“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
― Rudyard Kipling
Nationalism is never humble. Like a mob, it has no real conscience. Only the individual has a conscience, and even then you have to fight for it.
Nationalism tells us that we are better than everyone else. We should be proud of our glorious empire. We are morally superior. It is especially insidious because it starts out by just making us feel good about ourselves. Celebratory, and unified with one another. It creeps in unrecognized. But countless horrors have been its product.
It is still incredible to me how many Americans will look you straight in the eye, and justify the “unintended” drone bombing of children in Yemen. Iraq. Afghanistan. Syria. They will do this while sitting in church. They won’t even realize that they believe we are superior to others. Oh, it might make them uncomfortable, but they will tell themselves what the government and media have been telling them for years; “They hate us for our freedom. They want to kill us. We’re keeping ourselves safe. The world needs us.” They will feel a slight disgust with the few people that have contrary views. I know it, because once I was them.
We could all use a little enlightenment now and then.
Individuals, you know, are the real sung and unsung heroes of the past. Take the Jewish holocaust for example. You’ve heard the names… Oskar Schindler, Corrie Ten Boom, Raoul Wallenberg, Irena Sendler. A multitude of others that we’ll never know. They hid Jews in their homes, they forged passports, they did all manner of things that put their own lives, and the lives of their families at risk. Because they weren’t superior, they cared. They exercised conscience instead of stifling it. Maintained humility. I bet they felt alone, and scared. What were the majority of other people doing at the same time? Sieg Heil.
I’ve heard Niemoller’s quote so many times, that it has almost lost meaning. Inevitably it is shared by those who are waiting for some “obvious” conflict that they’ll need to resist. You know, like a train full of humans going down the track to that place with the smoke coming out. Because of course they would never let that happen. But it never starts out that way. Then, as always, it started out much less obviously to most. I think it started with a little celebratory flag waving.