God bless America: Is nationalism dangerous?

Yes, nationalism favors states over humanity



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There are no inherent lines cutting through the earth, dictating where a nation’s borders permanently begin and end. National borders exist only within the minds of men amd women.

And even then, not all minds agree to where said borders lay. As relationships and ideologies change, conflict erupts. Walls topple down and the arbitrary lines on maps are erased, redrawn and erased again. As the philosopher A.C. Grayling put it, a nation’s boundaries are “drawn by the blood of past wars.”

To then invest one’s identity in something so arbitrary and transitory is absurd. And yet, we all too often attempt to prescribe identities to the nations we belong to. 

All too often, we grapple with questions such as, “What does it mean to be American?” 

In effect, we attempt to umbrella diverse groups of complex people from a variety of backgrounds underneath a single, unifying identity. 

Such a task is nearly impossible, but nationalism demands otherwise. Nationalism insists there is something inherently profound and unique glueing a nation’s people together. Nationalism suggests identities are much simpler than they actually are.

In its most radical form, nationalism defines what constitutes a citizen by means of  specific races, religions, cultures or values. 

In other words, bigoted rules and restrictions apply to who qualifies as  an “ideal” citizen and who doesn’t. 

Typically, the preferred race or religion is the one already dominant within the nation and as a result, ethnic-based nationalism ostracizes minorities within their own home. 

Such hatred for an “other” can lead to deportations, displacements or genocide. 

One need not look far in recent history for such cases. Within the past thirty years, people from the Balkans region, Rwanda, South Sudan, Kuwait and Iraq have been victim to ethnic cleansings. Presently, the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar face mass genocide.

This is nationalism in its most hideous and radical form. 

There are far less radical forms of nationalism. Some argue the concept can be useful as long as a nation rallies around a moral ideal such as freedom or justice, rather than an ethnic ideal such as race or culture. 

At face value, this subdued version is far more inclusive and to some extent, beneficial. But there are still divisive consequences. 

It is true: people should unite in ideals such as freedom, democracy and human rights. But such ideals should not be labeled as uniquely American ideals. These are human ideals. 

Categorizing them as distinctly American draws lines within humanity where there are none.

Cherishing freedom as uniquely American places more emphasis on national identity rather than human identity.

To clarify, there is nothing wrong with a group of people uniting in the hope for freedom or justice. But they must do so, viewing it as an ideal for all of mankind, rather than for a single country. 

To quote ambassador of international peace, Abdu’l-Baha:  “Glory not in love for your country, but in love for all mankind.”

Nationalism must never weaken humanism.

Click here for the opposing opinion

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