This post might disappoint, or even annoy some of our readers. You'll not find any commentary on current events from me today. You see, tomorrow I am going home. Not for good, and not even for very long, but I've been away a long time, too long. It's like the night before Christmas and I am five years old again.
Not a day goes by when I don't think about home, my family and friends of course, and the comfort of the places and things I grew up with and spent my formative years surrounded by. But it's more than that. I imagine anyone who moves from Florida to Nevada feels a tug towards their home. For me, and I think for many who serve the U.S. abroad in any capacity, America the idea is still a very real thing, and we miss it. We (Americans) don't talk about it very much, it seems like something politicians talk about, vaguely unseemly and inapropriate. Sure, Texans will talk a hole in your head about Texas, and Southerners might praise the region, and some folks love to talk ceaselessly about their state. But America? It strikes me that we are a little uncomfortable with discussing the idea. Nationalism sometimes has a bad name
, but it is just as often denied to exist and the term patriotism is used instead. Foreign Policy
addressed this in 2003:Nationalism is a dirty word in the United States, viewed with disdain and associated with Old World parochialism and imagined supremacy. Yet those who discount the idea of American nationalism may readily admit that Americans, as a whole, are extremely patriotic. When pushed to explain the difference between patriotism and nationalism, those same skeptics might concede, reluctantly, that there is a distinction, but no real difference. Political scientists have labored to prove such a difference, equating patriotism with allegiance to one’s country and defining nationalism as sentiments of ethno-national superiority. In reality, however, the psychological and behavioral manifestations of nationalism and patriotism are indistinguishable, as is the impact of such sentiments on policy.
Well, I am a nationalist. I believe in the idea of America. That is why I do the job I do, and why I started this blog. As a junior officer doing my mandated time on the non-immigrant visa line I "interviewed" as many as 500 (!) people per day- this was before September 11th, of course, when speed was the name of the day. Our goal then was to weed out the intending immigrants, the 214(b) cases. An extremely large number of the cases we interviewed were denied, up to 60% or more, and a large portion of these either lied to us outright or presented false documents. I always tried to remind myself that the lies these folks told, the false documents they presented, every one of those was as affirmation that the American dream was still alive. We might not talk about in the suburbs of Delaware, but it is the topic of many a discussion in the barrios and shanty-towns of the world. Today our consular staff are faced with weeding out far more dangerous liars and forgers, but the bulk of the work is still those looking to make a better life.
So as I sign off to go pack I can only say that my fondest wish is that we, as Americans, discover the dream again. To the faithful opposition I offer my best wishes- I know there are America haters out there, and others who make their fortunes putting her down- but that minority aside it is this tug of war, this clash of ideologies that keeps America vibrant. Most of the elites of the world, including America, have no idea or have lost track of what America means. For those of us that have not, let's get over our shyness and literally let it ring from every mountain top.
As for me, I am looking forward to that monent tomorrow when I present my passport to the customs officer and he or she says: "Welcome home."