In 2016 the United States will elect a new president. As the campaigns of each candidate hits full stride the voters are bombarded by ideals of American nationalism, rallying members of the respective party to their cause. Nationalism in any form can be both a good and bad aspect of a State’s identity. What a group uses to build a national identity will determine how that identity works and how the world views it. This paper will look into several examples of nationalism from the flag waving sports fans at World Cup events to the U. S. A. hanting fanatics attending certain political rallies. Aspects of why, how and what nationalism is to each group discussed will be covered.
Introduction As the ancients began to organize into the civilizations we all know the populations they contained began to create the early forms of nationalism. For centuries the idea of a national identities was shaped and honed to best fit each group as they grew in power and size.
Nationalism became a power within the civilization, power “derived from (a nation’s) ability to mobilize individuals towards collective goals, including protecting the nation from potential threat or struggling to secure an exclusive national territory. ” (Painter, 2009) This is where the divide between nationalism and extreme nationalism begins. How and with what the nation “motivates” its population against a threat will be viewed by the rest of the world either as a threat in and of itself or simply as a nation rallying together.
Germany in the 1930s and 40s experienced the worst kind of nationalism at the hands of the Nazi party and the world turned against it. Sports fans around the world express nationalism whenever they walk into an arena and the people love it. So what is it that determines good nationalism vs. bad nationalism? Is there really a difference? How is the modern push for nationalism in the United States different than movements from the past? Nationalism and its extreme forms seem to be engrained in the fabric of society. The most basic form, regionalism, is almost programmed in an individual from birth or even before.
Fans of the Boston Red Sox can not stand fans of the New York Yankees during the months of baseball season (some even all year). These two cities are part of same region, are historically connected to the founding of the nation, linked through ethnicity and only four hours apart. This idea that even two areas so close yet so fervently opposed when it comes to their respective “sports nations” follows with the ideas of national primordialism. The primordial perspective views nationalism and regionalism as “a biological trait, a state of being that is determined by human genetics. (Painter, 2009)
Essentially if you are born in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont or New Hampshire you are a Sox fan, if you are born in New York you are a Yankees fan. The one exception to the rule, Connecticut divides its loyalties between the regions. The rivalry for the better part of the century has generated a healthy competition between the two areas, a competition that has existed from the founding of the nation. Though New Yorkers might “hate” Bostonians and vice versa for their sports allegiance it is usually all in good fun and does nothing to impact their shared allegiance to the United States.
The same kind of “sports nationalism” exists in the larger scale of worldwide sports. The Olympics are a prime example of the sort of flag waving national pride that can personify the good side of nationalism. Former Olympic Organizing Committee advisor John Mackaloon said in an interview on NPR, “At the Olympics, national identity is everything. The internal divisions of any one country are forgotten during these two weeks…” (NPR, 1998) Next to the Olympics, no fans are more fanatically nationalist than those of soccer.
You would be hard pressed to find a person on earth that could not describe in great detail a fan of the sport. Equipped with banners, flags, hats, masks and all forms of body suit or paint, soccer fans represent everything that is great about nationalism. Like the two gentlemen from New Zealand in image 3 fans often take a common theme or image the world may have of their nation or region and put it into costume. In the case of the two gentlemen in the picture, people from New Zealand are often referred to, and call themselves, as Kiwis after the flightless bird found in the region.
Their costume is both a form of self-expression and a sign of nationalism and team support. Soccer has become a catalyst for national unity turning ethnically diverse populations into Argentinians, Britons, Mexicans and Germans. In an article for NPR, Lebanese-born, German citizen Ibrahim Bassal puts it best, “We want to show that we are integrating ourselves, the we’ve already integrated. We belong here. When the team plays well, we are happy and all party together. We are German citizens. ” (Westervelt, 2010) But, even something that seems so fun, happy and unity driven can turn for the worst.
Soccer hooligans” represent what can happen when team pride and nationalism meet anger and hate. Often resorting to violence to solve disagreements between fan bases, hooligans are the embodiment of extreme nationalism that has gone bad. Soccer is not meant to encourage violence in any way but all too often the intensity in which people support their nation can get out of control. In the 1930s the world was in the midst of one of the worst economic depressions in history. Nearly every country on the planet was crippled nearly to the point of collapse.
When this happens humans seek out something or someone to blame. In Germany, under the guise of strengthening their nation the Nazi party used nationalism fueled by fear, frustration and hate to commit heinous acts against humanity. The population of the state sought to make their country great again. Blinded by the promises of the Nazi party, many every day Germans would be swept up in a torrent of nationalist emotions. The Nazis used an ethno-symbolist perspective of nationalism to unify one ethnic group which would in turn blame another group for all of the ills of the world.
Nationalism based in this style relies on “ethnic ties and sentiments and on popular ethnic traditions, which have provided the cultural resources for later nation-formation. ” (Painter, 2009) These ethnic ties were that of the Aryan race which Hitler and the Nazis used to create the idea of a super nation, capable of and destined to rule over all others. The people of Germany frustrated by economic despair and fearful of the demise of their national identity bought into the manufactured nationalism of the Nazi Party and followed them, nearly to annihilation.
The legacy of the Nazi party can never be removed from the history of the German people and unfortunately there are modern German’s building on the foundations the Nazis left. It would be an understatement to say the world is a volatile place right now. War or fears of war exist on nearly every continent. The fallout of the active wars is leading to an influx in refugees and immigrants fleeing for their lives. Germany once a pillar of hate has opened its doors to these men, women and children in an effort to spread the ideals of compassion to other states within the E. U. Working against the humanitarian efforts of many are the terrorist attacks taking place all over Europe.
These attacks are seen as reason for some to call for an end to immigration and integration. Fear of attacks and fear of the economic burden of taking on refugees is giving rise to a new extreme nationalism in the form of modern versions of the Nazi party. The National Democratic Party in Germany is one such party building off anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant fears across the nation. Felix Huesmann a journalist says “The NPD is a neo-Nazi party…they’re hard core-anti semities.
They’re racisits. ” (Woolf, 2016). A group like this and like the Nazi party before are taking people’s logical fears of the unknown and a desire to stand behind their country and turning one group against another. They are inspiring citizens to be pro-German but at the cost of violence against any other group that is not a member of the nationalist movement. A good, unifying and empowering ideal like nationalism, working to bring people together but at the expense of another group isn’t just bad nationalism, it is extremely bad nationalism.
Unfortunately, some people are letting their emotions get the better of them and failing to learn from the lessons of the past. Germany is not the only modern country facing ethnically or racially based extreme and ultranationalist movements. Countries like the Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, China, United States and many more are the in the midst of massive nationalist upheaval. Many of the countries in Eastern Europe are still struggling to find national identity over twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union and advent of democracy.
China is continuing its moves to be seen as not just an Asian superpower but a global one and the United States is trying to remain the dominant global superpower. All of these cases have resulted in nationalist movements both for the good but some that are turning or returning to the bad. In 1991, the Ukraine and so many former Soviet Union holdings began to regain independence. Unfortunately for many they did not know what to do with it after being run by ab oppressive regime for so long. Making matters worse many had come to believe and love what the USSR stood for.
This is what has made the recent actions in the region even more complex, some of these people want to believe in a unified Ukraine, but there are many others who want to fly the Russian flag. In figure 5 you can see how ethnically diverse the country is, mainly split between Russian speaking and Ukrainian speaking and even containing pockets of other Slavic peoples. It is no wonder then that when Russian forces sought to annex the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, many Ukrainian/Russians supported the move. As the map shows Ukrainian/Russians are the majority ethnic group on the peninsula.
As the Europeans and United States became involved an even bigger divide between the pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian parties began to emerge. This outside interference fueled the pro-Russian nationalist movements across the country. One young man, Alex Spivak, a Ukrainian living near the border with Russian and a pro-Russian demonstrator expressed his feelings, “We are Russian people; we know by ourselves what to do. ” (Shapiro, 2014) This disunity shows how nationalism can transcend borders and can reflect the difficulties of state formation especially when one considers ethnic diaspora.
Pro-Ukrainian’s are not without a voice, however. Several Ukrainian nationalist movements have also gained momentum since the Russian invasion. Members of the country still weary of the Communist bloc days have seen the Russian aggressiveness as a rally cry of its own. The pro-Ukrainian groups have adopted the slogan, “Slava Ukrania’, meaning glory to Ukraine. For many, the phrase captures a deep pride, strength and unity fueling their desire to rebuild the government. ” (Harris, 2014)
In Croatia and Serbia nationalism has always been an essential part of life, Serbian nationalist would fire the shot that killed the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, sparking the first World War. Croation nationalists would be the driving force behind a push to separate from the Republic of Yugoslavia. When the Croatian government finally did declare independence from the collapsing Yugoslav government it would be Serb nationalists who would take it upon themselves to try and hold the nation together.
This has created a “longstanding resentment” between the two nations. Nationalism on both sides of the argument played into the bitter feud that has existed now for decades, another product of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. On the Croat side, nationalism in the form of a desire for independence pushed the population to pull itself away from a repressive regime. The Serb side with its dreams of a unified Slav state clung desperately to Yugoslav nationalism.
Eventually the former Yugoslav state would be torn asunder as each group (Bosnians, Macedonians, Slovenians, Croatians and Serbs) found a desire for their independence and nationalism of their own. Even as recently as 2008 the former Serb holding of Kosovo declared its independence, though it is not recognized by all of the member states of the U. N. as an independent of Serbia. Again nationalism is seen as a double edged sword, for some it was seen as a call from freedom and independence, for others it was seen as the death of the dream of Slavic unification.