Thursday, February 9, 2017

American Nationalism: Religious, Territorial, Masculine, and Economic

How American Civic Nationalism Transcends Racism and Social Inequality
 by David Pence

In 1972, when I was 26 years old, I was imprisoned for a year for refusing induction in the US military. My Marine father and I had not spoken for seven years, but the night before I went to jail we had a drink. He had read a newspaper report of the trial and he approved of my decision to go to prison and not "horse trade" with the judge for "alternative service" instead. He didn’t say he was proud; he said that I hadn’t shamed myself. 
In prison, I thought a lot about how men establish a community of peace. I was with men who carried in their heads and hearts an imprint of some territorial map they knew well as hunters, and some other larger map which they identified as their country. Sometimes this was a county or a state or America, or all three. The big-city guys had their own kind of territorial maps -- not the maps of protectors, but the territorial know-how of successful pirates. The uniform of loyalty in the prison was largely skin color, with smaller protective hierarchies built around men with dominant personalities or physical strength. But among the great majority of these criminals there was a very elementary form of patriotism which struck me as the grounds of male communal association.
I came out of prison with a new respect for the local territorial organizations of police forces and the national territorial protection of the military -- a civic pact represented by the American flag. I came to see the link of American citizenship to the culture of state militias consisting of all the local males 18-65 years old who could be mustered in times of danger. That decentralized local male bond of duty is the American "deep state." I saw clearly that the antidote to violence is a shared male protective order. A culture of peace is a culture of protection. I came to be ashamed that I had not joined the 3 million men of my generation who fought in Southeast Asia. The 58,000 men who died there kept their bargain as males and as nationalists. The nations of  Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore acknowledge their nobility and victories even if their own country has never quite understood.

Their solidarity and sacrifice depended on a sensible understanding of gender roles. While men protect in larger social territorial groups, women protect children in a different kind of space -- the nest or home. When I came out of prison, such thoughts were dismissed as mental illness possibly caused by prison trauma. Something else had changed as well. In prison I had several good black friends, but out on the streets the old goal of interracial brotherhood had been abandoned. The Christian civil rights movement had slid into the antagonistic ideology of racial pride for blacks and racial guilt for whites. Racial separatism reigned as certain words and jokes were hilariously acceptable for one color, but a career-ending taboo for the other. Politics was personal, especially between men and women. My old girlfriend told me, "I am the Viet Cong and you are the male imperialist!" Opposition to the Vietnam War morphed into opposition to the male protective duty of soldiers, policemen, and fathers. The proper sexual ordering of love and protective duty as the way to peace didn’t win a lot of fans. The 58,000 young men would have to wait their day of reckoning. 
Now, 45 years later I am hearing  calls to American nationalism and territorial protection. My old leftist friends call this a dog whistle to racists. But I remember the teenagers I knew in my all-male Catholic high school. I remember the earnest young men of our all-male college seminary. And I remember the black, brown, red, and white men of a prison courtyard in northern Minnesota. The call to American nationalism is a dog whistle to something deep and primal and very male, but it is not racism. There are lots of appeals to racism in American public life, but not the movement to make citizenship meaningful and borders secure. It is a national community of shared duty that makes men into citizens and brothers. Nationalism does not divide us by race but unites us inside our shared boundaries. The call to men as men to meet each other as brother protectors in union with the police and civic authorities should be a lot more audible than a dog whistle. It must be stated loudly, clearly, and often. It is a Christian campaign. It is a civic campaign. It is the civilized maturation of masculine identity. It is the masculine civic love of patriots that dare not speak its name. Our young men thirst for such a clarifying message. And it would make a much better NFL and Super Bowl message than watching some dad sending his daughter off in military camouflage while he bawls in the car. 
What is the nature of American nationalism? First, it is territorial. A nation is defined by borders. This is not Nazism. The desire to build a border wall in order to reconstitute the American territorial group is the exact opposite strategy of the border-smashing imperial races of Japan and Nazi Germany in WWII. Both of those regimes saw themselves as super races in need of territory for resources. Each looked at the world as a struggle between unequal races. The Japanese saw China not as a nation, but as home to five races. They invaded one of those racial groups -- the Manchu -- years before Pearl Harbor. The Nazis strode across borders to unite the German Volk, and then eventually turned East to subjugate the Slavic breadbasket. Neither the spiritual racism of the Japanese (see 'The Mystical Body of Japan') nor the Darwinian racism of  Hitler (see 'Darwin Armed') was restricted by national boundaries. Neither recognized  a constitutional order or one God who was the Creator of all humanity. Hitler mocked civic nationalism -- the bond of men defined by common borders and territory. In Mein Kampf he wrote: "…it is almost inconceivable how such a mistake could be made as to think that a Nigger or a Chinaman will become a German because he has learned the German language and is willing to speak German for the future and even to cast his vote for a German political party."
Despite media reports and demonstration slogans, American civic nationalism does not speak the language of Herr Hitler. The Latino roofer in Los Angeles, the black farmer from Georgia, and the white machinist from Michigan form a spiritual and economic protective brotherhood. We are the Americans. It is the globalists who "transcend national borders and identities" and see their real peers as the upper and middle class whites from Canada, Australia, France, and Sweden under the umbrella notion of "the West."

American nationalism is not populism. It is not unfettered individualism. A nation has borders that confine it. A nation is defined by historical acts, customs, and laws that give it structures of loyalty and duty that are passed down from one generation to the next. Sometimes "the people" of a current generation might forgo the duties that tie them to their ancestors and progeny as a nation. They will squander the accumulated social capital of previous generations and pile up debt for their descendants. They will maximize the license of individuals in their era and they will do all of this in the name of "the people." The nationalist speaks for more than his own generation. He is not blinded by the present day crowd of people swept up in a current fad which they call being "on the right side of history." He is restricted in his acts by the framework  of law, custom, and duties that define the national identity. Sometimes the national identity in a generation is held in trust by a small group who still hear the mystic chords of memory. Pope Francis tells the story of a small group of Paraguayan women maintaining the nation against those who sold it out; many of us recall the maddening insistence of Charles DeGaulle that still there was a France.   
What then is the American republic? We are a defined territory, inside of which we live in bordered states and local policing communities. For all living organisms, semi-permeable outer barriers are a requisite for life. From the membrane of single cells to the integument of a larger body, there must be a semi-permeable barrier capable of integrating what is needed,expelling what is harmful, and regulating entry so the organism is not inundated by the outside environment. The biological word "homeostasis" refers to this necessity of an organism to regulate its internal milieu. All cells are mostly water and need water to live. All cells have a mechanism to shut out water at some critical point and then reopen the gates when a new balance is required. This maintenance of the inner environment by a barrier that regulates the entry of the outside world is an essential trait of life.
In the American tradition, we have fought to remove class and racial barriers to citizen roles. But at the heart of our adult agreements there is still a tradition of gender-driven protective agreements. Now, there is an assault on the roles of countrymen and mothers. The confusion has been with us forty years and is inscribed in new laws and strange practices. It reaches in our grade schools where teachers are instructed not to call children "boys and girls." We are all "friends." We are all "the people." We are no longer one nation protected by a brotherhood from sea to shining sea under God.
The American Republic is Christian and prays to God as Our Father. America makes no sense if man does not have a transcendent meaning and a role in nature and history as a spiritual being. There has never been a time that everyone believed that, or worked for that high view of humanity and our civic community. But it is the high view that led male soldiers to give their young lives so the nation might live. Our masculine covenant to protect this land is subject to the Will of God. Our founding fathers knew that. Both sides of the Civil War knew that; and the black Baptist ministers who organized the march at Selma knew that. The people are not sovereign -- God is. We cannot live apart from God or without giving Him praise. We judge ourselves by His Word. We learn His will through lives of prayer, and heeding His word in Scripture (in that respect, even as we Catholics, Jews, and Muslims have integrated as American citizens, we are all sons of Calvin ). We are all shaped by those bonds of affection forged in response to Christ’s double mandate to love God and love our neighbor.

Apostles, Knights and Founding Fathers -- these masculine covenants through the ages share a common pattern of patriarchal fraternity. That holy ancient agreement that so many men forged with their blood sacrifices was not an instrument of oppression simply because it didn't include women or children. That was how those men showed their love of women and children. From the American Revolution to the Vietnam War, the sacrificed were the young males. From circumcision to the binding of Isaac, from the death of the Holy Innocents at the births of Moses and Jesus to the death of the Beloved Son on the Cross, male sacrifice for the group defines the Christian tradition. The American nation is religious -- we are bound by obligations to God who has bound mankind together by dividing us into the different nations.  
The American nation is an economic agreement as well as a religious military pact. We define our own currency. The land we defend in common is shared  among us by maximizing private property and the opportunity for real work. Rich man and poor man share the bonds of protective duties and live by a common law. We don’t fight linked as brothers in our wars so we can become sharks and minnows in the division of wealth and land during peace. 
America, formed in the rich soil of Christianity, has extended the brotherhood of duty under a common Father to the landless and to the slave. The Protestant founders of America protected their homes and churches by  instituting a more inclusive civic bond which could eventually be shared by Catholics, Jews, Mormons and Muslims. To break the masculine form of this public bond would be to destroy it as surely as altering the monogamous heterosexual character of the marriage bond would redefine that form of love. The American patriot set down his plow and gun when it was time for his Bible. He was shaped by  Christian customs that preceded the Constitution and gave form to our body politic. The shared Christian narrative is the initial deposit of social capital that has shaped our greatest reform movements including the one to come.  We were constituted as a nation by sacral and sexual roles before we constituted the federal government with the Constitution.

American nationalism is not a blood and soil ethnicity movement. Read the literature of the white racists. They saw the world wars between European nations as a horrible bloodbath that pitted whites against whites instead of "our real racial enemies." As long as European nations reject God and Christianity as the foundation of their political history, their various ethnic movements will do what Hitler’s did. They will appear as the only adequate synthesis to defend the social group from its external enemies and internal disintegration. 
We Americans are not the West; we are not a new Europe; and we are not a blood-and-soil ethnic nation. American nationalism under God our Father brings the black man and white man, the rich and the poor, the Spanish Catholic and the English Protestant back to the table of brotherhood. It is a lie of the Evil One to turn this form of brotherly love into some despicable act of oppression. May God bless our Christian nation and the distinct masculine bonds of protective fraternity that constitute our shared civic identity. Blessed are the sons of God when they are in accord as brothers… for they shall be peacemakers.

{The passing of Rev Billy Graham.}

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