Nationalism is under attack now that President Trump proclaimed himself a nationalist. Critics say Trump is either ignoring or embracing a horrific chapter or two of European history by invoking that label.
Nonsense. European history for many centuries is a history of nationalism, at times for better and at times for worse. Other than communism, nationalism was, until recently, the only game in town. And other than Lenin, the major communist leaders have been nationalists.
There have been great nationalists — e.g., Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi (the two adversaries had that much in common), and Abraham Lincoln — and there have been odious ones — e.g., Hitler. It all comes down to what the nation and the ruler in question want to achieve.
If the goals are world domination and genocide, then the nationalist is to be deplored and defeated. If the goals are freedom, prosperity, and security for the people within the nation, then the nationalist is to praised, provided he accomplishes the goals without starting unjust wars or oppressing others.
Thus, although the current dispute over nationalism is partly manufactured — another attempt to lash out at President Trump — there’s more to it than that. At best, it reflects the left’s loss of confidence in America — what it is and what it wants to achieve. At worst, it reflects affirmative dislike for our country.
There’s nothing new about the left’s ambivalence, or worse, towards the United States. It’s not an accident that Presidents Clinton and Obama apologized to foreigners for our country’s behavior. Wags did not attach to John Kerry the middle name of “Francois” for no reason. The left wants to constrain America because it considers us some combination of too racist, too religious, too prone to violence, and too imperialist.
Couple the left’s ambivalence, or worse, towards America with its hatred towards Trump and it’s easy to understand the attack on American Nationalism. It’s also easy to see why the left equates it with White Nationalism. This has nothing to do with David Duke or Charlottesville. The left’s fundamental critique of America — its main beef — is that, at heart, we’re a white racist country.
If you believe this, why wouldn’t you oppose American Nationalism? But if you believe America is a fundamentally decent nation, and you are proud of its many accomplishments, and you agree with its core values, and you don’t want to see its sovereignty eroded by organizations that are in no way superior to America, why wouldn’t you embrace American Nationalism?
I hope most Americans still do. If they don’t — if they buy the narrative of America inherent in the attack on nationalism — our future is grim. I doubt any nation can withstand that much loss of confidence.