Feature Editorial

About Nationalism and Cholesterol


Most of us are aware that there is good and bad Cholesterol. The bad LDL must be under 100 mg/dL and the good HDL must be over 60 mg/dL.

Well, there is good and bad Nationalism. It took me a while to realize that because I never talked about it in the past. Now, when the President and others have, I understand that today’s view of nationalism in the media is not what it meant growing up in France during the 1940s and 50s.


My confusion surfaced when discussing the label during a recent DFW World Affairs Council event: I obviously was not on the ‘same page’ as the speaker. I got it straight once I did some checking. Last week, I shared what I found about nationalism with The Book Club of Heritage Ranch Democrats before we reviewed “Perilous Partners” (Co-authors: Ted Carpenter and Malou Innocent). Indeed, the Nationalists, who after WWII led their countries to freedom from colonialism, are prominent in many of the book‘s chapters.
Notorious ‘Good” Nationalists

Here are notorious ‘Good’ Nationalists while missing many: Mahatma Gandhi, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela and Ho Chi Minh. Some freedoms were acquired peacefully, others with as many as one million lives lost, but they contributed to the astonishing growth of The United Nations which has gone from 51 members in 1945 to about 200 today. I did not forget George Washington and his companions, the framers of our constitution.

Nationalism is defined as being loyal and devoted to one’s nation. It manifests itself in different forms, such as:

  • Desire for or advocacy of national independence motivated by the belief that a people who share a common language, history, and culture should constitute an independent nation, free of foreign domination. Example: USA, Algeria, Haiti, India, Indochina, Kenya and many more.
  • Identification with one’s own nation, devotion and support for its interests or culture — possibly to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations. Example: ‘Made in the USA’ campaign.
  • The belief that a nation will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals. Example: Their nationalism is tempered by a desire to join the European Union.
  • Excessive, narrow or jingoist patriotism; chauvinism, racism, supremacism … Example: Apartheid, Fascism, Nazism, Zionism …


Comments 1

  1. By Maury Marcus, chair, pct 39

    I wish to augment Tarek’s comments on nationalism, published 4-April-2019, with a few observations.

    (1) Tarek argues “good” nationalism versus “bad” nationalism. Charles DeGaulle saw a more cogent distinction — a patriot loves his or her country; a nationalist hates other countries.

    (2) Looking for “good” nationalists, Tarek includes Ho Chi Minh in the same category as Mandela, Kenyatta, and Gandhi. Ho does not belong with these great democratic leaders. He was totalitarian mass murderer whose main goal was a Communist Vietnam. Independence was only a step toward that goal. In the early 1930s, when the French were purging the non-Communist opposition, he betrayed the non-Communists to the French. This left only the Communists as a viable anti-colonial force. When the Communists took over in the north after the French left, they buried the rural “bourgeoisie” up to their necks in farm fields, decapitated them with bulldozers, and kicked their heads around like soccer balls. We should also note that the North Vietnamese ceased torturing American POWs contemporaneously with the death of Ho. The torture continued while he lived. The horrible truth about the sadistic cruelty of Vietnamese Communism does not justify the American war in Vietnam, either in how it was fought or in the misguided geopolitics of why America went into the war. But the democratic left must face the truth about Ho.

    (3) Listing forms of “bad” nationalism, Tarek equates Zionism with Nazism, Fascism, and Apartheid. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Zionism is advocacy of the survival and success of the Jewish democracy of Israel. Zionism is an answer to the antisemitic racism of 19th century Europe. To oppose Zionism is to declare that Mexico, France, Thailand, and New Zealand have a right to exist, but Israel does not. Anti-Zionism is antisemitism and antisemitism is always racism. This does not justify the Netanyahu government’s prolongation of the occupation of the west bank (which will be the future state of Palestine), its blockade of Gaza, or its endless expansion of settlements. The settlements are colonialism. Like the British in India, the French in Algeria, and the Americans in the Philippines and the Panama Canal Zone, the settlers need to return home to Israel proper and join in building their own country, not in squatting on a neighbor’s territory. But to question the basic existence of Israel, or any country, is racism.

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