Sixth one looks a little “unpatriotic” to me, however??)

    Truly, Maha – a well put together piece. I’m showing this one to my kids. I wish I’d had it a couple of years ago to show my parents. I’ve been trying to explain all this to them for years. I realize sadly that they’re getting too old and frail now for vigorous, emotional discussions like this. But I echo Jim. How does one get the word out?

    Simon Jenkins’ article “take a look at the oval office” was ultimately more reassuring, at the end, than anything I have ever heard from the Bush Administration.

    I’m going to take my time with your post this morning, Maha, and soak it all in.

  15. Oh! I think the pink flower pin that Mary Matalin was wearing on “Meet the Press” today is a turdblossom. This is also Bush’s nickname for Karl Rove.

  16. Is there a connection between nationalism and the religious views one has?

    I strongly suspect there is, though I don’t have specific knowledge in the area. Bush is a messianic figure for the right wingers, who very often are thanking God for giving us Dubya. One can’t be mistaken if God is on his side, which dovetails well with the definitions of nationalism given by Maha.

    Also, are there measurable psychological differences between liberals and Bush conservatives? Again, I strongly suspect there is.

  17. And of course it’s ironic that the Christian nationalists have been so important in forming the Islamist movement in Iraq.

    Juan Cole recently related an interview of Moqtada el Sadr by al Jazeera.

    Consciously or not, they are making sure they have another enemy to fight, now that the Soviet Union is a quasi-friend.

  18. Great post Barbara! Once again you are right on!Post’s like this one are the reason you were nominated for “best writer”…I hope it is ok that a put a link to this post on my own blog.

    Recently I found a 2004 article from the Moscow times called “The Bush Cult and American madness” that touches on nationalism and religion. If you can find it , it is worth a read.Also Raw Story , ran a piece by John Steinberg called “The church of Bush ” that was very insightful from the nationalism/religion angle.

    Great comments!! Donna, love the Franken quote!

  19. “Consciously or not, they are making sure they have another enemy to fight, now that the Soviet Union is a quasi-friend.”

    Very astute, Steve. It’s like an addiction, isn’t it? Rather than face withdrawal, let’s just find another drug? To those of us who are “drug free,” their behavior is pathetic. I’d feel sorry for them if they weren’t in charge!

  20. Babs,

    Excellent! I remember Sydney J. Harris well, and still have a collection of his columns from the sixties. His “antics with semantics” feature was one of my favorites. Another quote I recall is “You cannot understand your own position unless you can understand the opposite of your position.” I think you’re doing a great job of that.

  21. “This isn’t “politics as usual” – not even an extreme version of it, not McCarthyism revisited, Reaganism times two, or Nixon in a Stetson hat. There’s never been anything like it in American life before: a messianic cult backed by vast corporate power, a massive cadre of religious zealots, a highly disciplined party, an overwhelming media machine and the mammoth force of history’s most powerful government – all led by men who “create new realities” out of lies, blood, theft and torment.” – from “Moscow Times”

    Wow, justme, powerful and scary stuff.

  22. I remember Sidney Harris and I’m pretty sure I have cut out columns of his in my bible.
    As for what Mr. Gore said about men being rounded up after 9/11, I know for a fact that it is true. In Evansville, IN, seven men were picked up and driven to Chicago by federal agents. The men are Egyptian and one of them had a jealous wife who didn’t like it because her husband sent money to his family in Egypt. She called federal agents who checked up on the men. It turns out one of them, a restaurant owner had been taking flying lessons.
    The men were lucky because the community stood up for them. The man who was taking flying lessons had a lawyer for a father-in-law, thank goodness. Still, it took sometime before the men were released. The one man whose jealous wife called federal agents was deported.

  23. Great post Barbara.
    You were VERY kind to Cal thomas. I read his column Thursday morn. I’m trying very hard to be a better person, but Mr. Thomas makes me see red, pisses me off to the 10th power.
    Anyway, it appears that your readership has expanded quite a bit, as evidenced by the increased comments, a high five to you for that!!

  24. Insightful and provocative, as usual. And if I may, I’d like to post a link (not OT, but tangential at best) to an AP article regarding the World Council of Churches issuing a denouncement of the war in Iraq.;_ylt=Av_qMFSnuFdZic49ebeVI6FvzwcF;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA–
    I find it heartening that the more ‘mainstream’ Christians are addressing the actions of the ‘political’ christians.

  25. Excellent article, it explains in good terms what I feel has been happening to our Country. The only observation I would make is that Fundamentalist Religions and the government are becoming one and the same. Fundamentalists see Bush as representative of their religion.

  26. Well done, and ties many things together.
    One book which I think provides another view of the current situation is “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer. Published in 1951, but so applicable to the fundamentalist religious-political entwinement.

  27. Any subgroup that fuels itself with outrage and righteous indignation lacks the ability to sustain valid leadership over time to the group-as-a-whole. When their leadership begins to fail, as it must, they become more shrill, more pulled into themselves and more “one-up” in their behavior (targeting and blaming away from self, feeling greater than, “If only you knotheads would clean up your act, then we would really have a great country”. They are doomed to leadership breakdown, its just a matter of time. The key is not to be pulled into one’s own “one-up” in reaction and to keep an authentic voice.

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  29. I beam with pride knowing that my country uses torture..I’m not one of those weak Americans who worry about what others may think..America, love her or leave her!

    I just read an article where Rumsfeld claims we’re losing the PR portion in the war on terrorism. He claims e-mails, blackberrys, and blogs are the reason why.. Yeah, those damned bloggers blew the invasion of Iraq, the torturing in secret prisons,abu Ghraib,the killing of innocent Pakistanis all out of porportion.

    It seems like a bunch of towelheads and goatherders are more sophisicated than America’s public relations machine. Is Karen Hughes falling down on the job?

  30. He claims e-mails, blackberrys, and blogs are the reason why.

    Yeah, take those infernal communications devices away, and we’ll all be just fine. Righties will justify it by saying that the Constitution may guarantee a right of free speech, but it doesn’t say anything about a right to own a blackberry.

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  32. I would say the opposite.
    America is not a nation, only a government. And would define patriotism as rabid blind following.
    Within America consists the African nation, Aztlan, Celtic tribes, Anglo-saxons, Scandinavians, Italians, assorted tuetons, the Mulatoes, various mixed races, wogs, and New York/Hollywood/New Zion. All sorts of different nations.
    Anti-nationalism is an attempt to vilify mainly “evil” white European races who in reality have little stake in an America controlled by New Zion/Big Israel. America is of decreasing value to irreverent guiltless people recovering peices of their old world heritage. Bush/our governors are all israeli opsessed nutjobs.

  33. America is not a nation, only a government. And would define patriotism as rabid blind following.

    “Nationalism” is rabid blind following. Patriotism is not.

    Within America consists the African nation, Aztlan, Celtic tribes, Anglo-saxons, Scandinavians, Italians, assorted tuetons, the Mulatoes, various mixed races, wogs, and New York/Hollywood/New Zion. All sorts of different nations.

    Oh, for pity’s sake, that’s absurd. For example, I am a tenth-generation American. My ancestors include early Pennsylvania Dutch, various Scots-Irish hillbillies, one of the first German Lutheran pastors in the colonies (and he was a descendant of one of Martin Luther’s students who became spiritual advisor to Austro-Hungarian royalty), several generations of Welsh stonecutters, and lots of threads we can’t trace to anywhere but may not have been European at all. I had ancestors who fought in the American Revolution who were already second- and third-generation themselves. My foremothers scratched gardens out of the wilderness and gave birth in frontier log cabins. One of my great-great grandfathers marched through Georgia with Crazy Bill Sherman. My grandfather went to France with General Pershing. Etc. etc.

    So what is my “nation”?

    My family history is deeply entwined with my country’s history. The United States is my country, and I love my country. Not blindly, but with a sense of respect for what my ancestors helped create, plus a sense of responsibility for that creation.

    This past summer I got a chance to go to Wales and meet some of my distant relatives. The Welsh are a nation-within-a-nation with complicated loyalties; British but not English. And I throughly enjoyed being there and soaking in the family heritage — I got to see the very cottage one of my great-grandfathers grew up in — but Wales is not my country. The United States is my country. And all the African, Aztlan, Celtic, Anglo-saxon, Scandinavians, Italians, Germanic, etc. Americans are my fellow countrymen.

    If you are a United States citizen and feel “America is not a nation, only a government,” I would say the deficiency is in you, and not in the United States. But perhaps you’d be happier somewhere else.

  34. That distinction between nation and state is a valid one but I’ve only ever heard it used by cultural and political geographers. We really aren’t a good example of a nation at all in the technical sense of the word. But that’s not what your post was about.

    Something’s been making me nuts since this UAE story started humming. I’m opposed to the UAE deal because I don’t want that particular foreign government managing our poorly secured ports. I’m also opposed to the rampant, kill-the-poor globalization that’s going on now. Do you think that that automatically make me a crazy xenophobe or just someone who can’t make the case against “free trade” cogently?

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  38. In studying ideas set forth by Barbara Ehrenreich I came across this blog article. It is so wonderfully constructed.
    Ehrenreich takes the point further in “Blood Rites” and looks at three recent examples of “religious nationalism”. One being “the ritualized ‘patriotism’ that emerged in the postwar United States.” The book is not focused on this topic, but is worth the read of her interpretation of the “Origins and History of the Passions of War.”

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