Nationalism: Good or bad?

Nationalism these days seems to get a bad rep. A lot of discussions, both in class and out, seem to center around the harmful, exclusionary results that arise from misplaced nationalism (which creates an “us” versus “them” mentality). But is nationalism so bad?Keeping in mind, of course, that I don’t necessarily agree that nationalism is good (or bad), but rather I’m just bringing up that we should remember that nationalism is just a concept.

So, for example, a lot of people associate nationalism with things like “America is great” in a post-9/11 world. We band together and form a group (labeled “Americans”) that unite against the “others” (perceived terrorists). So is this good? Or is this bad?

On the one hand, this helps create a sense of unity with people that we may not have a personal relationship with. I have no idea what some person in San Francisco, California is like, but I know they are an American and I have something in common with them. This bond is not only social, but also economic and personal as well.

On the flip side, what do I know about random people on the other side of the country? I know that they were born in the political confines of my country, and I know that they probably have a similar skin color to me. After all, a country is just a large tribe, right? But really, I know almost nothing about people that are also within the confines of my rather large country. It seems to be a social and political construct that means almost nothing in reality. It seems almost like an excuse to alienate people who don’t look like me.

Again, I don’t wish to promote that nationalism is either good or bad, but rather bring up both sides so that we can all see that nationalism is just a concept and it only has as much meaning as we assign it.

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