Nationalism should not be demonized

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Nationalism should not be demonized

By Guzi He, Columnist

Some  critics could not stop bombarding Trump after he called himself a “nationalist”, and so a Pittsburgh man with anti-immigrant beliefs opening fire on a synagogue just gave critics a nuclear missile.

Ever since Allied troops pried open the gates of Auschwitz, nationalism in the U.S. is seen as evil incarnate, one invariably bound with extreme racism and the Holocaust. Most recently, violence perpetrated by “white nationalists,” which loosely describes those believing in the biological or cultural superiority of Caucasians, furthered the prejudice against nationalism.

This perpetual demonization of the term has to stop as America’s version of nationalism is a unique and beautiful thing.

To learn the true impact of nationalism, one must understand what a nation is. A nation, according to the Global Policy Forum, is a large group of people united by a shared identity, and allegiance to that identity is nationalism. In Russia, for instance, nationalism may derive from associating oneself with largely Slavic people believing in Orthodox Christianity.

However, multi-ethnic states like the U.S. are different because the immense variety of peoples makes it difficult to forge national unity from an otherwise homogeneous culture, language or ethnicity. As a result, such communities easily fall apart, leading to all-out violence in historically diverse states in other countries, such as Yugoslavia.

But the U.S. alone managed to survive and prosper. The only explanation is while the Yugoslavs stopped believing in communism — the idea that people are united by social class rather than ethnicity — most Americans forever share an identity as democratic beings.

What distinguishes a foreigner from a U.S. citizen is not the color of their skin or the language they speak: What distinguishes the two is the ability to vote.

The U.S. government gives people the right to vote because it trusts their allegiance to democratic values. This allows it to debate policy in a peaceful manner, respect diverse opinions and ultimately make the right choice. This broad acceptance of democracy — the fact the U.S. has not had a single coup — distinguishes Americans from the Russians or Iraqis, for the latter put up with their authoritarian governments because they never had many democratic values to begin with. A country will be democratic if its people believe in democracy.

As such, immigrants become Americans because they often have democratic values. Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower because they believed in religious freedom. Hondurans, escaping gang activity, come because they believe in a life of honest labor. Dissidents from Castro’s Cuba seek asylum because they believe in the right of expression.

Subscribing to these values shows American nationalism because the U.S. is a nation of different people living up to the same ideals.

The next time someone rants about the scourge of nationalism, turn away from those hateful rallies on TV, from all the swastikas and tiki torches, and take a good look at the coins in your wallet. On the backside of every penny are the words “E Pluribus Unum” — “out of many, one.”

Guzi is a freshman in LAS.

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