How Americans Lost Their National Identity
By YORAM HAZONY October 23, 2018
Today, we hear the sloppy, misconceived term “white nationalism” more often than we hear about American nationalism. And whenever the term nationalism is raised, it is often quickly conflated with racism. For instance, at an Oct. 23 rally, President Donald Trump declared that he was a nationalist. He used the term in contrast with globalist, who he called “a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly not caring about our country so much.” Many commentators quickly deplored the President’s statement as a dog-whistle admission that he truly supports “white nationalism,” once again suppressing legitimate debate over the value of American nationalism, while insisting that racialist “white nationalism” is what we really should be talking about.
This is a problem. Because it’s American nationalism that the U.S. needs right now. Never in our lifetimes have we seen America’s various tribes so divided, so intolerant of one another, so quick to delegitimize and even threaten violence. The mutual loyalty that has bound Americans together as a nation seems like it is disappearing. The bitter argument over ongoing large-scale immigration is only a proxy for this deeper issue: Can Americans ever unite again around a shared national story? Can they ever see themselves as brothers again?
“White nationalism” is used to describe the small fringe of Americans who believe nationality is defined by the color of one’s skin. These groups promote the kind of loosely Darwinian thinking that motivated German Nazism: What’s decisive, they say, is the “quality” of one’s genes. So people should obsess about skin color and the shape of one’s facial features — traits that supposedly tell you who’s got the right genetic make-up.
Most Americans find these attempts to reduce nationality to race repugnant. This is because race politics brought about the murder of millions in Europe, while in America it produced slavery, civil war and a legacy of domestic unease — and occasional violence — that hasn’t died down to this day.