Sunday, January 29, 2017

Nationalism: The Shrinking "Us" and the Swelling "Them"

So many people eager to make America great; so much "America First"; and such great patriotic need to protect America from immigrants and terrorists. America, America, America! And yet these same people can't stand fully half of Americans. How can you profess to love something when you despise 50% of it?

It's a paradox, and it's inevitable.

Nationalism always shaves itself thinner and thinner, because us/them thinkers are eager to increase the "Them" side of an equation, and averse to increasing the "Us" side (it's like a ratchet wrench). Dividing lines grow tortured and irrational. Gerrymandering is hard-coded into the human psyche.

Years ago, I wrote:
Nationalism is always a noble-seeming mask for xenophobia. Show me someone who loves "Us", and I'll show you someone who hates "Them".
Here's a corollary:
Show me someone who loves "Us", and I'll show you someone with an ever-shrinking notion of "us".

There are many extremely avid nationalists in Catalunya. On my first trip a few hours down the Spanish coast to Valencia (the neighboring province), I remarked, with surprise, to a local cab driver, "I didn't realize people spoke Catalan here!" The person I was traveling with, who was Catalan, elbowed me hard in the ribs. It was later explained to me that Valencians speak Catalan, but they call it Valencian, and get very upset at the notion of any equivalency between these two (absolutely identical) languages*. The Catalans watch this utter insanity, yet it never occurs to them to examine the paradoxes of nationalism.

* - read the first paragraph here to see what their pique has wrought, even in neutral Wikipedia (the compromise language atop - about Valencian being a "variety of Catalan" - makes as much sense as saying that apples are a variety of apples).

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