Bob Ryan

The Many Definitions of Nationalism

Words and accusations often get thrown around with no basis in accuracy of either definition or historical context. Anti-Semites, including those who hide behind being anti-Israel, have a long history of getting the definitions and history completely wrong. They are blind to logic and reason, which leads to ignorance of a subject.

When anyone refers to nationalism as a purely negative word, they are just as ignorant of the definition as those who refer to nationalism as a purely positive word. Nationalism, as is the case with most words in the English language, has more than one definition. The word can be positive or negative, depending on the intent. gives seven definitions for nationalism. Six are positive leaving only one as a negative definition.

  1. spirit or aspirations common to the whole of a nation.

This is the bringing together of people of any given nation by the things that unite them as a nation. When people stand for their national anthem, they do so regardless of who they are or where they come from. Those of us living in countries where people are free to stand if they wish, should remember those out there who do not have that simple freedom, and should stand a little taller for those who have no choice.

A national anthem is a representation of the spirit of any nation. In free countries, the simple singing of their songs throughout the world serves as a unifying moment. It has nothing to do with the politics of the day, but of something more important than political winds. Coming together and uniting in common spirit in any free nation is a positive.

  1. devotion and loyalty to one’s own country; patriotism.

When you read this definition, take notice of the lack of anything political. It has nothing to do with political parties, but something much deeper than political whims that come and go from one generation to another. It is about the common ground that makes up a nation.

When soldiers and sailors throughout the free world swear their oaths, they do so out of a sense of national pride and honor. It is the bringing together of people from all walks of life under a common cause. When country is put above the politicians that run a country, it is a positive.

  1. excessive patriotism; chauvinism.

Excessive patriotism is always divisive. It creates a sense of superiority for those who follow an ideology over a nation. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc. all used excessive patriotism to bring about the result they wanted from those who followed them. It has existed throughout recorded history.

Woodrow Wilson used it to target Americans of German descent and segregation of the United States government, which included the military. Mao used it to slaughter 10s of millions of Chinese. Stalin used it to become the greatest mass murdered in all of recorded history.

Extreme nationalism leads to blindly following orders given by those who put themselves above their nations. Their followers take actions without question, since they believe their leaders know better than they do. Orders do not have to make sense; they just have to be followed.

Extreme nationalism is the only negative definition, since it is the only one that divides a people of a given nation.

  1. the desire for national advancement or political independence.

Most nations want technological advancement that will move their people forward with few exceptions today. Even dictatorships want to advance, but hold their people back. When a given population is controlled by means of force, innovation is lost. Those who are subjugated have no means to advance anything. The Chinese government brutalizes the majority of the Chinese, which is one of the reasons they must steal every advancement in technology.

Political independence in and of itself is neither negative nor positive. The means at which independence is attempted determines which. The British wanted independence from the EU and sought it through peaceful means. The IRA wanted Irish independence and sought it through violent means.

National advancement is a positive; political independence is neutral, making the entire definition positive.

  1. the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.

Every leader puts the interests of their own nations ahead of other nations. Several years ago, Canada began to heavily subsidize their lumber industry to flood American markets, which had a detrimental impact in the United States. The Canadian government acted in the interest of Canada. It was so detrimental the American lumber companies, the United States pushed for and got signed between both countries, the U.S.-Canada Lumber trade Agreement in 2006.

It is not a negative thing to put one’s country above others from a political view.

  1. an idiom or trait peculiar to a nation.

There is no need to expand on this one, as it is already clear as to the reason for this being a positive definition.

  1. a movement, as in the arts, based upon the folk idioms, history, aspirations, etc., of a nation.

This definition is positive. It serves as a reminder of our past and potential futures. No nation has a perfect past and history should reflect the good and bad of any nation. A nation is similar to a family tree.

Every person has good and bad as part of their DNA from the past, which makes a person who (s)he is today. It matters not if that person is descended from one who created great evil or great good, since the actions of the past are part of the past. What does matter is how one views the past; as a lesson to be learned with eyes on the future, or great weight dragging one down to keep one’s self from ever reaching the potential they have.

When nationalism is used today, the intent does matter. To assume a negative is to ignore the many positive definitions that are associated with nationalism. Is the speaker looking for some sense of unity, or being divisive?

Rely not what others report, but look for the words in their entirety. Much of the media has no interest in reporting what is true, but in spinning fabrications from a kernel of truth when the time is taken to use a kernel. It is more often the case of political and media led accusations of extreme patriotism, than to be an actual case of extreme patriotism.

About the Author
Bob Ryan is a novelist of the future via science-fiction, dystopian or a combination of the two, and blogger of the past with some present added in on occasion. He believes the key to understanding the future is to understand the past, since human nature is an unchanging force. As any writer can attest, he spends a great deal of time researching numerous subjects. He is someone who seeks to strip away emotion in search of reason, since emotion clouds judgement. Bob is an American with an MBA in Business Administration. He is a gentile who supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. He is a Christian Zionist who knows God is calling His chosen home as foretold in prophecy.
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