Nationalism is not necessarily a bad thing

Sports nationalism easily embraces ethnic and racial diversity, not only from historically biracial America and Brazil (which abolished slavery in 1865 and 1888) but also from European and other nations. One Olympic table-tennis match featured a Japanese-descended Brazilian and a Chinese-descended Congolese. People from nations with sharply divisive politics (not least our own) and suffering from economic setbacks and pervasive corruption (like the Olympics host, Brazil) nonetheless find themselves united in rooting for their country’s athletes.

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An elite globalist may scoff at the arbitrariness of national borders and style himself “a citizen of the world,” as Barack Obama described himself before a massive crowd in Berlin in 2008. But most people don’t think of themselves that way. Nation-states inspire loyalties in a way the United Nations or the European Union have failed to do.

Nationalism, properly understood, can be a positive force, welding otherwise disparate people together to build a decent society, secure a competent government, and rally to defend themselves against attack. Each nation has developed its own particular culture, its own manners and mores, its own rules, written and unspoken.

An intelligent nationalist can respect the strengths of other nations, while preferring his own, just as an Olympics fan can appreciate the superb performance of athletes from other countries even while keeping an eye on the medal scoreboard.

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