I want to talk about the American left’s relationship with nationalism. I’ll start by making a distinction between two different ways of understanding what America is:
Some people think of America as a federal republic. In a republic, citizens are thinly united by a commitment to a shared political system. They may be very different from each other in many other respects, but despite cultural differences they share the same political status as citizens, and the republic recognises their shared status.
Other people think of America as a nation-state. In a nation state, citizens are thickly unified by a shared culture, built around things like language, religion, ethnicity, and other values. If citizens don’t partake in the shared culture, they may be citizens of the state but they are not part of the nation. In this way, they can be thought of as second class citizens, or even internal enemies.
A few days ago, Black Lives Matter activists took a microphone from Bernie Sanders at one of his campaign events, called his audience “a bunch of white racists”, and demanded a 4 minute moment of silence for Michael Brown, the black victim of a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri:
Sanders marched in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s and has made economic inequality the signature issue of his campaign. By attacking an allied politician in this uncivil way, Black Lives Matter is damaging the cause of racial inequality in America. This is a counterproductive and misguided strategy. I said this on Facebook a few days ago. Most of my Facebook friends agreed with me, but a couple disagreed, and they were quite uncivil about it. I also found their arguments morally and politically disturbing. Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about this, and I find myself increasingly coming to the conclusion that identity politics as currently practiced does not serve the interests of anyone, even the people it is intended to help.
There’s a lot being said about Indiana’s recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Some people believe the law is innocuous–many other states (and the federal government) have religious freedom laws with seemingly similar language. Others claim the law is a naked endorsement of discrimination against LGBTs. I’ve spent much of my life in Indiana, and even I was not initially sure what the law actually does. So I’ve done some research, and I’m now prepared to share it with you. Read the rest of this entry »
The movie Selma has achieved near universal critical acclaim. It has a score of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 100% among top critics. It’s been nominated for 2 Academy Awards, and manypeoplethink it should have been nominated for even more. This is a problem, because Selma has a fatal flaw–it lies to us about how our political system works. Read the rest of this entry »