Monday, May 24, 2010

The Nationalist Ideal

Nationalism has come in for a bad name in the history books. Hitler, Mussolini, and Napoleon are excoriated for the death and destruction wreaked in the name of nationalism. One might understand the left's aversion to all things nationalistic, especially since it is often associated with ethnocentrism and national purity. Indeed, Obama could not bring himself to wholeheartedly endorse the concept of American exceptionalism by saying “I believe in American exceptionalism — just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Hardly a ringing endorsement. He betrays the leftist roots of his intellectual journey in that one remark. E. Thomas McClanahan cites numerous examples of how the left's aversion to identifying with the nation and its fight, indeed, feeling that they somehow operate in a moral plane above that of the nation results in euphemisms, because they can not bear to speak the words that show their heart is in the fight for our nation. Eric Holder can't admit that radical Islam is responsible for recent attacks. Janet Napolitano speaks of man-caused disasters not terrorism. In Obama's recent West Point speech, he trots out notions of collective security, lumping the war on whatever with global warming as a national security concern, except that he omits the word national.

As understandable as the left's instinctive aversion to nationalism might be, it is misplaced in the case of America. The notion of American nationalism is an ideal worth defending. We are a nation of nations, ironically enough, bound together not by the traditional fascist symbols of nationalism, race, ethnicity, or empire; but by ideals embodied in the greatest political documents ever written, the Declaration and the Constitution. The left sees our riches and feels guilt, assuming they are the result of plunder. In fact, they are the result of trade, invention and industry. We see historically that free societies that engage in trade were the richest. The ideals of individual liberty and responsibility, of tolerance for other religions, of democracy, of free markets have made this nation rich. These ideals, along with a belief in the supremacy of our armed forces' will to defend these ideals, form the basis of our nationalism. These are ideals worth defending. It is no coincidence that they are the very ideals for which we are attacked.

Abraham Lincoln laid out the meaning of the nation during the war he fought to save it.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate...we can not consecrate...we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


  1. Oh my goodness...I was just thinking about this! The budding global tea party movement reminds me of the Arts & Crafts revolution of the early 20th century...which was for each nation a study and embracing of national heritage. People yearn to know and celebrate their history. In a free society like ours, we won't allow dictators like Hitler to twist that heritage to their own ends.

  2. Obama may certainly have leftist roots but I think that statement is more revealing of the fact that he has absolutely no clue as to the meaning of American exceptionalism.

    OK, maybe it's both.

    Link forthcoming.

    Sarah, great comment. Patriotism through macrame.