Posted by: SJS | October 26, 2018

Nationalism in action — echoes of hate

As interested as I was in the military history of WWII–and the role my father played as a PT boat radioman–another consuming interest I had as a young boy was about the causes of the war, especially in Europe.  I distinctly remember my father explaining to me, in words that a seven year-old could understand, that Germany and Italy were examples of Nationalism.  Hitler and Mussolini were ardent nationalists, Red told me, and their nationalist beliefs led them to ruin.  When I pressed him for more details, about nationalism, he quickly supplied them:  a belief in the superiority of one’s nation and the inferiority of other nations,  a fear and hatred of people of other nations,  and a particular hatred toward Jewish people.

On the world stage, as well as here at home, it is clear that virulent nationalism is on the march again.  The two photographs above–Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and Berlin, Germany in 1933–are vivid reminders of what nationalism looks like.  Nationalists of every era seem to have a fondness for carrying torches and chanting vile slogans that are bristling with vile racism like “Blood and Soil,” and “Jews will not replace us.”

The chilling similarity between these two photographs should give us pause and then jolt us into reality.

We now have a president who proudly declares himself a “nationalist.”  He has become an icon for white nationalists at home and a fawning admirer of repressive nationalists around the globe.  His rallies incite violence and sow the seeds of division among the citizens of our country.  We are now living through a period of resurgent nationalism right in the US and it is ugly, dangerous, and fiercely acrimonious.

Despite the perilous times we must now endure, we have at our disposal the most powerful and effective tool that democracy has to offer–we have the right to vote.  As citizens we can, and we must, make our voices heard.  The approaching midterm election allows us to weigh in on the future of our local community, our state and our country.

And every time I step into the election booth, I remember another lesson that my father taught me from my earliest years.   “I fought to protect our democratic freedoms and I had buddies who died fighting for those freedoms,” he told me more than once.  As soon as I hit voting age, he amped up the message as only Red could.  “Get your ass out there and vote,” he said, “and don’t ever let me find out that you skipped an election because you thought it wasn’t important enough.  Every election counts.”

Those are words I’ll never forget.  And the best I can do right now is to urge everyone out there to do the same.

So vote like your rights depend on it–because they do.





  1. Well said, Stephen. It is a terrifying time. I hope everyone votes, in every election. God Bless Uncle George for giving you the best reason….many have fought, been injured, and died for our freedoms.

  2. Thanks, Cyndy. My father felt strongly about the responsibilities of citizenship and he saw voting as a precious right. I was glad for his example. Thanks so much for your comment–I really appreciated it.

  3. This is the definition of Nationalism from Merriam-Webster Dictionary – there is NO mention of white, black or yellow.

    nationalist noun

    na·tion·al·ist | \ˈnash-nə-list

    Definition of nationalist:

    1 : an advocate of or believer in nationalism
    2 : a member of a political party or group advocating national independence or strong national government

    • Thanks for weighing in, GP. I always appreciate your input.

      Concepts, like language itself, continuously evolve. Since the early part of the 20th century, the term nationalism has evolved in a darkly negative way. The National Socialist party in Germany–the Nazi party–with its emphasis on racial superiority, anti-Semitism, and the deployment of science and technology to exterminate massive numbers of human beings gave nationalism a very bad name. In our country, the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan in the aftermath of the Civil War became the seedbed for white nationalism that has persisted through the 20th century and now–with a toxic infusion of Neo-nazi energy and an ardent supporter in the White House, has become a vile component in our political culture.

      With no disrespect to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, there no longer exists a sanatized, neutral definition of nationalism in my opinion. The concept has become freighted with connotations that are brimming with xenophobia, racial contempt, and fear mongering.

      My earliest lessons about the meaning of nationalism came from a man who was strafed by fighter planes flying under the banner of National Socialism in the Mediterranean. For me, the concept of nationalism long ago lost its claim to innocence and neutrality. The concept of nationalism is now being used in a deeply cynical way to divide our country and provoke violent acts from unhinged, dangerous individuals who have initiated a campaign of domestic terrorism.

      • Lately everything has been associated with Nazi Germany – it’s all too PC for me. People have become so PC orientated that they are curtailing freedom of speech and anything else that just doesn’t suit them at the moment. The dictionaries have modernized, every year they edit. But like I said, it doesn’t suit somebody.
        Gilliam in FL, running for governor is on the Democratic ticket, but he’s basically socialist and to do anything he proposes means giant taxes. He has turned the idea of socialism into a democratic idea for the purpose of being elected. So, I suppose everything is open to interpretation.

  4. This is an incredibly powerful and timely message. I will definitely forward it to others.

    • Thanks, Dudley. Nationalism has been captured and co-opted by ignorant racists marching around with Tiki torches and elected leaders who know less American history than our pet beagle. When nationalism comes to stand for separating children from their parents and putting them in cages, referring to other nations as “s___-hole” countries, and inciting violence–you know it’s reached the end of its useful shelf life. Here’s hoping that an aroused electorate will get more aroused real soon and keep those long lines getting longer at the polling stations everywhere across the USA.

  5. Thanks for posting this

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