Letter: Is nationalistic dogmatism the true measure of our virtue?
November 9, 2018
I've been compelled to express my contempt to Mr. Beinstein's Nov. 6 column, ("A Lincolnian takes on nationalism") which I found to be patronizing and offensive.
It begins with a sophism: Should members of the "establishment" (and we) revisit the nationalism of Abraham Lincoln, we would be fain to take up nationalistic fervor by reason that it was in the character of a man many Americans perceive to be a wise and virtuous leader. (The phrase used, "nationalist urges," presents it as if it were some natural tendency within us all.)
Knowing that lot is broad, the author cajoles those with admiration for the sixteenth president. (And packs in the usual: veterans, the Bible, Christendom, a history of the nation, and a score of those tired and reduced conservative critiques of everything that is liberal. Some restraint might make this seem more intelligent and less of a juvenile cri de cœur!) I find this style so condescending; are we such uncouth creatures with a propensity to be enthralled into believing anything put forth without sophistication?
It presents an unabashed effort to conflate nineteenth-century nationalism with what it is today. In a modern context, nationalism is archaic and backward, it cannot be presented, as attempted, as a humble, patriotic, American honor — a prized relic of our heritage. Those "urges" of Lincoln were distinct from those common to his day, and more so to the kind we observe.
There are things far more consequential than growth, progress and extremist aspirations —concerning matters unlike those conceived two centuries ago; they define our dependence on the international community. Nationalist ideologues disregard such immense threats as their ideology is such to imply and render any unilateral solution to global problems ineffective and impossible; vexed, they deny the problem.
Can one not take pride in maintaining the institutions of the nation without having to declare patriotic extremities as "good and healthy impulses"? Is nationalistic dogmatism the true measure of our virtue? Is it worth the conflagration of stability and prosperity? Is it American?
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