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The other “N” words.

October 23, 2017

We all know about the one “N” word that no one is supposed to utter, but now we have two more that are apparently perfectly OK to tag someone with…nativist and nationalist, presumably used in reaction to President Trump’s immigration policies, as well as the identity politics of the past decade.

Let’s look at them a little more closely.

Merriam-Webster defines “nativist” as “1. :a policy of favoring native inhabitants as opposed to immigrants. 2. :the revival or perpetuation of an indigenous culture especially in opposition to acculturation.”

It’s usually used in modern context as a term of disparagement to those opposed to open borders and unrestricted immigration.

The same dictionary defines nationalism as 1. :loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially :a sense of national consciousness (see consciousness 1c) exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.

The modern interpretation however, is that nationalism is the dogma of primarily white American super bigots.

You can take your pick as to what either definition means to you, but suffice it to say, in the politics of today, they are not meant to be terms of endearment.

That makes it confusing for former Presidents to tag the country as being either one.

For the past many decades, Presidents of both stripes have consistently said that is the nation’s obligation to bring democracy to the world, whether the world wants it or not. Nation-building in America’s image has been an American foreign policy hallmark for most of the twentieth and the very early 21st century.

Isn’t that nationalism, if you accept the formal definition of the word?

It isn’t clear whether former President  George W. Bush was specifically targeting President Trump, given that there is little love lost between the Bush clan and Trump, or if he  was simply commenting on the identity politics being used in America today. As to former President Obama, there is considerably less ambiguity.

Fine.  You don’t have to like the man; after all, about half the country doesn’t.

But as men who fought like hell to represent America, it might behoove them and their other three living peers not to engage in imprecise labeling. Disparaging those who actually do believe the country has a right to know who is entering the country and why, or who judge people by the color of the character and not of their skin should be beneath any former President.

From → op-ed

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