The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is nationalism. I am confused about what I am reading and hearing about nationalism. Some articles are saying that conservatives should not support nationalism, but dictionaries define it as something positive. How are we to act when there is so much confusion. Here is one definition of nationalism posted online.
Nationalism is an ideology and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation’s sovereignty over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference, that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power. It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity – based on shared social characteristics such as culture, language, religion, politics, and belief in a shared singular history – and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation’s traditional culture, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements and is closely linked to patriotism. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies, such as conservatism or socialism for example.
What is wrong with an ideology and movement with the goal of maintaining the national “sovereignty over its homeland”? I believe that every nation should be sovereign and maintain its control over its homeland. What is wrong with having a national culture? Every country should be free to maintain its national culture. The American culture is a bit different from other cultures because we are a melting pot of any cultures. However, the American culture consists of freedom and opportunity, freedom to work and succeed, willingness to help one’s neighbor, etc. Since the above description says that nationalism “is closely linked to patriotism,” I decided to find the definition of patriotism.
Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, devotion and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. This attachment can be a combination of many different feelings relating to one’s own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects. It encompasses a set of concepts closely related to nationalism.
Patriotism is love of country and devotion to its success. Patriotism seems to be a good thing. If nationalism is closely linked to patriotism, why is nationalism bad?
A panel of scholars at The Heritage Foundation met recently to discuss the question, should conservatives embrace nationalism? The scholars answer the question, no. The main reason for their stand seems to be the negative connotation about nationalism. Kim Holmes, executive vice president of The Heritage Foundation and a historian, gave a lengthy address about why he believes that conservatives in our nation should work towards American exceptionalism rather than nationalism. The following quote comes from his address.
I firmly believe that not all nation-states are the same. There have been times in history when nations have been associated with racism, ethnic supremacy, militarism, communism, and fascism.
Rather than embrace this flawed tradition, we should rely on the longstanding conservative tradition of American exceptionalism. This tradition explains that what makes Americans different – what made America a great nation to begin with – was not language, ethnicity, or race, but the exceptional nature of a country that fused the creed of its founding principles with the lived experience of its culture and history. This is not “nationalism,” and should not be equated or associated with the history of an idea and an ideology that is rooted in ideas and traditions that are foreign to the creedal nature of the American experience.
After listening to Holmes’s entire address, I think that I understand why the scholars at The Heritage Foundation are against conservatives adopting the term nationalism. I encourage my readers to listen to his address as well as the following speakers. They convinced me that Americans should not adopt nationalism as a goal. The definition of nationalism sounds good on paper, but the practice of it has not always been good. After all, Hitler used the concept of nationalism to convince his countrymen to adopt Nazism. I can now understand why American conservatives should speak of American exceptionalism rather than nationalism.