July 24th, 2012Bit by Painful Bitby Dena Hunt

There were several posts recently about patriotism and nationalism. These are not synonyms, nor are they “positive” and “negative” views of the same human emotion. They are antonyms, in fact. Patriotism is the love of one’s homeland, having its source in connotative memory of home, family, of that which is familiar and dear. It performs the healthy psychological function of bestowing identity, a sense of security and of belonging. It’s a natural part of a healthy psyche. 

By contrast, the latter has its roots in a disavowed and suppressed self-doubt, a consequence of embracing that which one knows to be false, untrue, or inauthentic—and which eventually becomes unsustainable and erupts into a collective projection of “the enemy.” Nationalism is a kind of national paranoid schizophrenia, complete with delusions projected on an “enemy.” Nationalism is a sickness of the psyche that can pervade a nation and corrupt it from within. An example is the McCarthyism that poisoned the U.S. psyche in the 1950s, caused by our own unacknowledged insecurity about the presumed virtuousness of unlimited private enterprise capitalism. “Commies” were seen lurking everywhere, ready to leap at every opportunity to destroy “sacred” America. McCarthyism was defeated because its threat to sanity ultimately became too obvious to ignore: total global nuclear annihilation.

Better known (possibly because they’re not “us”) was the nationalism of Nazi Germany, and its war against its own projected enemy—its Jews. The country’s original intention was to rid Germany of those Jews within it. It was only because of their military conquests that Jews of other nations also became their “enemies” because delusions, formed by pathological imagination alone, need constant reinforcement. A Polish Jew had to be seen as diabolical as a German Jew; otherwise, the original premise would be wrong. (That’s why Nazi propaganda always kept insisting that the conquered nations would someday thank the Germans for ridding them of “their Jews,” an assertion that seemed strange to non-Germans.) Because of Germany’s defeat, historians have been able to trace the causes of that country’s rabid nationalism to its diseased roots. Defeat is usually seen as calamity, but sometimes it is pure grace. Germany was saved by its defeat. 

The nationalism that pervaded England in the 16th century was that country’s greatest tragedy precisely because it was not defeated. It’s easy to trace and to expose the toxic roots of nationalism in a defeated nation; it’s not so easy when that nation is undefeated. One might almost say that God chastises those he loves; to the others, he gives victory. Unlike Germany’s war against its Jews, England’s war against its Catholics was unchallenged. Thus the self-propaganda necessary for the maintenance of delusion continued, and historically, an abiding nationalism came to occupy the place in the heart where patriotism should be. In modern times, the country has been attempting to self-medicate the canker at its root by a kind of ethno-masochism, but that cannot cure it. Self-flagellation becomes only another form of denial. 

There have been—and there are now—English people who long to love their country again. But because authentic love of any kind can only live in the light of truth, they have a difficult task ahead of them. They have to de-propagandize their history, and the deeper a lie is embedded in the psyche, the more painful and difficult its exposure. Eamon Duffey is among those who pursue this arduous, lonely, and mostly thankless task.  He exposes English revisionist history, bit by painful bit. His books are scholarly because of their historical purpose and not always “easy reads” for non-historians. But here’s a link to a readable synopsis that appears in Catholic Exchange this morning.


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