Championing Nationalism Dishonors American Soldiers

Championing Nationalism Dishonors American Soldiers

From the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Walk of Honor in Highland Park. [Photo: David Kramer]

—  George Cassidy Payne

During a recent event in Houston, President Trump said:

 You know, they have a word — it’s sort of became old-fashioned — it’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word.

Sorry, Mr. President but I will not use that word. I will not embrace that word. I will not condone my elected officials using that word either. For along with racism and religious fanaticism, nationalism has infected the world with the most perverse forms of violence. In the words of Einstein:

 Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.

Just look at the record. The First Great War took 16 million human lives. The total number of both civilian and military casualties is estimated at around 37 million. Stoked by the sinister force of nationalism, that conflict became an unspeakable human catastrophe.

WWII was no different. Fatality statistics vary but most scholars estimate the death total to be around 50 million. When taking into account deaths by disease and hunger, this grisly number increases to around 80 million. Does it need to be repeated that Mussolini was a nationalist? Does it need to be reasserted that Hitler preyed on the nationalistic longings of the German populace? Even the emperor worshiping Japanese were fueled by a vicious form of xenophobia that had pronounced nationalistic goals.

Other examples abound. Coupled with religious zealotry and colonial manipulation, nationalism was also responsible for the terrible wars between India and Pakistan from 1948 to 1994. Millions of peopled died as a result.

From the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Walk of Honor in Highland Park. [Photo: David Kramer]

From the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Walk of Honor in Highland Park. [Photo: David Kramer]

To this sordid list can be added the White Afrikaner nationalists who ruled South Africa during Apartheid; the slaughter fest between Iran and Iraq during the 1980s; and the rise of inter ethnic hostilities in Yugoslavia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which eventually led to the atrocities of the Bosnian War.


David Kramer at the Memorial Wall dedicated to the Martrys of the 1999 Kosovo War, Nene Tereze Boulevard, Pristina, Kosovo, 2008: “Don’t step on our blood. . . don’t let us disappear” From From Tirana with love. And a dash of Pristina.

When President Trump proudly declares himself a nationalist, he is placing himself in the company of history’s most despised genocidal maniacs, racist warmongers, and perpetrators of human suffering. It is certainly not a title that a U.S. politician should be championing on the campaign trail. As I see it, too many American soldiers perished in the killing fields of Château-Thierry and Meuse-Argonne. Too many gave their lives in the Battle of the Bulge and Guadalcanal. Too many American soldiers died in order to wipe nationalism from the face of the earth to have a man such as Donald Trump say what he did. It is shameful. It is dangerous. And it should not be tolerated — at least not by anyone who believes in the inalienable rights of all peoples of every nation to inhabit this planet with freedom and dignity.

From the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Walk of Honor in Highland Park. [Photo: David Kramer]

From the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Walk of Honor in Highland Park. [Photo: David Kramer]

Let us never forget the eerily prophetic words of George Orwell:

Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception.

Note: on 10/28/18, George’s piece was also republished in the NPR’s New Mexico station, KRWG.  On 10/29/18, the piece was republished in the Veterans News Report.  On 11/2/18, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reprinted the essay in the Speaking Out section:


Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 11/2/18,

In the 10/11/18 edition of the Democrat and Chronicle, letter writer Desmond Murray responded to George.

George 1

INBOX, Speaking Out, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 11/10/18

INBOX, Speaking Out, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 11/10/18



About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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