The Book of Proverbs says that even a fool is thought wise if he holds his tongue. Many might wish that of our current President, who has no problem with Tweeting whatever foolishness pops into his head.
However, our last President has decided to go abroad and voice his own brand of foolishness, one that may be far more harmful. A recent speech that Barack Obama gave on nationalism and patriotism has some very serious implications.
“An Aggressive Kind Of Nationalism”
In a recent speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, Obama said, “We start seeing a rise in sectarian politics, we start seeing a rise in an aggressive kind of nationalism, we start seeing both in developed and developing countries an increased resentment about minority groups and the bad treatment of people who don’t look like us or practice the same faith as us.”
If we don’t stand up for tolerance and moderation and respect for others, if we begin to doubt ourselves and all that we have accomplished, then much of the progress that we have made will not continue… What we will see is more and more people arguing against democracy, we will see more and more people who are looking to restrict freedom of the press, and we’ll see more intolerance, more tribal divisions, more ethnic divisions, and religious divisions and more violence.
What planet is he living on? Tolerance and moderation? Coming from the man whose administration saw the biggest rise in racial tensions and violence in more than a generation? One could claim that it wasn’t his fault, which is partially true. However, he chose to get involved in racial issue after racial issue, pouring gas onto fires.
Away From National Ties
As I have written before, Barack Obama suffers from the modern malady of oikophobia, the hatred of place. He has no love for the nation he led. His goal was always its fundamental transformation into something worthier of his attention.
Obama has made the same mistake in his Jakarta speech that most of our trasnational elites make. They take patriotism for nationalism, nationalism for an evil thing, creating a moral equivalence between all three. But they are not the same.
Nationalism, in its ideological form, is a modern false god. We moderns may have abandoned the God of the Hebrews, but we found deities to replace one outmoded by modernity. First the French, then others, found their ideological idol in the Nation, something worthy of absolute devotion and sacrifice.
During France’s days of revolution, Louis David, the great painter, created festivals to the nation, meant to replace the Catholic faith with a new, French faith. Nationalism reached its awful zenith with the Third Reich. Nazi panoply was replete with images of an idealized past of the Aryan people and the German Nation.
The end of Nazism spelled, for many Europeans, the end of the belief that a loyalty to land, patrimony, and history was good. The lesson many European elites took from the 20th century was that patriotism is nationalism, and nationalism is bad. The European leaders who fashioned the EU determined that people must overcome local attachments, and replace them with universal ones.
The Error of Total Unity
When Obama complains about “an increased resentment about minority groups and the bad treatment of people who don’t look like us or practice the same faith as us,” he is expressing similar ideas. The local is bad. The places and histories we share, which are the source of patriotism, must be replaced by bigger, more universal values.
Here’s where Obama goes wrong: not all groups get along. Not all peoples, cultures, religions or nationalities are capable of living cheek-by-jowl. Sometimes, separation is what’s best to let people live peacefully.
Ironically, Europe–which is now seeking to unify everyone–also taught us this historical lesson. In the 17th century, Europe concluded that the best way to avoid further religious butchery was to separate themselves from each other along dogmatic lines. Catholics had their nations, and Protestants had theirs.
In spite of its own historical example, Europe is now attempting a new continent-wide experiment. The EU is putting third-world migrants and Muslim youth alongside post-modern European society. It’s proving to be a disaster. People groups are not interchangeable: when the populace changes, the society does too.
Self-Promotion Is Not Evil
It is no evil to believe that our place, our way of life, should be preserved. Nor is it wrong to expect migrants who come to live among us to become more like us. Being patriotic and promoting our own values is not the evil that Obama makes it out to be.
We need not mistrust immigrants on the superficial grounds of skin color; however, we can mistrust based upon cultures. Not all cultures hold to the same values as we do. Our culture says it is wrong to circumcise your daughter, or to keep children as sexual slaves, and our laws reflect that. It should not matter what a migrant claims about his or her home culture when we apply our norms to their conduct.
A newcomer to our society should be welcome, but should also conform to our societal norms. If they insist on keeping their values over ours, then it may be better for all if there is some distance between us.