I realize I’m a little behind on this, but as Swarthmore goes into finals week I’m already nostalgic for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is about a lot of things (reflection, family, gratitude, football), but this really rubbed me the wrong way: Jonah Goldberg likes Thanksgiving because he doesn’t have to pretend to care about non-Americans.
• [Thanksgiving is] America’s only nationalist holiday. The Fourth of July, President’s Day, and even Veterans’ and Memorial Day are celebrations of the nation-state created by the American founding. In short, our other holidays are about patriotism, not nationalism. Thanksgiving meanwhile celebrates a pre-constitutional relationship with the Almighty. I wouldn’t quite say it’s a pre-modern or blood-and-soil holiday, but it is about Providence and the great gift being here, in this place, is. A little mystic nationalism is a good and healthy thing because it provides the emotional sinew that helps us hold onto our patriotism. This country is great and good for many reasons. But one reason for its greatness, too often forgotten, is that it is ours.
• It’s all about family, formal and informal. The Thanksgiving table is one of the few times every year where you can define your own little nation-state, your own little Hobbit warren, in your own little Shire. I’m not saying that we lose our concern for our fellow man, but we are reminded that life’s joys come not from abstract people, but real ones.
The sentiment that a reason for our country’s greatness “is that it is ours”, which is regrettably widespread among Americans, is one of the most destructive attitudes in our political culture. It causes people to defend and support unjust wars and immoral policies and state actions that can only be justified on the grounds that they are ‘ours’. How many soldiers have needlessly died because of the many policymakers and political elites who share Goldberg’s affinity for “mystic nationalism”? This nationalism crowds out intelligent discussion in our public discourse and should be done away with.