Defending the West Isn’t About Racism. It’s About Civilization.

September 18, 2017

Defending the West Isn’t About Racism. It’s About Civilization. Thomas / CCL

The word “nationalist” has become an ugly label, one that conjures images of goosestepping battalions of jackbooted fascists.

Perhaps for that reason, individuals on both sides of the political spectrum have criticized President Donald Trump’s “nationalist” rhetoric. They believe that nationalism leads to isolationism and bloody conflicts. Many have erroneously concluded that nationalism is a pernicious form of ethnocentrism.

Indeed, there appears to be a pervasive belief that nationalism is about race and ethnicity. This faulty belief stems in large part from the growth of the alt-Right, whose adherents promote a type of nationalism that identifies white European culture as the source of the West’s greatness. However, their beliefs are inherently flawed.

True American nationalism is the belief that American values are exceptional enough and important enough to preserve, both in our political structure and our cultural life. These values, including individual liberty, human rights both civil and political, and freedom of speech and religion, are inextricably woven in the fabric of our nation, such that any form of American nationalism is a form of advocacy for those values.

There are a few important things that Americans need to understand about true nationalism.

Nationalism is about values

The type of nationalism Americans should adopt has nothing to do with race. It is related to the values we hold. Since the founding of our nation, Americans have held to the value of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that these rights are given to us inherently.

It is these values that set us apart.

Indeed, America’s greatness comes from the values to which we aspire. Contrary to what many on the left believe, all cultures are not created equal.

While this may sound politically incorrect, it is objectively true.

In a piece written for The Federalist, author John Ehrett wrote:

If you believe it makes sense to talk about the moral objectivity of human rights (and most people, on both the Left and the Right, implicitly reason from this assumption), it logically follows that some nations are objectively better than others at promoting human rights.

While the U.S. and some other Western countries believe that human rights are sacred, many other cultures don’t subscribe to this point of view. In countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, the rights of citizens are routinely violated by their governments. In countries like Venezuela and Cuba, those who speak out against the government risk being killed or imprisoned.

The U.S. is exceptional because our citizens don’t have to experience the type of oppression that others face on a daily basis. It is one of the major reasons so many people wish to immigrate to the United States.

Of course, America has not always lived up to our stated values. Slavery, Japanese internment and the mistreatment of minorities are all areas where we have fallen short.

However, if the founders had not established the values of freedom and liberty, it is highly unlikely that we would have ever rectified these evils. These atrocities represent our nation’s failure to live up to our values, not our values themselves.

It is not about race

Furthermore, of the biggest misconceptions about nationalism is that it is focused on race.

Many people believe that nationalism is inextricably linked to white supremacy. Given the current political environment, one cannot be blamed for making this assumption. People like Richard Spencer and Vox Day have promoted the idea that Western exceptionalism is based on geography and race.

While it’s true that members of the alt-Right believe that culture is related primarily to ethnicity and white supremacy, their views do not represent what true nationalism is and should be.

The alt-Right’s widespread use of social media that has enabled them to disseminate their view to the point that a significant number of Americans have assumed that people who support nationalistic beliefs are putting forth a white supremacist ideology.

However, the alt-Right misses the point. The United States’ Judeo-Christian values have nothing to do with the white race; they originated in the Middle East, not in Europe.

The ideas that were present during the founding of our nation have been adopted by people of all races and backgrounds. A black American can believe in the sanctity of human rights just as much as a white American or a Hispanic American. It is our beliefs that unite us and make us exceptional — not the color of our skin.

Why it is important to defend our values

If we believe that American values make our nation great, we must be willing to fight for the preservation of these values. If our culture is to survive, we must ensure that our core beliefs remain intact. It is our ideology that enables us to remain a positive force in the world.

While several factors could threaten our values, one of the most prominent dangers is the propagation of the misconceptions that push Americans to reject the idea of nationalism.

The alt-Right has distorted the meaning of nationalism while the Left has painted those who express pride in our nation as being ethnocentric. In some cases, they have claimed that nationalism is responsible for some of the most violent conflicts we have experienced.

Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry at National Review wrote:

Anti-nationalists blame the world wars on nationalism even though those wars involved multinational empires (in the case of the first) and transnational ideologies (in the case of the second). They strain to devise labored distinctions between a good patriotism and a bad nationalism.

But the reality is that nationalism is not always the cause of wars. If this were the case, every nation on the planet would be in a constant state of conflict, because regardless of how strenuously people object to the notion of nationalism, every country practices it to a certain extent.

Lowry and Ponnuru also point out:

No one, no matter how cosmopolitan, is truly a citizen of the world. The “international community” doesn’t give out citizenship, or even green cards. We are citizens of particular nations where we live and are enmeshed in relationships of reciprocal obligation. No nation opens itself to all people of the world willy-nilly; every nation privileges people born within it (and those foreigners it decides to welcome). Every nation worth its salt takes special care to protect its own citizens and soldiers. No nation is going to care more than France if a French citizen is taken hostage somewhere in the Middle East.

Preserving our Culture

Another threat to our values is the flawed notion of multiculturalism. At first glance, arguing against multiculturalism might resemble the rhetoric of the alt-Right. However, this isn’t the case.

Multiculturalism is the idea that several different cultures can occupy the same space at once without losing the overall belief system of the nation. It means that a country should not require immigrants to assimilate into their society and adopt its values.

But protecting our values doesn’t mean that immigrants must leave their cultures behind when they enter the United States. It simply means that people who wish to become Americans should be expected to embrace our values of equality and liberty. As long as their culture does not conflict with our core beliefs, they should be welcomed into our country.

In contrast, if a person comes from a country that believes in oppressing minorities and women, they should be expected to leave these values behind. This is where Europe has failed — and it is making them vulnerable to having their values replaced by people from countries who do not value freedom and liberty in the same way.

It is incumbent on Americans to ensure that our culture remains intact. If we believe that the United States’ values are greater than any others in the world, we must work to defend them.

Instead of being afraid to celebrate our culture, we should embrace it, and encourage others to do the same.

Americans throughout history have fought and died for our values. Let us ensure that their sacrifices were not in vain.

The ideas expressed in this column are those of the contributing writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of Conservative Institute. 

Jeff Charles

Jeff Charles is a writer and political commentator. Jeff's writing has been featured on Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post.