In his April 17 op-ed, “We don’t call it Nationalists’ Day,” E. J. Dionne Jr. favored patriotism over nationalism as an impulse less likely to devolve into aggressive tribalism. To me, both harbor equal dangers; hypernationalism promotes war, while chauvinism keeps blood and treasure flowing to the Front. Both exaggerate security and stifle dissent.
Neither, however, is as insidious as “homeland,” which entered our lexicon forcefully after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was meant to focus attention on attacks here rather than abroad — Pearl Harbor rather than Tehran. But it’s a loaded term, connoting a single, exclusive culture. That’s why the German equivalent, “Heimat,” was stressed by Joseph Goebbels over the more traditional “Vaterland.” The homeland is where you have an age-old right to be, where your blood relations (“Volk”) have their roots and people without those roots don’t really belong. It’s what Serbs and Croats fought for in the Homeland Wars following Josip Broz Tito’s death. It’s not the pluralistic nation of immigrants we Americans call home. And, frankly, it sends shivers up my spine. Robert D. Croog, Chevy Chase