Americans among others, not above others
In some sense, it seems proper to move on now. The flag
is no longer at half-staff; our country and the world's reactions have
been decided, but what do we do after this war on terrorism? How are we
going to restructure international relations? We have said much about
ridding the world of all the evil terrorists, but then, how will we prevent
them from coming back?
It was suggested last week at the panel discussing the events
of September 11, that perhaps it is time to reassess the role and idea
of the nation-state. The statement was introduced with the words "maybe
this will sound crazy." It didn't draw much of a reaction, but I
certainly did not think it crazy.
The same idea was expressed in 1955 when Erich Fromm published
The Sane Society: "'Nationalism' is our form of incest, is our idolatry,
is our insanity. 'Patriotism' is its cult. It should hardly be necessary
to say, that by 'patriotism' I mean that attitude which puts the own nation
above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving
interest in one's own nation, which is the concern with the nation's spiritual
as much as with its material welfare- never with its power over other
The idea of the nation-state emerged with Italian and German
unification and the growing need to create a balance of power in Europe
in the 1800s. World War I was a strong confirmation of the nation-state,
but it wasn't until after World War II, when Hitler capitalized on German
nationalism that we saw a clear picture of the nation-state as an extremely
dangerous and destructive force.
For over two weeks now, we've been shaking our heads in
incredulity and sadness at all the losses we have suffered. Because America
has been attacked, we seem to feel that we have the right to turn around
and attack others, kill more people, thus giving justification to more
people to hate America.
We do all this in the name of nationalism and under the
auspices of doing the world a great favor. Terrorism, in the modern sense
of the word, has been a force in the world at least since the growth of
the nation-state. It has hit countless countries, but for whatever reasons,
those previous attacks didn't mean as much to us when they occurred as
they do now that our home soil has been attacked. So, we must rid the
earth of terrorism, no matter the cost.
So, instead of turning inwards to address the "concern
with the nation's spiritual welfare," we are going to turn outwards
to nurse our wounds. We seem to be intent on becoming the American Bully
who pushes other countries around in order to make himself feel better.
I'm sure I will be accused by some of being unpatriotic, even as I proudly wear my red, white and blue. America represents an idea, and it is that concept that inspires my patriotism, that freedom, that truth, that justice?not the idea that puts Americans above others, but the one that puts Americans among others, as friends, as kind givers, and as exemplary leaders.