February 28, 2018

Nationalism Is Absurd

Is who we are really where we’re from, and does where we’re from mean from a place or from blood? Is it from space or from time? Or is who we are more like what we do, maybe despite what we say? Is it what we think, or is it how we feel? It might be about how we treat others, about how we behave in a social setting. It may be about the level of our regard and respect for others.

Nationalist thinking is a bucket of paint holding a broom-handled brush so handy for the
broad strokes that make labeling of people so easy. Our so-called populist leadership, whose current popularity scores record lows, makes so much of national origin as a qualifier of individuals that the very notion of nationhood is exposed as the false category it has always been.

George Saunders’ 2005 novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil reduces the idea of national origin to the absurd level it deserves. The story is of a nation named Inner Horner that is so small it can contain only one of its seven inhabitants at a time. The others have to wait their turn to be in their own country on a rotating basis. They have to wait outside the border in a larger, surrounding nation called Outer Horner, where there is a lot of space and very few inhabitants, who come to resent the Inner Hornerites that nervously stand around while they wait their turn to be at home.

Kurt Vonnegut spoke of nationalist thinking as a kind of mental disorder. As a phenomenon of “mass mentality,” it has been the mother of multiple atrocities.

Not too long ago, we enjoyed a national leadership that preferred to point out the categories of our commonality rather than the ridges of our differences. The current crowd of leadership that shouts “Look away! Look away!” at the threats on our southern border is picking the pockets of everyone it fools.

To those whose pockets get fleeced by the grafter-in-chief, there is recourse, granted your ID survived the grope, grab and run. During a coming event called midterm elections, pink slips may be issued to the errant and incompetent among elected