Since President Donald Trump called himself a nationalist at a rally in Houston, Americans on both sides of the political spectrum are wondering about what this self-identification means for the President’s policies in the future. The President has always been ‘America First’, but ‘Nationalist’ is a loaded term with a long history. Nationalism, in its simplest form, is the belief that citizens of a country should hold their interests closer than any other country’s. However, ‘Nationalism’ can also be applied to sentiments of extreme xenophobia. This term is connected to many disturbing and horrific events in history, the worst of which being the Holocaust. Nationalism is named as being one of the main causes of World War II. Many nationalism-fueled events took place in America’s history as well: the Trail of Tears and the Chinese Exclusion Act, to name a couple. Recently, however, immigration is happening in larger and larger numbers and nationalism is at an all-time high. This is properly summed up in what’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border right now: family separation. Extreme nationalists see immigrants and refugees as less than. A solution needs to be found so families can stay together no matter where they are from, and that starts with an understanding of how nationalism happens in the world.

Today the word ‘nationalist’ is usually applied to the far-right conservative ideologies of white nationalists, but according to the article “The definition of a nationalist”, the word actually dates back to the 18th century, to the movements that created the American and French revolutions. It’s easy to say that the US is the only country affected by nationalism, but nationalist parties have been very successful all over the world, including Europe and South American countries, plus the Brexit movement in the UK. But where do the intense feelings of nationalism come from?

In the article “Nationalism is Loyalty Irritated”, the author states that nationalism comes from the political climate. Because immigration is happening more, a sense of nationalism may be rising from this. This article also makes the argument that nationalism can be good or bad. Wanting the best for your country isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nationalism often grows when the country compares itself to others and wants to be as good (or better) in certain areas than they are. It becomes fatal when the attitude shifts from competition between countries to intense xenophobia. And this xenophobia can lead to war, genocide, resettlement, strict immigration laws, and hate groups.

Some see nationalism as a form of self-interest that helps a country grow and develop. Such is the point of view of the author of “Development and the crisis of global nationalism”. They maintain that there are two kinds of nationalism: ethnic nationalism, which is based on race, language, or religion, and civic nationalism, in which rights are granted to all citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity. Nationalism makes it difficult for countries to depend on each other.

I think everyone can agree that the treatment of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border is horrific. People on both sides of the political spectrum need to stop using these immigrants as a campaigning chip. The immigrants at the border deserve kindness like any other person. If America really is a great country, we would be able to share our resources and our country with every kind of person.

 

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Nationalism in America by Katelynn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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