Sweeper: The Nation State and Populism

Yesterday in class our group discussed the idea of the European Nation State, its emergence, and its effect on Populism.  During our discussion we focused on how the nation state in Europe has been carefully crafted over a series of centuries.  This is not the case in the rest of the world, especially in Canada, as borders were defined by colonialist ventures, rather than decided on ethnic and cultural lines.  This means that in many countries around the world, there are many minorities that do not feel connected to their nation the way the French identify with France.  During the development of the nation state in Europe, many atrocities were committed in order to achieve the ideal country in the eyes of the state.  Cultural and religious groups were exiled so as to maintain the ‘purity’ of the nation.  These acts were atrocities, but a modern audience glosses them over as events in the past that are no longer relevant in a contemporary setting.

We related this to the plight of the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar.  Myanmar is attempting to expel a religious and cultural group from their country.  This act has received near universal criticism from the world, especially from the West as they believe this is a violation of human rights.  We discussed how, regardless of the clear violations of human rights the Burmese government was perpetrating, it was ironic for countries such as the United States and Canada to critique Myanmar for their actions despite our own treatment of Native Americans.  The last residential school was closed not even 20 years ago in Canada and yet we dismiss this fact and regard ourselves as champions of human rights on the world stage despite the obvious hypocrisy of our words.

We related this back to populism through the idea of Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”.  Despite the fact that we live in the most prosperous and peaceful time, Americans seem to believe that there is this golden age of American history that has since passed.  The best definitive time period we could point to was the 1950’s, a high point of of American hegemony as they emerged relatively unscarred from the Second World War.  Despite the fact that the 50’s may have been good for America, this relates back to our idea of the historical skeletons in Western countries closets.  The 1950’s was a great time to be a white, heterosexual male, but not a minority woman.  When Donald Trump appeals to the public with his slogan “Make America Great Again”  what he really means is “Make White America Greater Again”.

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