Is patriotism simply America's version of nationalism

A new intellectual hunt


Read on one side

Enlightenment? Carson called the constitution, the original of which is within easy reach under bulletproof glass, a product of divine inspiration and providence. The founders of the republic on the wall, which insisted on diversity and religious freedom, were also unable to defend themselves when they were ennobled as accomplices of "1,000 years of Western civilization".

In the ears of die-hard (white) Trump fans, however, the speech by their president may have evoked pleasant feelings. You may see yourself on the losing side of history, overwhelmed by constant questioning and doubts, monument falls and text corrections, moral claims and financial reparations demands from all the "others" who have been included in a more inclusive and self-reflective history of the American nation in the last few decades. Apparently they do not accept that a view of history that has been geared towards heroes for decades has turned post-heroically to victims of state crimes and genocide. The Faulkner mural shows 25 white men rallying around George Washington; this underlines which colors were missing in 1776 and what was corrected or still needs to be added in the spirit of the constitutional promise made at the time.

The self-proclaimed patriots are in truth völkisch nationalists who want to see such questions cleared up and erased. Her primer is Wilfred McClay's hurrapatriotic textbook Land of Hope (2019), which is expected to become compulsory reading in US schools. On the other hand, as exemplified by the US story by Jill Lepore, a liberal patriotism also illuminates the "dark sides": the cruelty of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, the expulsion and massacre of the indigenous peoples, political corruption and corporate greed, the anti-communist witch hunt under McCarthy, the fascist tendencies of the "America First" movement in the late 1930s. It is noticeable that the patriotic upsurge methodically ties in with these downsides: By complaining about indoctrination, Trump is initiating a new intellectual hunt that has always been a trademark of American populism.

A test of the culture of remembrance

Trump's misrepresentation of history degrades his country to the status of autocracies, all of which fall back on the means of rule of a culture of remembrance that has been corrected in terms of history and politics: Putin disseminates a counterfactual version of the "Great Patriotic War" (which threatens Poland and the Baltic states), Erdoğan's understanding of history fantasizes into one Neo-Ottoman caliphate, Hindu nationalism is conquering the curriculum in India, and in Europe the rehabilitation of interwar autocrats such as Miklós Horthy and Józef Piłsudski or anti-Semitic movements such as the Arrow Cross, the collaboration of the Hungarian right with National Socialism and the involvement of Polish actors to whitewash.

History in the United States will not participate, and its opposition is supported by anyone teaching American history and politics abroad. Whether this succeeds like the defense against colonialist revisionism in France during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy or the attempts to dispose of Nazi crimes in Germany is the new test of a democratic (and cosmopolitan) culture of remembrance. Incidentally, this also includes self-critical reflection on the blind spots as well as the exaggerations of one's own views.