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Thanksgiving

I strenuously disagree that a little mystic nationalism is “a good and healthy thing.” But I heartily agree with what I take Jonah to imply: that patriotism has little emotional substance without mystic nationalism. ~Will Wilkinson

Via Conor Friedersdorf

This is a lot of nonsense, which is just what we should expect from Wilkinsononthistopic. For Wilkinson, patriotism and nationalism are virtually indistinguishable, so it suits him to accept Goldberg’s mistaken “mystic nationalism” line when he can use it to indict the former. In fact, patriotism has considerable emotional substance that nationalists have exploited for centuries. “Mystic nationalism” in itself is usually the product of a simplistic retelling of history mixed with a hefty dose of self-congratulation. It is the antithesis of patriotism as much as anything can be.

Goldberg is utterly, laughably wrong when he says that Thanksiving is “America’s only nationalist holiday.” There is nothing even remotely nationalist about Thanksgiving. Nationalism elevates the nation and, in its later manifestations, the nation-state to a position of virtual religious sanctity. Few things are capable of greater impiety than nationalism. To the extent that it has any political dimension, Thanksgiving is the negation of the arrogance, presumption and self-absorption that nationalism teaches. The celebration of Thanksgiving is supposed to be a recognition that all things are owed to God’s Providence, and that without Him we can do nothing. Nationalism is an obsession with our own virtues and a boast of our own strength. An act of thanksgiving is an acknowledgment that we are utterly dependent on God for everything.

If nationalists have since tried to hijack the story of the Pilgrims, who were as far removed in spirit from ideas of national greatness and power as possible (as they were both religious dissidents and political exiles), that has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. It is a reminder that nationalists have no respect for history, and that they will distort the past in whatever way they can to advance their cause.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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