The Problem with Patriotism: A Critical Look at Collective Identity in the U.S. and Germany

Andrea Scrima in The Millions:

Leave America, and you begin to see it as the rest of the world sees it: as an unpredictable, potentially hostile force dedicated exclusively to protecting its own interests; as a gargantuan military power with an aggressive presence on the world stage and a dangerously undereducated populace. We’ve toppled governments, covertly assassinated democratically elected leaders, waged illegal wars that have poisoned and destabilized entire regions around the globe. The enormous postwar bonus we’ve enjoyed—our status as the world’s darlings—has been eroding steadily away, yet incredibly, we still imagine that everyone loves us. Peering wide-eyed from our self-absorbed bubble, we issue Facebook “apologies” to the rest of the world for our mortifying president and his absurd coterie, not quite realizing that the world, at this point, is less interested in how Americans feel than in foreseeing, assessing, and coping with the damage the United States is likely to wreak on world peace, stability, economic justice, and the environment.

James Baldwin, after having spent more than a decade in France, observed that “Europeans refer to Americans as children in the same way that American Negroes refer to them as children, and for the same reason: they mean that Americans…have no key to the experience of others. Our current relations with the world forcibly suggest that there is more than a little truth to this.” Although Baldwin was conflicted by the feeling that he’d shirked his responsibility by moving abroad, and he returned many times throughout the civil rights era, he also understood that a great deal of his artistic and intellectual maturity had grown out of the distance he’d put between himself and his native country.

More here.