Preserve America’s bold experiment: Reject ethno-nationalism

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COMMENTARY

Ratko Mladic has finally been found guilty of war crimes 22 years after the end of the Bosnian conflict (see video above). Known as the Butcher of Bosnia, he personally oversaw the murders of 7,000 Muslim men and boys and the rape of no less than 50,000 Muslim women and girls.

For those of us too young to remember the Bosnian conflict, it was a prolonged battle between Bosnian Serbs and Croats that took place in the former Yugoslavia between 1992 and 1995. United States-led NATO forces intervened militarily in 1995. A peace treaty known as the Dayton Peace Accord was brokered in 1995 in Dayton, Ohio, by Richard Holbrooke.

The closing of this chapter has given me pause for reflection.

Nationalism’s absurd rhetoric ringing louder

The untold suffering of the Bosnian conflict represents the consequences that arise from the seductively sweet promises of unfettered nationalism. We have seen this most recently in Syria, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, among other places.

Einstein fled Nazi Germany when the universities there began to run Jewish professors off from their academic posts. Abstract expressionist painters were denied showings in galleries due to the fact that they were exhibiting too many “un-German” attributes. Jewish orchestral players and composers were shut down and dismissed, as were Jewish literary figures and members of the film industry. Books were burned. Sex-therapy offices were also destroyed in the process. A profound weakening of cultural life of Germany occurred during the rise of the Third Reich to power in 1933.

Now, we are at a point in the United States where the absurd rhetoric of nationalism is ringing louder and resonating with a larger audience than ever before. It is a zero-sum equation that argues that minority rights and multicultural inclusion directly have a negative impact on the members of the dominant culture (in this case, white people in America). This is the logic employed by the likes of President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Richard Spencer, Andrew Anglin and their ilk.

Nationalistic leanings in America: A recap

Here in America we have seen a ban on transgender people serving in the military that has been overturned by the judicial system. The travel ban was largely struck down on three separate occasions due to its apparent targeting of Muslims but received approval Monday in a diluted form. The threat to remove DACA protections for children born to undocumented immigrants has been kicked down the road to Congress. Similarly, protections for Haitians displaced in the 2010 earthquake are being revoked. ICE is attempting to round up and deport record numbers of people.

More recently, Roy Moore is being defended by his supporters, including Trump, in the face of pedophile charges. All in the name of keeping a Republican majority in the Senate, in order to pass a burdensome tax cut that will send money to the wealthiest in our country and be paid for by the middle and lower classes — all while eliminating health insurance for the neediest people in our society.

Factory and manufacturing jobs are not returning as promised. (They won’t return, either. Not as long as capitalists can pay foreign laborers pennies on the dollar compared to what they would have to pay an American worker.)

The EPA and the State Department are being gutted.

Science is being silenced, and climate change is derided as a Chinese hoax.

Right-wing judges with little experience are being appointed at a feverish pace to the appellate circuit. They will be able to shape policy and interpret laws along partisan lines for decades to come.

Meanwhile, the prevailing narrative is that “these people” are stealing our jobs!

Preserve the bold experiment of America

As long as a cultural wedge can be used to divide us, the current administration will be able to create their dystopian plutocracy unabated. We need to ask ourselves: Is it really worth destroying civil society in order fulfill the cynical claims of the Make America Great Again movement?

We cannot afford to make this the land of White Sharia. America is neither a theocracy nor an ethno-national state. It is a bold democratic experiment that dares to proclaim that we are all born with the equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — a truly liberal notion that is under attack like never before, but one that is definitely worth fighting for.

Though it is true that it took 22 years to bring Ratko Mladic to justice, his guilty verdict should be regarded as a victory. The inexplicable wickedness that he, along with Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, unleashed should serve as a stark reminder of the havoc that can be wreaked when nationalist and authoritarian impulses are left unchecked.

Hopefully, the citizens of the United States can learn to repulse the intelligence-insulting non sequiturs and rebarbative ad hominem attacks employed by the hard-right. Lessons have echoed throughout history, but they are useless if they fall upon deaf ears.

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Timothy Haverkamp is an instructor at ACM@UCO. He has a bachelor's in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma and a master's in jazz studies from the University of Central Oklahoma.