Why This Jewish Rabbi Is Proud to Be an American Nationalist
Our country was founded on 'moral and workable principles and has provided more fair pay, opportunity, and decency' than any other nation
The grilling by Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) of conservative activist Candace Owens during her testimony on April 9 in front of the House Judiciary Committee was yet another demonstration of how most liberals and Democrats equate nationalism with fascism.
The topic was white nationalism — yet Lieu insisted that Owens, who is black, is somehow enamored with Hitler because she possesses the cardinal sin of being a nationalist.
While Lieu’s assertion regarding Owens was viewed by many as ludicrous, most within liberal precincts share the belief that an American white person who is a nationalist is a “white nationalist,” something loathsome and dangerous.
Critics within the U.S. have similarly assailed President Donald Trump over his enthusiastic endorsement of the concept of American nationalism. Many NeverTrumpers and neo-cons are in the forefront of this, charging that nationalism in America equals white supremacy, a forerunner to Nazism.
Nothing is further from the truth.
Loving America is a good thing inasmuch as America is a good country. As with any institution (including marriage and family), nothing is perfect; but America was founded on highly moral and workable principles and has consistently provided more fair pay, opportunity, and decency than any country in the history of the world.
America is the first choice for those around the world seeking a haven or a place to find work and dignity, and it deserves to be loved. It is a badge of honor to identify with America as a nation.
Loving this nation and its people is highly proper and commendable inasmuch as the American people themselves are a good people. For over a half century, I’ve traveled across America and, precisely because of my yarmulke, I’ve been greeted with enthusiasm and warmth by strangers. This is due to something uniquely American: a sense of spiritual and civic kinship with a member of the Jewish faith, whose biblical testament had much to do with the founding of this country and whose ancestral nation of Israel remains deeply ingrained within the American outlook.
Contrary to what liberal northeasterners often accuse, I’ve been treated with utmost respect and sincere friendship by those in the Deep South. News flash to NeverTrumpers and neo-cons: America is not Nazi Germany. Being a “super patriot” or putting America first is what we should do.
In the Pledge of Allegiance, we Americans refer to ourselves as one nation under God. Nationhood and nationalism are normal, natural instincts. On the contrary, equating American nationalism with something evil is very strange indeed — and purposely inflammatory. It reveals the accuser’s deep insecurity and discomfort with America itself. Worse, to imply that those who are nationalists or very patriotic are thereby white supremacists, Nazis, or racist is bigotry.
It is a reverse racism against millions of white Americans who harbor in their heart no animosity or malevolence, but rather the simple and laudable feeling of loving their country above other countries.
Unlike pre-World War II Europe, this is not a form of toxic nationalism.
Who is it that implanted within the psyche of those maligning American nationalism such disdain for fellow Americans? Where did this predisposition to impugn the motives of unabashedly patriotic Americans come from? It is hateful. Are “good” people only those who are against American nationalism or those constantly critical of America?
When candidate Trump spoke of America First, an entire array of critics, such as Bill Kristol, Jennifer Rubin, Mona Charen, Max Boot, Brett Stephens, and David Frum arose to accuse Trump of being a follower of the anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh, who used the America First phrase almost a century ago when asking that America not get involved in a far-off European war. But just as American nationalism does not mean white supremacy or Nazism, America First in 2019 is, similarly, not a call to anti-Semitism.
A certain segment of people evidently feels insecure and lacks confidence in the inherent goodness of the majority of the American people — and thus feels threatened by such phrases. But the preponderant meaning of nationalism is patriotism and love of country, and the basic reading of America First is exactly what President Trump has in mind: placing American job workers first; placing America’s military and American lives first; putting America’s security and the protections of its citizens and borders first, as well as guarding our intellectual property. And that is how it should be! It’s time for the detractors to stop the hysteria.
When asked to choose, we should always place our family and country first. The opposite of that is globalism or trans-nationalism. Those who purposely conjure up Nazi images of “blood and soil” to describe American nationalism are propagandists. The Left, and the neo-cons, should stop hijacking and redefining the American language.
In contrast to the nationalist Trump are the globalists: Macron and Merkel, who are European socialists. They are strong advocates for a European Union that erases borders between European countries — so that when a jihadist enters one country, he is blithely free to enter another country. The leaders of these countries have forfeited their economic autonomy to bureaucrats in Belgium who decide almost everything: business regulations, weights, measures, slogans. This is a total loss of national sovereignty. It’s resulted in a severe diminution of those cultural and traditional values and rituals that determine a country’s identity and end up erasing its history.
When asked to choose, we should always place our family and country first. The opposite of that is globalism or trans-nationalism.
Trump, as with most Americans, doesn’t want this for America. We are not trans-nationalists; we’re nationalists who love our history and identity and are proud of who we were and who we are. It becomes more apparent on a daily basis that a majority on the Left are not proud of our history and identity. As anti-nationalists, they want us to transform and become like Europe. They are universalists, often actual socialists. Perhaps that’s why they recoil at the idea of American nationalism.
But Europe is showing us regularly that a disdain for nationalism is resulting in a steady surrender of culture and identity, and an appeasement of worrisome nation-changing forces crossing into its borders and bringing shariah. It is not “white supremacism” when people with self-respect display love and admiration for their background and history, are proud of it, and wish to defend and preserve it. It is normal and healthy.
The opposite is rootlessness. Nor are sincere calls for the maintenance of Western civilization and the Judeo-Christian ethos “code words for racism.”
Demonizing nationalism allows liberals to impugn the motives and integrity of those who love our historic American ways. Some wish to destroy those ways and that history; others are afraid of it. Those always claiming tolerance for other cultures seem intolerant of historic American culture and, lately, white people as white people.
It is not American nationalism that warrants our alarm; rather, it’s the trans-nationalism of those whose goal is the forced removal from us of those things that made us who we are and that constitute our grand historic identity.
Rabbi Aryeh Spero is the spokesman for the National Conference of Jewish Affairs, the author of “Push Back: Reclaiming Our American Judeo-Christian Spirit,” and the president of Caucus for America.