Thanks for this.

I think the ideas she puts out here do not necessarily only apply to America - exceptionalist thinking is probably what defines the border between nationalism and patriotism. I abhor it for its tendency to need an us and a them - to know others only by analogy.

I see nationalism as a blind identity-driven thing that will only work in the most trivial of cases and definitely doesn't translate to the globalised world we have today: Neville Alexander wrote a whole book about the national question in South Africa. His thesis was essentially that every historical attempt to define the nation was doomed to failure because they ultimately rely on a flawed definition of what it must be. I don't think the question has actually been answered yet: "What is a South African?" has not been settled. Where exceptionalism comes in is that it makes you think that at least you know what a South African is not. Africa, but not that Africa, right?

In that way I'd like to imagine a different kind of feeling (patriotism?) that is more focused on doing the things that are good for all mankind, but just doing them in the place where you happen to be and which so intangibly forms your identity. Not really sure about this but it's a thought. It's probably more pragmatism than anything else.

In any case, I think the takeaway from the article should not be a narrow realisation of "America's other reputation abroad" but more about the introspective elements to it - trying to imagine a different way of locating yourself in the world. I actually think there's something profound hidden here but I haven't been able to crack it.

posted by kleinbl00: 314 days ago