Politicker: Patriotism sets off violent endeavors

Standing before the flag, with our hands over our hearts, we pledge to our flag and our country, in remembrance of those who fought to secure our land and freedom. We, as a country, remind ourselves daily of how much blood and sweat was shed to forge the abstract concept of a nation into a concrete society.

Before we are old enough to recognize the weight these words carry, we are indoctrinated into believing wholeheartedly in the primacy and preeminence of our great country.

For all the merits of patriotism, we, as a country, have a dangerous tendency to conflate the celebration of history and culture with the decrying of differences and change.

At the same time, there is a destructive tendency to equate nationalism with positive political activity. This election cycle has revealed the sinister character on which many of our collective opinions rest: that the preeminence of what once was the United States is how it shall remain and is how it always shall be.

Donald Trump harkens back to an unknown time in which we were great: when women could not vote, or when African Americans were denied civil liberties, or perhaps even when our country was embroiled in war, bombing civilians with ease. A celebration of what makes the United States different from the rest of the world, as a method of exclusion, is as treacherous to U.S. values as terrorism.

This article is not targeting the specific rhetoric of Donald Trump, but rather the complacency with which we treat nationalism, the underlying current that propels him forward.

There are plenty of us who are disgusted by his speech, his ideas and his momentum. But Trump’s dissenters have not churned the type of political action one would expect to meet disgust.

Lest we forget, chief among the causes for the two World Wars was exclusionary nationalism. Austro-Hungarian aggression was fueled by the goal to dominate the world. Nazism was founded on similar principles.

The French and British fancied themselves superior, as did the Japanese. Such attitudes justified the wholesale slaughter and total war that ravaged an entire continent.

The United States is certainly not at risk of committing such savagery and perhaps that is why our nation is falling sick with insularity. However, we seem to lack the critical lens through which we see ourselves.

Similar statements can be made regarding the rise of Donald Trump and the demise of the bumbling Republican Party.

Nationalism, defined as a shared feeling of unity among a specific geographic location or demographic, emphasizes the differences, albeit arbitrary ones, between groups of people. Doing so is a fundamental violation of what it means to be a U.S. citizen.

Our country was speciously founded on the values of liberty, inclusion and democracy. Consequently, the only defining characteristic of a U.S. citizen ought to be a shared feeling of freedom and liberty.

It should not be a skin color, a creed or religion, or even an opinion on how to fix the economy. The arbitrary delineations between groups of people creates false dichotomies, which become the battle lines on which petty political battles are waged.

Aggressive nationalism, onset by protracted periods of national shame and hardship, fuels reckless and divisive policies that often lead to violence.

Our country has hardly crawled from the wreckage of the financial crisis and all signs point that another is on its way. We are war-weary, embarrassed by our blunders in the Middle East. We are still without an effective healthcare system, our education system is rapidly declining and our infrastructure is in shambles. If Trump was right about one thing, crisis is certainly looming. However, the answer is not division and it should never be.

The answer must, in the democratic spirit, be unity. Exclusionary nationalism, and the rhetoric and behaviors that accompany it, will not build roads or teach our children.

Demonizing illegal immigrants or barring Muslims from entering the country will not stop school shootings. Defunding Planned Parenthood will not stop a terror attack.

Nationalism is as potent a force as terrorism in destroying a nation. But the sickness kills slowly, eroding the structures and supports of civilized society.

It is not Trump that is the problem. It is our complacency that created him, and it is our duty to cure the ills that he sees.