I'm a nationalist

(1) As much as I hate to disagree with Matt Frost, I think Will Wilkinson is right to suggest that patriotism and nationalism are very closely related if not the same. It so happens that patriotism has mostly positive connotations and that nationalism has mostly negative connotations.

(2) I think of myself as a liberal nationalist, i.e., I see myself as belonging to a diverse English-speaking ethnocultural community rooted in an Anglo-Afro core but that has grown and changed in response to successive waves of immigration and intermarriage, and I have a particular affection for the folkways of this community. This isn’t to say my nation, which extends beyond the borders of the United States (note that I follow Canadian politics obsessively), is superior to others. Rather, it is familiar to me and I miss it when I’m away from it for too long. Michael Lind introduced me to this idea in his The Next American Nation, and I continue to think it is pretty sound. So while I accept that the United States will at some point vanish from the face of the Earth, I hope that something like my language and culture survives. My liberal nationalism is complicated by the fact that I have other overlapping commitments which are also important to me — I care very intensely about the neighborhoods I’ve lived in, the schools I’ve intended, and I identify to some extent with Muslims around the world. I have a fondness for Bangladesh, my parent’s native country, and I’m kind of a Francophile. I also love big cities, particularly cosmopolitan big cities. I doubt this mix of views is all that strange; in fact, I assume it is woefully pedestrian (i.e., StuffBrownPeopleLike.com).

(3) One of my favorite essays is Jeremy Waldron’s “Minority Cultures and the Cosmopolitan Alternative,” published in 1992. Waldron is emphatically not a nationalist. But he gets the role of mélange in explaining the way we really live. I know hybridity is a cliché, but it’s an important, instructive cliché.

(4) Daniel rejects the notion that patriotism is primarily about the state my sense is that patriotism is commonly, and properly, understood as “constitutional patriotism.” If it is not about the state as it exists, it certainly is about the state as it ought to be — an idealized allegiance to a particular regime. That’s not exactly Maurizio Virolo’s view, if I recall correctly: he allows for some amount of liberal nationalism under the guise of fatherland fealty, which he sees as part of patriotism. It does roughly capture the view of plenty of “sober centrists.”

(4) Does my professed nationalism mean that I’m for America, right or wrong? Absolutely not. I actually worry about the nationalism Anatol Lieven diagnoses more than I worry about the supposed cultural threat of liberal cosmopolitanism (there is a kind of political danger, but it is mild). The United States government shares the same not-attractive qualities as dozens of other more-or-less democratic governments. While I think our institutions are not utterly beyond repair, I see no sense in worshipping, except insofar as doing so will forestall some badly misconceived alternative. Most kinds of constitutional patriotism seem arid and intellectually stultifying to me (Kateb is very strong on this point), though I’ll happily acknowledge that the framers of the Constitution were damn impressive.

(5) Kateb makes a strong case. I guess I don’t share his concerns because (surprise, surprise) I don’t think irrational, nationalistic jingoism led us into Iraq. That, I recognize, is a hotly contested premise to say the least.