The Paradoxes of American Nationalism Americans have enormous national pride, which often leads them to become unwilling and unable to look inward. Americans see themselves and their ideals as universal truths, such as freedom, while it appears to other countries to be nationalism. For those Americans who don’t question information and don’t think beyond their own existence, it makes sense to say that they are naive to our nationalism and the nationalism of other countries. As Pei points out–there are a number of differences between nationalism in this country and nationalism in other countries.
First, nationalism in this country is not created by the state as it is in some other countries. Our nationalism is produced by the common citizens. American nationalism is also unique, as it’s not based on the belief that we’re ethnically superior because there’s a mix of so many ethnicities. We as Americans base our nationalism in pride in our government and democracy instead. Unlike nationalism in other countries, American nationalism is based on our present and future capabilities, instead of in our past.
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In other countries, nationalism arises when people feel that they’re being humiliated by other countries. Americans do not dwell on their humiliations in the same way. Instead, they look forward to even better times that lie ahead of them. In Pei’s article, Pei takes a realistic approach in his analysis of American foreign policy. Based on his approach, it makes you ask yourself the following question: Do the three distinguishing characteristics of American nationalism that Pei identifies create the basis for a case of superiority for American nationalism as opposed to the nationalism of other countries?
One thing to look at to answer this question is the inherent and general nature of American nationalism. It’s largely predicated not on ethnicity or ancestral ties but on the active choice of its participants to remain national Americans. This includes whether or not native born Americans choose to be indoctrinated. Based on this question, you get a sense that Pei’s three aspects of American nationalism almost argue a case for American imperialism. American nationalism comes off looking forceful, broad, and forward-thinking.
I agree that Americans are extremely naive about the power and effects of nationalism towards their own and towards others. I believe that the ignorance of nationalism of other nations that Americans seem to portray is the main cause of our “reforming” movements abroad. Being unaware to the possibility of nationalism in other nations, Americans attempt to press their ideals on others, supposing everyone would want to be like them. We as Americans, refuse to understand or accept its importance in many communities because of our own denial of its presence in our own nation.
Overall, I think nationalism is quite misunderstood by the general public. Americans tend to assert that their values are good, and that those who don’t value the same things are wrong. Since Americans believe that their values are good, it follows that Americans believe that their values should be universal. Since Americans believe in the goodness of their values, Americans fail to understand that others may not want to share those values and fail to understand that others have values of their own.
Americans see such people as backwards because such people reject values which, according to Americans, should be universal. American’s disdain such people because they reject “universal” values, not because they reject American values (though the values are actually American, not universal). Also, while Americans are proud of their values and regard them as superior to those of other people, Americans do not recognize themselves as a hallmark of nationalism, even though they are. Therefore, Americans are blind to their defense of American values and their behavior as nationalists.