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National identity

I posted this in ara_antifa, a community dedicated to ending racism, in response to a person who was questioning zir national identity because zie felt embarrassed at being a member of a nation that perpetrates a lot of evil.

There's no such thing as "a nation is fundamentally evil." There may be people in power perpetrating evil deeds, and there may be unpleasant cultural elements.

If I live in such a nation, and have no plans to move or change my citizenship, then I'm obligated to work to change things for the better. I believe that the other people who live in the nation will be better off if I stay and try to change things, rather than if I leave. (However, there's no shame in leaving if I might be in danger from what my nation does or if I don't have the ability to work to enact the necessary changes.)

Feeling embarrassed to live in a particular country is as silly as feeling proud to live in a particular country, assuming that you happened to be born there and haven't made a conscious decision to live there.

And if you have lived in a particular country all your life, then you will inevitably have some of its cultural tendencies, and it's legitimate to call yourself, say, an American if you have American cultural tendencies (which include cultures of dissent, so saying it doesn't mean you are a right-wing fundie). If you choose to stay in, say, America in order to try to change it for the better, you also get to call yourself an American and thereby make the statement that not every American is evil.

However, choosing to reject your identity as a member of a particular country can also be useful insofar as it might get other people to think about how they approach their national identity.

I will say that I think the tendency to set oneself apart from others and reject one's identity, and to believe that doing so makes one morally more pure, is a trait that's culturally American, due to the huge overemphasis in the US on individualism at the expense of group membership. And I think this tendency contributes to what's lousy about the US government, as well as why attempts to change rotten government policies haven't worked so well: a lot of people seem to think that if they can't personally ride into Washington on a tank and fix everything, like they see in movies, they can't do anything at all.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2004 12:30 pm (UTC)
I adore you!
Jul. 14th, 2004 06:47 pm (UTC)
Jul. 14th, 2004 03:58 pm (UTC)
I obviously don't agree with all of this, but your point about feeling embarrassed to have a certain kind of citizenship is exactly right.

Jul. 14th, 2004 04:45 pm (UTC)
You've probably written at length about your views on the subject, but if you felt like briefly noting our points of disagreement here, I'd find that interesting. No pressure.
Jul. 14th, 2004 06:10 pm (UTC)
Well, there's really only one thing, and I even agree with it as you phrased it ("I believe that the other people who live in the nation will be better off if I stay and try to change things, rather than if I leave."). Which is to say that I think the United States in particular is better off if you personally stay there. But I don't agree with the generalization that may or may not have been behind it.

I buy into a very literal version of "your country: love it or leave it." I think diversity of opinion within a country is a fine thing, but there's a point where it's ineffective, disruptive, or both. I left the United States because I *didn't* "love it" -- my political philosophy is drastically different from that of my country of birth, and any attempts of mine to change it, if they by some miracle had been effective, would have altered it beyond recognition. I make a much better Canadian than I ever did an American, and I think it would be a good thing, not a bad thing, if more people considered making similar moves for similar reasons. (In both directions.)

Jul. 14th, 2004 07:53 pm (UTC)
Good points. If emigrating weren't so difficult for many people, I might agree more with you.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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