The Essence of a Nation is Intangible

It follows that the biggest threat to the West is the West itself, in the sense that the rise of nativism and religious extremism within the Western alliance and bloc can undermine the entire international system by undermining the position of the West itself. For instance, we are now accustomed to nativism and religious extremism in the United States as a result of the Trump years. But these two social maladies, namely, nativism and religious extremism, have now spread to other parts of the Western bloc. 

For instance, Israel has been mired in protests and social unrest and upheaval ever since the takeover of the Israeli government by a handful of religious extremists and fanatics a number of weeks ago. Left and right, as well as young and old, are now confronting one another on the streets in Israel, with the Israeli police laying down a heavy hand on these protestors, and much of it has to do with the fact that the adverse and negative impacts of nativism and religious extremism and fanaticism are now truly being felt in the Western bloc and it seems as though Israel was never immune from them. 

Hence, we underestimated the impact of neoconservatism, evangelism, nativism, and religious extremism on the entirety of the international system because we were not cognizant of the nature of culture itself and how it can be so impacted virtually everywhere by such elements and forces in our society here in America. As John Mearsheimer wrote: “Cultures are not fixed because individual identities are not hardwired into people at birth. Instead, they are socially constructed and are more fluid than primordialists recognize.” Mearsheimer added that the elites in a society “often play a key role in shaping a nation” and that: “In essence, the real basis of nationhood is psychological, not biological.” No nation is a monolith, and as a result, it has been said that “the essence of a nation is intangible.” 

Everything is about identity formation when it comes to culture and its development, and identities and thus culture and nationhood are formed when a large group of people adopt “tangible beliefs and practices that matter greatly for its common identity.” And as Francis Fukuyama noted: “The American Constitution’s failure to define who the American people are reflects a broader problem for all liberal democracies.” 

What does it mean to be an “American”? If citizenship and identity are not based on biology and race in the United States and if citizenship and identity are largely fluid and socially constructed, then what is called for is “the right kind of inclusive national identities” which are rooted in the transnational nature of our affairs as a nation as well as in international law. Nor can a truly “American identity” in this day and age be rooted in any particular religion. For those who claim that America is a “Christian nation” overlook the fact that the U.S. Constitution ensures the freedom to exercise all kinds of religions, and in fact, the Founding Fathers of the United States did not fit the mold of the nativist and extreme religious types which are now seeking to dominate the public discourse. To suggest that the Founding Fathers intended for nativists and religious Christian extremists to dominate and hijack the political discourse in America would amount to blasphemy and misinformation in their most outrageous form. 

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