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Understanding Nationalism


Nationalism is a political ideology that emphasizes the interests, culture, and value of a nation or group of people. It often involves a sense of pride in one's country and the belief that a nation's interests should be prioritized over those of other nations. Nationalism can unify a population, but it can also lead to exclusionary practices and conflicts with other nations or groups.

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What does Nationalism mean?

Nationalism, sometimes also referred to as "patriotism," is the ideology that a person's primary dedication should be to their nation. A nationalist (should) consider the values and goals of their nation as more important than their own personal interests or loyalty to some other group. In cultural expression, nationalism is portrayed through idealizations of what a particular nation is. For example, the song "America the Beautiful" conjures up images of great expanses of bucolic farmland and untamed wilderness as metaphors for freedom and prosperity. Nationalist art may involve personified forms of particular values or the nation itself. The figure of Marianne has commonly been used in French nationalist art as a personification of liberty and the French spirit. In fact, she is often depicted leading the people during the French Revolution as a sort of mother-goddess figure. 

Nationalism has been the inspiration or direct result of a number of revolutions, including the French, American, and Chinese Communist Revolutions. Unfortunately, nationalism can create a slippery slope into exclusive mentalities. The recent decision for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union was in part due to British nationalism and the belief that immigrants pose a threat to the security of the United Kingdom. This decision has the potential to create great economic, social, and political unrest in years to come.

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What is Nationalism?

Simply put, nationalism is a strong connection to one's nation. Citizens swayed by nationalism focus on their own nation's interests over the interest of other nations. In the United States, for example, nationalism is interwoven throughout day-to-day life, from when students pledge allegiance to the flag to when the national anthem is sung in the beginning of sporting events.

Nationalism creates a sense of unity among members in a group. Throughout history, nationalism has been used to create strong ties between citizens of a country, especially during wartime. When Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, he used a form of extreme nationalism to inspire Germans to rally behind him and his Nazi beliefs. Hitler preached that Germans were the better, stronger, purer race among other races in the world. He instilled a sense of pride in the German nation after World War I, a period in which Germany was economically depressed.

In Denmark, the Danes are proud to be a part of their country. When celebrating birthdays, weddings, and other life events, Danes often decorate their homes with small Danish flags. When relatives visiting other countries return home, small danish flags are waved as they arrive at the airport. Nationalism in Denmark also appears during handball championships, when even citizens who do not follow the sport wave flags and wear jerseys to show their support for their team.

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