The Pitfalls of Nationalism

Reading of the imagined idea of nationalism, in accordance with the east-west divide of Orientalism, was quite eye-opening. It shed light back to the colonial movements of England and other European countries, and moved throughout history to modern day. Implicit in the idea of nationalism is the view of your nation as unequivocally the best. We saw this in the film, Gandhi and in Lagaan, where the British were so sure of their supremacy that they laughed off the political movements by Gandhi,  as well the possibility of losing a high-stakes game of cricket in Lagaan. Likewise, touching basis on this made me consider some of the greater wars that have ever existed in history. For example, for those that are relatively familiar with European history, consider the timeline before WW1. Before then, the last great war that happened was the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. That leaves 43 years of peace, coupled with rapid industrial advancements, specifically in military technology. It is common thought that the tension that built between countries was due to so much time without war, and with the advancement of nations and a rise in national identity, it led to the onslaught of WW1. One could say, this was over 100 years ago, though, so it’s like to have dissipated by then, right?

Not so much. Think about modern-day America. At the forefront, we have politicians (and many citizens who support them) actually considering building a wall to close off a portion of our nation, simply because we believe these people are not worthy of being within our country. Not so commonly considered, however, is what it actually takes to become an American citizen. One cannot move to the United States without passing a citizenship test–a test that many Americans would not pass. Implicitly, this screams “though you may have equal knowledge to someone who was born here, because you are second-rate by nature, you have to be of the highest accord to be a citizen in our country.” It’s illogical to think that someone can’t move here and thrive without knowing all of American history, for example. It is this strong sense of nationalist exceptionalism that leads to these beliefs, where we think that an individual must be assimilated to become an American citizen. These same tactics existed during colonialism, slavery, and many other movements throughout the history of the world.


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