By ARYAN KHONDE, political columnist
America is currently sailing in uncharted waters as it struggles in the fight between embracing nationalism and embracing patriotism that is seemingly encompassing the nation. This is not an isolated incident, as right-wing populist movements have taken root all over the world, such as in Brazil with Jair Bolsonaro and in Hungary with Viktor Orbán. Similar to the United States, the movements formed due to discontent with globalization and the liberal authority structure that pervaded the traditional one. Politics can be best summarized as a reactionary sport in which the pendulum of change shifts every couple of years as people become dissatisfied with the current system. America was ripe for the taking by a polarizing figure such as Donald Trump as the seeds for his rise were planted in early 2010 after the Tea Party was formed to combat Obama’s liberal plans for the economy. What initially started as a libertarian movement to fix the economy soon transitioned to anti-establishment sentiments that gave rise to candidates like Donald Trump. Soon, far-right policies found a home in the Trump administration, which is actively seeking to implement these policies in America. America needs to wake up, avoid inflammatory rhetoric, and hold true to the virtues that it has held onto from the start: freedom, justice, and benevolence. This can only be achieved if the country keeps nationalism to a minimum.
Perhaps the best example of nationalism that is currently sweeping the nation is the “America First” foreign policy advanced by the Trump administration. On the surface, this policy might seem pro-America; however, it has proven to have negative consequences, as there has been a net outflow of jobs with the policy in place. Additionally, when looking closer at this dangerous set of policies, one can see that this ideology will undermine America’s role in international cooperations and promote protectionist policies that will hurt America economically in the long run. The 21st century is marred with a new set of issues that are unique from any other as mass migrations, cybersecurity, and the melting planet seem to be ignored. America simply cannot afford to build a wall around these issues; it must actively work with others to shape a better future for all.
When the US pulls out of something as necessary as the Paris Agreement, a UN agreement that aims to combat climate change and accelerate actions to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases used, by citing the fact that protecting American big business is more important than the irreversible warming of the planet, it sends a message to the rest of the world that America is happy to be isolated from international partnerships. Granted, America must address the issues that it currently faces, such as protecting intellectual property and guaranteeing economic reciprocality. However, the cocktail of nationalism, protectionism, and jingoism the Trump administration calls the “America First” foreign policy is certainly not the answer. America needs to protect the technological superiority it has enjoyed for the last 75 years; this can only be done if we take on the role of the vanguard of collaboration by promoting the free flow of ideas between nations.
Nationalism is only further polarizing the nation. In his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama said, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America.” 15 years later, Obama’s words seem to be merely optimistic thinking as America now openly embraces xenophobia and bigotry in the halls of the Oval Office. The Muslim ban, the Trump Wall, and the “very fine people on both sides” reflect a pattern of prejudice that is intrinsically un-American. America must promote the progression of the world by first opening up to the values of acceptance and selflessness that will, without a doubt, set an example to other nations.
Protecting self-interests and sovereignty is the right of any nation, and we must make sure that we preserve these ideals to prevent the country from plunging into the tide of nationalism. State-building at home depends on promoting the interests of the world. Only when America advances international interests will it see dividends at home. The 21st century is a time that demands cooperation and compromise. America should be wary of the dim future that lays ahead if it continues at this heedless pace, as our values will only be forsaken and our role in international affairs will be minimized. If we have learned anything from the past, it is that unity trumps division. The United States should follow the right path in order to shape a better future for all.
Image Source: https://time.com/5675803/america-flag-threat/