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What is Nationalism?

(Note: The following essay was written in response to the rise of "patriotic," anti-government militias within the United States who hold up the notion of American supremacy. It is not meant to denigrate the concept of America, i.e., liberty and human rights. Nor is it meant to validate irrational anti-American sentiments of other nations. The criticism of arrogance herein applies to all nations that claim cultural superiority. The fact is that the USA remains one of the better places in the world in which to live, as is validated by the large numbers of people from around the globe who wish to immigrate to America.)

Residents of the USA often hear in a context of great pride and boastfulness people loudly declare, "I'm patriotic," or "I'm a good American," or "I believe in America." They are led to believe that this is very good thing to be and say. They are taught this from when they are very young children, when they are forced, through threat of punishment, to "pledge allegiance to the United States of America...one nation under God, etc." Their parents, priests, principals and authority figures beam great smiles as the wee folk burble and lisp their way through this oath. If they do not participate in this patent cult activity, however, they are either sent to the corner or ridiculed.

Americans then grow up saying this cult oath for what often amounts to over a decade of recitation. Along the way, they are indoctrinated into various other peculiar ideologies, such as God is a nice old white man who has a Jewish carpenter son by virtue of immaculately conceiving with a virgin - just normal, everyday ideas like that. Later on, after being thoroughly filled with such odd and weird ideas, we hear cries of "cult" and "brainwashing" from our mainstream media whenever some group arises that does not share the same bizarre beliefs.

"Patriotism" Could Be Deemed a "Cult"

In fact, all of these oaths, dogmas and creeds regarding nationalism or religionism are indoctrination or brainwashing into a cult of one sort or another. Those of us who have traveled and/or bothered to explore various cultures around the world often find ourselves too expanded to share in such limited concepts of reality. For someone who has lived in a variety of countries, absorbed and studied much of the cultures and traditions of those countries, and learned the languages of such countries, it is impossible to declare, "I'm patriotic," or "I'm American," or "I believe in America." To do so would be to negate the wisdom of every other culture and to hold one's own above the rest, as if it is the only worthy place on earth. One who has traveled extensively can justly say that is simply not the case.

Isn't Pride a Deadly Sin?

An openminded, intelligent person could not possibly consider him or herself to be a proud member of any nation exclusive to all others. The fact is that every culture around the world has some interesting and colorful contribution to make to humanity, and those who are the wisest will explore all such contributions. This is not to say that there are not some places where life is hard and others where life is better. But it is often a question of perspective.

It Could Be Worse

Nevertheless, there are most definitely repressive and hateful governing bodies that do not provide a "superior" quality of life. In that case, we can look to such a document as the Constitution of the United States as being fairly good in its ability to allow for "liberty and justice for all." The Constitution is also flawed, however, and the USA is not heaven on earth. Nor is any other place. Even the smallest island paradises are going to have their problems now and again. As they say, "Democracy is the worst form of government - except all the others."

No, Virginia, the Constitution is Not "American"

But with all this arrogant and egotistical "we are the superior nation of the world" and "I'm a patriotic American" stuff, one should be firmly reminded that the glorious-'though-imperfect Constitution is not a purely "American" construction but is based on the wisdom of many cultures, including those of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Renaissance Europe, Persia, Native America, et al. The Constitution is a pinnacle in that it is built upon past cultures and experiences, and as such it is an improvement over such governing bodies. But this is also not to say that today we are much more advanced than we have been in the "barbaric" past. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that life goes not in constant linear improvement but in cycles, reaching great peaks of evolution and falling back to primitivity and savagery. This is evidenced by the past "Golden Ages" of Greece, Egypt and Rome, which were followed by such unlovely times as the Dark Ages, where nearly everyone was toothless and illiterate.

Keeping all this in mind, that ancient peoples have had a great deal of wisdom, as do peoples of nations other than the United States, and that this is a small planet, of which we are all citizens, let's drop the nationalistic rubbish - wherever we live - once and for all and declare, "We are all members of the cosmos." This is the only way we can end separation between peoples and have peace on earth - if that will ever be possible.

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