Why Nationalism Sucks & Intersectionality Rules

I read an insightful article by Chris Hedges yesterday that contained this observation:

Diversity is important. But diversity, when devoid of a political agenda that fights the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed, is window dressing. It is about incorporating a tiny segment of those marginalized by society into unjust structures to perpetuate them.

Diversity, wokeness & violent oppression: Lessons-of-the-tyre-nichols-case

I also continued my viewing of the Nazis at Nuremburg: The Lost Testimony while on the treadmill. (Look at me, educating myself on a Sunday.) In it, a historian concluded that the people of Nazi Germany had not bought into an anti-Semitic story, they had bought into a Utopian story. They wanted Germany powerful and wealthy and happy and free (for “them” of course) and anything having to do with the Jews was secondary. Whether he was generally right about the Germany populous, the theme is recognizable and easily applicable to fascistic and autocratic nations around the globe.

I had an acting teacher who told us more than once that, “Nobody wants to act. People want to be famous and they want to be loved.” (Acting teachers love to talk about how terrible acting is. Does any other profession do this?) Perhaps it’s also true that, No one wants to hate others. People want to feel safe and they want to be loved. Love and fear – I really do like the idea that these are the only two emotions. It’s clinging and aversion, the Second Noble Truth.

I’ve always been anti-Nationalist, because I was raised to question the actions of our government, and Ndationalism in the US typically looks like blind obedience (to what or whom one is obedient has certainly change over the last 5 or 6 decades, but the obedience remains). I didn’t say the pledge of allegiance in school, I’ve always had an aversion to the American flag, and I find the phrase God Bless America kind of offensive. My feelings about the term “God” aside, just by mentioning our country (or, unintentionally, our continent), we are excluding others. It promotes a zero-sum mindset, a scarcity mindset. Why not Tiny Tim’s God bless us, Every One? Because we are in competition with the other nations of the world, or a lot of them. Even our allies would have to be trampled under our God if there wasn’t enough favor to go around.

I understand that Nationalism doesn’t have to be antagonism, that it can be a cultural touchstone, a realm of bonding and unity, containing history, food, art, lifestyles, etc. The scary thing is, Nationalism can always be turned against … well, anyone. Xenophobia can be disguised as Nationalism, as can Imperialism, internal displacement, racism (CRT makes us hate our country), and genocide. I’m sure you can provide your own examples.

Intersectionality is an excellent way to circumscribe Nationalism. The more intersectional we get, the harder it is to leave people on the sidelines, or relegate them to the rival team. Intersectionality is as unifying as identity politics is divisive. If soldiers and veterans are full-fledged citizens, then every racial group that has ever been enlisted is on your team. As are all men, women, transgender, and genderqueer or nonbinary folks. If you include all of them, you have to include all of their ethnic backgrounds, which will include every country, every culture, and every religion. There are disabled people in every gender, ethnic group, race, and country, so all of them have to be part of your clan, too. And the poor and the PhDs and the homeless and the hippies.

When an intersectional perspective informs your Nationalism, it’s more difficult to draw hard lines between us and them. We may label another country as the enemy, but if we recognize the religious, cultural, and national connections between them and our own people, it’s much harder to Other them.

Perhaps even more importantly (if only because this is the destructive message I perceive in the US today), recognizing Our Team as incorporating all of the identities represented in our citizenry and residents precludes persecution of one group for the benefit of another. If they are us, we can’t fear them. Our safety can’t come at the expense of their freedom, because our safety is also theirs. Trans people, immigrants, Muslims, the unhoused, college professors, prisoners – they are all us. America cannot be Made Great if it is not great for all us, regardless of identity. MAGAgain is, and would be recognized as, a fucking joke for anyone but the White, male, rich, and Christian, which is only a very, very small number of us. If we embrace all of our intersectional identities, we can’t end up like Germany in the 30s & 40s, because there would be no German Utopia without Jews, in fact there would be no Germany without Jews, gay people, leftists, disabled folks, and everyone else who was targeted by the Third Reich.

Diversity is indeed bullshit if we fail to recognize that we are not welcoming people into our club, but finally recognizing all the essential elements of who we, as a country and as a species, inherently are – like finally realizing we have a brain, or feet, or emotions. Without that, we will remain vulnerable to persecution and fascism. With it, we start to recognize who the true enemies are – the organizations and structures that use identity politics to keep us fighting each other, and keep us, as a populous, unequal, poor, unhealthy, unhappy and desperate for someone to blame.

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