May 13, 2005

I'm not a "nationalist."

Someone suggested I'm a "nationalist" recently. I don't think that really fits. My feelings are perhaps best expressed by what Lincoln said in his Eulogy on Henry Clay:

He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.

"The United States of America" is a set of ideas, not a territory or a race or a volk. There are lots of people living in foreign lands, who are Americans in good standing, because they "get it." It was Steven den Beste who wrote about this, and posted this great quote from an essay by Peter Schramm:

[My father] gathered my sister, me, and my mother up, and, in the middle of the night, we walked to Austria. I was not yet ten years old. When I asked him where we were going, he said: "We are going to America." I asked "why to America?" He said the following: "We were born Americans, but in the wrong place." It took me a while to understand what that meant. It took a lot of study of some great philosophers, of the American Founders, of Lincoln. I received four degrees for the effort and I slowly came to understand. My father always understood.

Perhaps someday America will change, and become just a nation. And perhaps a few people will resettle in Martian caves, with battered e-books in their hip-pockets containing the Federalist Papers. And they will be the True Americans. (Myself, I would go a bit further, and say we Americans are the True Englishmen. Our revolution was fought for the "Rights of Englishmen," and our ideas haven't really diverged very far from what we thought then, while England has become a pale shadow of what it was.)

If you are a Leftist, you MUST be anti-American. You MUST oppose the idea that is America, because that idea is utterly opposed to collectivism and statism, and opposed to the belief that our rights are granted by government, or that the interests of "society" are worth the sacrifice of the individual. Many Leftists won't honestly acknowledge their enmity, but resort to sneaky formulas. and claiming to be "against nationalism" is one of them. It's a lie of course, none of them are bothered by French nationalism, or Swedish nationalism, or criticize when a Russian proclaims her love for her "Motherland."....

Actually one of the tricksy formulas for disguising leftish anti-Americanism is nationalism. You can say you love America, meaning things like Jazz, or "the simple workers" or Cajun cuisine, or kosher delis, or the beauty of the mountains and the prairies, etc. Sure, of course, we all do, but that's not America.

More by den Beste:

...You're French if you're born in France, of French parents. You're English if you're born to English parents (and Welsh if your parents were Welsh). But you're American if you think you're American, and are willing to give up what you used to be in order to be one of us. That's all it takes. But that's a lot, because "thinking you're American" requires you to comprehend that idea we all share. But even the French can do it, and a lot of them have.

That is a difference so profound as to render all similarities between Europe and the US unimportant by comparison. But it is a difference that most Europeans are blind to, and it is that difference which causes America's attitudes and actions to be mystifying to Europeans. It is not just that they don't understand that idea; most of them don't even realize it exists, because Europeans have no equivalent, and some who have an inkling of it dismiss it contemptuously...
Posted by John Weidner at May 13, 2005 9:51 AM
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