By Reyshimar Arguelles
To put it simply, a nationalist is anyone who professes a love of community. You know you are a nationalist when certain symbols evoke a sense of pride and belongingness. You shed a tear every time you see the national flag being flown across a war-torn city. You celebrate national strength when a sports icon beats other countries in athletic events. And you choke up when you see a regional hegemon slowly consuming our territory bit by bit.
We can see from here that being a nationalist is also about being so sensitive about symbols. A flag can be a piece of fabric, but it represents an entire people and the ideals and visions it seeks to uphold. In this sense, a flag validates your membership into a community whose past sufferings are embedded in you.
So, are people justified to lash out at a grandstanding lawmaker who, within the august halls of Congress, was caught disrespecting the flag by not standing in attention?
Anyone can say that the response to the lawmaker’s actions was blown out of proportion. The lawmaker apologized for the gaff but proceeded to blame a TV network for capturing the act on camera. And as people started ganging up on him, this respectable and honorable lawmaker had the audacity to file cyberbullying charges at the National Bureau of Investigation.
Say what you will about this fiasco, but it does give you a better grasp of what politicians are actually doing counter to what they are actually presenting on the surface. When you are in a position of power, you are expected to abide by national rules and become a nationalist in your own right.
But do you essentially become a nationalist when you practice politics? Becoming a leader is one thing, but there has always been a disconnect between politicians and the ideals they set out to uphold. For that matter, it is difficult enough to label politicians as nationalists because these are very different animals.
Politicians, in fact, make laws that are either beneficial or detrimental to the nation. Saying that you become a senator or congressman because you have a sense of national pride or you think the nation deserves a better position in the global community does not in any way describe your loyalties as a public servant.
If we want to talk about the importance of instilling nationalist sentimentalities, we cannot do so by subscribing to a set of tautologies about public service. To do so reduces the very concept of nationalism into a simple matter of taking oaths or reciting lengthy privilege speeches that barely raise national sentiments.
For our politicians, it’s only a matter of grandstanding and looking good in front of the camera. Nationalism for them might as well be a process of image-building. To them, it’s all unnecessary tradition, but this line of thinking doesn’t begin to explain the amount of rage that people have towards our so-called public servants.
So, who qualifies to be a nationalist? It definitely isn’t a lawmaker who thinks it’s okay not to stand in attention during the singing of the national anthem so long he doesn’t get caught. And to say that the issue is overblown only covers certain issues that actually matter.
Indeed, to show love for one’s country doesn’t have to involve generating fanfare. People already have assumptions about you as a politician who is interested in personal gain rather than higher ideals.
Should we be surprised at all? No, we have already gone far enough as a democracy to know that our institutions are deteriorating before our very eyes. And the way our politicians act before national symbols only confirms our fears.