Speaking in Greece on his valedictory trip to Europe as president, Barack Obama struck a familiar theme: “(W)e are going to have to guard against a rise in a crude form of nationalism, or ethnic identity, or tribalism that is built around an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ …
“(T)he future of humanity and the future of the world is going to be defined by what we have in common, as opposed to those things that separate us and ultimately lead us into conflict.”
That the world’s great celebrant of “diversity” envisions an even more multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial America and Europe is not news. This dream has animated his presidency.
But in this day of Brexit and president-elect Donald Trump, new questions arise. Is Obama’s vision a utopian myth? Have leaders like him and Angela Merkel lost touch with reality? Are not they the ones who belong to yesterday, not tomorrow?
“Crude nationalism,” as Obama said, did mark that “bloodiest” of centuries, the 20th. But nationalism has also proven to be among mankind’s most powerful, beneficial and enduring forces.
You cannot wish it away. To do that is to deny history, human nature and the transparent evidence of one’s own eyes.
A sense of nationhood — “I am not a Virginian, but an American,” said Patrick Henry — ignited our revolution.
Nationalism tore apart the “evil empire” of Ronald Reagan’s depiction, liberating Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians and Bulgarians, and breaking apart the Soviet Union into 15 nations.
Was that so terrible for mankind?